Shy hints of an April dawn filter through Bob Kelley’s bedroom curtains. It’s 5:30 a.m., and the telephone is ringing, waking up a man who usually sleeps until 7. Kelley recognizes the crisp New Yorkese on the line as belonging to Paul Smith, a booking agent for Premier Talent, Inc., which counts among its clients some of the biggest names in music: Jethro Tull, Bruce Springsteen, Boston, Van Halen, and The Pretenders, to name but a few. Smith has forgotten the difference in time zones between New York and Memphis and apologizes for calling at this hour. Then he gets straight to the point. His clients are mapping out a major summer tour and want Memphis on their list.
Immediately, Kelley is wide awake, well aware that unlike most shows, this one is a sure bet. By 5:33 a.m., it’s in the books: a rock-and-roll legend, The Who, will play Memphis sometime in early July. Kelley pulls himself upright in his king-sized bed and grins smugly to himself. He’s wide awake, but he’s dreaming. The dream ends with a briefcase full of money.
As usual, the actual business day at Mid-South Concerts begins around 9:30 a.m., with Jill Thornton unlocking a not-too-substantial door to a small four-room office which is little more than a converted apartment located over an old garage in the backyard of Kelley’s midtown home. Once inside, she starts a pot of strong coffee on a one-burner hot plate and lights an old space heater to chase the last bit of winter’s lingering chill. The phone is already ringing, and chances are that it is someone wanting to talk to Kelley, the 34-year-old founder, owner, president, and “oddsmaker” of Mid-South Concerts, Inc., the busiest concert promotion firm in Memphis.
Around 10:30 a.m., after a quick breakfast shared with the morning paper and the latest issue of Billboard magazine, Kelley — a tall, solid, athletic type — dons a business suit of gym shorts and jersey and leaves the house for the 30-foot trek to “the office.” Old Sport has risen for the day too, and on the way Kelley, in a good mood, foregoes the perfunctory pat-on-the-head in favor of a little chat with his “retired rock-and-roll hound dog.” Once inside, he greets Jill and listens attentively as she recites the messages she has already taken this morning.
The first call was from the road manager of a local New Wave band wanting to impress Kelley with the potential his group has. Jill, who at 23 possesses a poise beyond her years, knows that a call like this would only be a nuisance to her boss, and she’s tactfully promised to put the young man on a call-back list. Everybody wants to be a star. The young man’s name goes at the bottom of the list.
Thornton will handle anywhere from 80 to 120 calls today; if there were a show tonight, the number could easily go much higher. In the course of a year, Mid-South Concerts, which regularly promotes shows in Little Rock, Jackson (Mississippi), and Nashville, as well as Memphis, will sweeten Ma Bell’s coffers to the tune of $14,000. The company’s four principals sometimes seem oblivious to “office hours” and are often available only by phone. The Who concert alone may require 30 or 40 long-distance calls to work out details, and Kelley promotes between 70 and 80 such shows a year. He will call New York on the WATS line this afternoon to clear with Paul Smith the tenth of July as the date for The Who concert.
Before mounting the narrow stairs to his second floor office, Kelley sticks his head into the next room to tell Jim Holt the news. Though “Vice-President” is Holt’s official title at Mid-South Concerts, he might better be called “Chief of Protocol and Technical Arrangements” — a leg man, so to speak. At only 21 years of age, the intense but good-natured Holt has nailed down a job many men wait years for, and he takes it seriously. His office is as heterogeneous as his job. In one corner is a pile of books, clothes, a picnic basket, and other unrelated items. There are also an old-fashioned water cooler, a table-top refrigerator, a fancy copying machine by the door, an ancient Adler electric typewriter, and finally a small, efficient desk, complete with calculator, file folders, and a large calendar. Once a concert is booked and Kelley’s bet is on, it is Holt who puts the pieces in order. This morning, he and Jill share Kelley’s excitement over the booking of The Who, knowing there is much to be done before July 10.
Upstairs, Kelley bids a good morning to Frankie Watkins, the quiet 29-year-old business manager of Mid-South Concerts, who describes herself as a “financial strategist” whose job it is to constantly revise the budget and cash flow of the company. A demure woman with a round and gentle face, Watkins is not a rock-and-roll fan, but she feels this is an asset in her job; it keeps her objective. Her office adjoins Kelley’s and both are much neater than the ones downstairs. There is a small banner above Watkins’ closet door — a quote credited to Bertolt Brecht: “If there are obstacles, the shortest line between two points may be the crooked line.” Watkins says this is Mid-South’s motto and business creed.
