Memphis, Tennessee (song)

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"Memphis, Tennessee"
Single by Chuck Berry
A-side "Back in the U.S.A."
Released 1959
Format 7-inch single
Genre Rhythm and blues, rock and roll
Length 2:12
Label Chess 1729
Songwriter(s) Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Almost Grown"
(1959)
"Memphis, Tennessee"
(1959)
"Broken Arrow"
(1959)

"Memphis, Tennessee", sometimes shortened to "Memphis", is a song by Chuck Berry, first released in 1959. In the UK, the song charted at #6 in 1963; at the same time Decca Records issued a cover version in the UK by Dave Berry and the Cruisers, which also became a UK Top 20 hit single. Johnny Rivers's version of the song was a number two US hit in 1964.

In the song the narrator is speaking to a long-distance operator, trying to find out the number of a girl named Marie, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, "on the southside, high upon a ridge, just a half a mile from the Mississippi bridge." The narrator offers little information to the operator at first, only that he misses Marie and that they were separated by Marie's mother. The final verse reveals that Marie is, in fact, the narrator's six-year-old daughter; her mother, presumably the narrator's ex-wife, left their home and took Marie with her.

Chuck Berry later composed a sequel, "Little Marie", which appeared in 1964 as a single and on the album St. Louis to Liverpool.

Recording[edit]

The song was "probably recorded in St. Louis with overdubs in Chicago, September 28, 1958."[attribution needed]

The song was released as Chess single 1729.[1]

Beatles versions[edit]

The Beatles recorded five versions of "Memphis, Tennessee" for BBC Radio. One version that was recorded on 30 July 1963 for the Pop Go The Beatles radio show was included on Live at the BBC in 1994. Another version that was recorded a few months later on 5 October 1963 for the Saturday Club radio show was included on On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2 in 2013.

The group first performed it for their failed Decca audition on January 1, 1962, with Pete Best on drums.[2]

Personnel[edit]

Lonnie Mack, Johnny Rivers, and Fred Knoblock versions[edit]

"Memphis"
Single by Lonnie Mack
from the album The Wham of that Memphis Man!
B-side "Down in the Dumps"
Released 1963 (1963)
Format 45 rpm record
Recorded 1963
Genre Instrumental rock, blues rock
Length 2:30
Label Fraternity
Songwriter(s) Chuck Berry

In 1963, guitarist Lonnie Mack recorded a fast-paced instrumental version, which he called "Memphis". It went to #5 on Billboard's Pop chart and #4 on Billboard's R&B chart.[3]

"Memphis"
Single by Johnny Rivers
from the album At the Whisky à Go Go
B-side "It Wouldn't Happen with Me"
Released 1964 (1964)
Format 7-inch single
Recorded 1964
Genre Rock and roll, rhythm and blues
Length 2:28
Label Imperial
Songwriter(s) Chuck Berry

In 1964 singer Johnny Rivers recorded another version of the tune (which he, following Mack, called "Memphis"), copying Mack's pacing and some of his instrumental improvisations, and reinstating the vocal line from Berry's original.[4] This version hit #2 on Billboard's Pop chart (behind "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys).

"Memphis"
Single by Fred Knoblock
Released 1981 (1981)
Format 45 rpm record
Recorded 1981
Genre Country music
Length 2:35
Label Scotti Brothers ZS5 02434
Songwriter(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) James Stroud

In 1981, country singer-songwriter Fred Knoblock recorded his rendition of "Memphis". It went to #10 on Billboard's Country chart and #28 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.

Other covers[edit]

The song has been covered over 40 times by artists including Hasil Adkins, The Animals (on both their 1964 US debut album The Animals - MGM, and their UK debut album The Animals - Columbia), Paul Anka, Count Basie, John Cale, Riblja Čorba, Don Covay, the Dave Clark Five, Bo Diddley, Faces, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, Fotheringay, Danny Gatton (with Danny and the Fat Boys), Al Green, the Hollies, Jan and Dean, Tom Jones, Toby Keith (live version on 2011 Deluxe Edition of Clancy's Tavern), Sammy Kershaw, Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band, Jerry Lee Lewis, Led Zeppelin, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions (a predecessor of the Grateful Dead),[5] Eleanor McEvoy (on 2014 release Stuff), Mrs. Miller, Roy Orbison, Buck Owens, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Del Shannon, Silicon Teens, The Statler Brothers, Izzy Stradlin, Rod Stewart, Gene Summers, George Thorogood, Ernest Tubb, Conway Twitty, the Ventures, the Who (as the High Numbers), Hank Williams Jr., and Faron Young.

In 1964, Bernd Spier covered the song in German.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Berry, Chuck, Chuck Berry: The Anthology, CD, 088 1120304-2, MCA Records, Chess, 2000, liner notes
  2. ^ a b "Memphis, Tennessee | The Beatles Bible". www.beatlesbible.com. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  3. ^ 25 Rockin' Instrumentals, Varese Vintage CD, 2003
  4. ^ "Show 21 – Forty Miles of Bad Road: Some of the best from rock 'n' roll's dark ages. [Part 2]". Digital.library.unt.edu. 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  5. ^ Grateful Dead Family Discography: Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions
  6. ^ Bernd Spier discography (in Swiss German)