It’s long been rumored that Memphis is mentioned in the lyrics of more songs than any other city in the world. Although I can’t verify that claim with any degree of certainty, it seems reasonable, and I can say without a doubt that some of the weirdest and most wonderful songs about our city never hit the charts and remain largely unknown to the general public. Here’s the story of two of the niftiest songs about Memphis you’ve probably never heard, Sonny Craver’s “Outside of Memphis” and George Clappes’ “I Found My Love in Memphis.”
The Bluff City has a lot of detractors and their negativity can be contagious. Sonny Craver’s “Outside of Memphis” is heartfelt, hilarious, and the perfect hater antidote.
How much does Craver love Memphis? The singer/actor/comedian, who worked for a time as the straight man for the great Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, loves it so much he says he’d need “homesick pills” even if he had to spend time in a place where it was raining “million dollar bills.” He even goes so far as to suggest that what Memphis has is so precious the city should consider some kind of security system:
Outside of Memphis
I find the music lets me down
and the bands ain’t got the same thing
and nobody knows how to sing
Hey Memphis, you’ve got it all
why don’t you build a wall
It’s tempting to proclaim “Outside of Memphis” the best and weirdest song about Memphis ever recorded. But it has some stiff competition in the form of “I Found My Love in Memphis,” a vanity single recorded at Memphis music producer Style Wooten’s Park Ave. studio and released on Wooten’s wonderfully-named Camaro label. Although the song is ostensibly about a girl, “I Found My Love in Memphis” seems to be less of a love song than Chamber of Commerce propaganda cataloging the city’s many amenities. Breakout couplet:
“We have more churches than filling stations/One of the best cities in the nation.”
Now would be as good a time as any to give this 1969 gem a listen and judge for yourself.
Between 1968-78 Wooten, a 6’6” giant of a man with a meticulously manicured beard, cut a number of records in Memphis including a version of the song “Rub it In,” which was recorded two years before Billy Craddock made it a hit. His business was, in part, a vanity studio attracting customers “song poem-style” with print ads suggesting that a big hit record was only $425 away. Wooten released country, rock, and blues records but is probably best remembered by record collectors for the (sometimes psychedelic) gospel releases on his Designer label.
I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to contact the songwriter George Clappes who moved to VA and, according to one source, is still performing oldies and gospel songs for nursing home patients.
“I Found My Love in Memphis” was frequently performed by The Grundies, a Memphis art band active in the early 1990s. The Grundies had an affinity for under the radar regional recordings and also did a mean cover of Eddie Bond’s Buford Pusser epic, “What a Lawman.”
It has been more recently performed by Memphis music expats James Enck and Linda Heck.
Audiophiles with an interest in gospel, “lost” Memphis music, and legendary recording engineer Roland Janes will want to check out “The Soul of Designer Records,” a fantastic 4-CD set collecting more of the best songs you’ve never heard.