Just as you don’t walk into Vegas with a handful of promissory notes, neither do you promote rock-and-roll concerts with MasterCharge. This is strictly a cash business, and as such, it offers many opportunities for unscrupulous practices. “I could walk out of here with all kinds of money,” Watkins admits, “and Kelley would never know it. I write the checks, which he never sees, and I balance the books. Now, that’s not a good bookkeeping practice, and if a CPA firm came in here they would not be happy with our system.”
But Watkins points to her Southern Baptist background and the fact that she must submit to a polygraph test periodically as safeguards. “I think Kelley checked me out pretty thoroughly when he hired me,” she says. “Kelley is a gambler, so I have to be the level-headed one. In this business, accounting is not a major factor until the night of the show — and then all Kelley wants to know is, ‘How much did I make?’”
Much of Mid-South’s profits are invested in bank notes and bonds at First Tennessee Bank. They are good customers of the bank and have earned access to unsecured, instant, short-term loans should an emergency arise, though that privilege has yet to be invoked. Such an “emergency” would occur if Mid-South had a cash flow problem at the same time that a “sure bet” concert such as the Rolling Stones came along — an offer that even a banker couldn’t refuse. From the offices of Premier Talent in New York, Paul Smith, who deals with promoters from across the nation, describes Mid-South Concerts in particular as “very solvent,” “tight,” and generally “copacetic.” In 1979, Mid-South Concerts alone grossed over $2 million.
At last, Kelley settles into his own office, which is surprisingly free of the usual business clutter. On the wall behind his desk are four plaques, each with a gold-colored record and a message of appreciation for Kelley from the band giving it. Then there are the pictures. Pictures of some of the biggest names in entertainment — Linda Rondstadt, Bob Dylan, Dave Mason, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones — some of them autographed. These are Kelley’s trophies — mementoes of some gambles he’s taken, and some “sure bets” he couldn’t let pass. It’s a demanding business, and among other things, he confides, it has already cost him a wife. “Yeah, it was the business,” he says. “I got so caught up in it, I lost the marriage, but I think I’ve sort of mellowed out some now.” His regrets, if he has any, are a well-kept secret. A radio dominates one corner of his office and he automatically flips it on FM-100 when he arrives. It stays on throughout the day, emitting a constant, almost subliminal strain of music, old and new. It’s one way Kelley keeps tabs on the musical “pulse” of the city.
Perhaps the biggest reason rock stars go on tour is that tour exposure sells albums. Radio exposure, in turn, sells the tour. The amount of airplay a particular artist receives on local radio enters into calculating the chances for success should he want to “play Memphis.” So Kelley listens to the radio. “I’ve got to know who a band is and how the people in the area are receiving them to get an idea of their strength,” he explains. In the same corner as the receiver is a stack of music industry magazines — Rolling Stone, for example and “trades” such as Billboard. These are a promoter’s dope sheets and play their own part in the oddsmaking process. The successful promoter spends several hours a week studying the ups and down of both artists and their music, and industry trends in general.
Dominating Kelley’s corner is a heavy wooden desk which could very well be government issue — army surplus, perhaps – perched on four old bricks to allow room beneath for Kelley’s linebacker legs. His chair — a high, ladder-back, cane-bottom job — completes an eclectic set. It is here that much of the “science” of concert promotion is practiced. Kelley learned his trade at Concerts West, a national promotion firm based in Dallas. He moved here about nine years ago to establish a company of his own. “Memphis is an up-and-coming market,” he says. “There’s a world of opportunity here, and I wanted to get in on some of it.” Mid-South Concerts also promotes some 30 to 40 shows a year outside the Memphis area — hence the “Mid-South” of its title. In New York and California, Kelley’s associates describe him and his company as “very professional,” and “one of the major local promotion companies in the country.” While cities such as Atlanta, Mobile, and Orlando are often considered “risky” in the business, Memphis is becoming “an important city in rock-and-roll,” according to another agent at Premier Talent. Memphis promoters, he explains, are willing to support “unknowns” and the “progressive” new artists such as The Pretenders and The Knack when other local promotion companies haven’t the means or the inclination to do so. Says Kelley: “You have to give the people a little something ‘extra’ and something new and they usually won’t let you down.”
