Oh sure, if you were looking for a place to stay in Memphis in the 1940s, you could have checked into The Peabody, or the Chisca, or the Gayoso. But why pick such classy establishments when you could spend the night at a little tourist court called the Ditty-Wah-Ditty?
It certainly wasn’t much to look at — just a row of simple cabins atop a hill outside the city limits — but this humble motel had my all-time favorite name of any hotel or motel in town. There’s been a lot of talk about just what “ditty-wah-ditty” (sometimes spelled “diddy”) means, and it’s been featured in lots of songs, from such legendary musicians as Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley.
But according to folklorists, Ditty Wah Ditty was an imaginary place, what one expert on these things called “the largest and best known of the Negro mythical places.”
I doubt if there was anything mystical or magical about the old motel on Highway 51 South (Bellevue). Over the years, various owners changed the name to the much less interesting Iris Motel. It's still standing today, though most of the tall pines that surrounded it in later years (they are not shown in this early view) have been chopped down, leaving only a row of stumps, and a big wooden fence almost completely blocks any view of the buildings.
Probably a good thing.