On The Map, No. 1

So, last Saturday, I wrote about England Dan & John Ford Coley’s 1971 single “New Jersey,” only to have long-time reader and friend Yah Shure remind me that I’d written about the record before (a post that spurred him to share the early work of the duo with me).

I went back into the archives and found – as I expected – he was correct: A little more than four years ago, I’d written pretty much the exact same piece, even down to mentioning that the introduction to the single sounded a lot like Joe Cocker’s cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

Well, as I said at the end of the more recent piece about “New Jersey,” it’s not a very memorable record. Neither, it seems, are some of my posts, even to me.

But the record’s title got me thinking, as I sometimes do, about records with geographical names in their titles: Nations, states, counties, cities and towns. And I wondered how many such titles are on the digital shelves. There are many, no doubt, and I thought I’d dig into that this morning in an entirely unsystematic way.

I have a hunch, perhaps wrongly, that the city of Memphis has more title mentions than any other place among the files in the collection here. A quick count this morning finds a total of ninety-three tracks with “Memphis” in their titles. There are some duplicates, I know; for one, I saw two copies of Mott the Hoople’s “All The Way From Memphis,” one from my own digging and one that I got courtesy of the Half-Hearted Dude.

(The last time I counted the Memphis tunes in the files, for a post almost ten years ago, the total was about fifty, so I’ve been working on it.)

The Memphis tunes cross a broad swath of time. Among those that have been tagged with the appropriate dates – the vast majority have; I am still working on some anthologies – the files range from Bessie Smith’s “Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town,” which she recorded in 1926, to Melissa Etheridge’s cover of “Memphis Train” which was released in 2016.

And there are sometimes multiple versions of the same song. I found, for example, six versions of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” one by the Grateful Dead, one by Cat Power and four of them – different takes all – by Bob Dylan. There are also six versions of “Back To Memphis,” two of them by The Band, one by The Band with the Cate Brothers, one by Levon Helm of The Band, and versions by Rory Block and Alvin Youngblood Hart.

Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” shows up five times: Berry’s version is kept company by versions by Billy Strange, Sandy Bull, Al Caiola, and Tiny Tim with The Band. (Don’t ask.)

So, do I have a favorite Memphis song? Yes, I do. It’s by Etta James, from her 2003 album, Let’s Roll. Here’s “Wayward Saints Of Memphis.”

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