Within two weeks of Paul Smith’s early-morning phone call, Kelley has secured the concert date (July 10, 1980) from E. E.“Bubba” Bland, the Mid-South Coliseum manager, and cut the deal with Smith over the telephone.
In the morning mail, Watkins has received the contract, which stipulates the financial details agreed to over the phone. The first thing she notices is that The Who are requiring double the usual amount of insurance. “You have to understand they’ve been very strict about that since ‘the stampede’ in Cincinnati,” she explains*. She calls Dick Burns of Cook-Treadwell and Harry Insurance to inform him of the date of the show and the additional insurance required. The second thing she notes is that the contract limits the promoter to a profit from the show of only 5 to 7 percent of the gross. This is not unusual for a band of The Who’s fame, and because of the almost guaranteed success of the show, it is an acceptable clause. The show will make around $130,000, so Kelley stands to make a minimum of $6,500 if he stays within his own budget.
If The Who had not been the sure bet that they are, then Watkins and Kelley would have worked up a cost sheet before deciding whether to promote the show. Already available is a “Hotness Research” worked up on many groups by Jim Holt and held in file for just such occasions. For each group, record sales and local radio request levels are researched and the data used in the decision process. Kelley’s desk is littered with stacks of the sheets elaborately breaking down the cost elements of putting on a show: supporting talent, catering, stagehands, advertising, staging costs, forklift rental, electrical hookups, security, ticket printing and commissions, facility rent and staffing, royalties, insurance, and taxes. The promoter pays for everything but concessions, which is the exclusive domain of the host facility. Whatever is left over, if anything, is profit — cash profit. Likewise, any loss incurred is a cash loss.
And losses do occur. Kelley reluctantly remembers Crosby, Stills and Nash in the Liberty Bowl in the summer of 1974 as his biggest loser thus far. “Bad karma,” he explains simply. “It just wasn’t the time for CSN in the stadium.” And in 1976, Mid-South made the grievous error of scheduling two rock groups, Heart and Yes, on the same night in different Memphis arenas; as a result, Heart, one of the hottest properties in the business, won’t even consider Mid-South as a promoter when in the area. “A real bummer,” sighs Kelley. On the other hand, there was the unlikely combination of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a progressive jazz group, and the Marshall Tucker Band, a rather raucous Southern rock-and-roll band, that proved quite a success when promoted on the same bill. “It’s all in how you play your cards,” says Kelley. And no two cards are the same.
Attached to The Who contract is a “rider,” which is basically a document containing the artists’ instruction on how they want their show to be handled — the nitty-gritty technical aspects. The Who’s rider is 30 pages long, covering items such as stage size and placement, power requirement, T-shirt concessions, transportation to and from the show, food needs, and the number of stagehands needed to load and unload the trucks. It covers “everything” according to Holt, and in essence outlines the job he is expected to do.
After determining the stage size and mixing console placement, and the number of chairs he can set up on the main floor, Holt has Watkins inform Martha High of the Coliseum box office of the number of tickets needed. The Who tickets are ordered from the Quick-Tick printing company of Houston. Watkins then calls Janis Habbaz, president of the Ticket Hub, so that she can prepare for the ticket distribution when they arrive about a month prior to the show. Habbaz is herself a product of Mid-South Concerts, having worked for Kelley for several years before taking over the Hub. She holds an exclusive contract with Mid-South covering all their ticket sales, and hers too is a lucrative business that involves an element of risk. The Hub gets a 5 percent commission on ticket sales with a minimum of $100 on the front end.
“What people don’t realize is that tickets are money to me — literally,” explains Habbaz. For any given show, tickets are printed for the entire facility to be used. After culling a portion of the tickets for its own box office, the facility sends the rest of the tickets to Ticket Hub for distribution to its outlets. “The Hub has three outlets out of town and nine in town,” according to Habbaz, “and every ticket must be accounted for — any missing tickets will cost me the face value of the tickets.” A single show may involve from 6,000 to 12,000 tickets, and if there are five or six shows being promoted simultaneously, which is not unusual, the potential for confusion is obvious. The risks are worth it, however, and in a year, the Ticket Hub and its outlets will have handled over half a million tickets. Assume an average ticket price of seven dollars — a very conservative estimate — and you’ve got a business turning over $3.5 million a year in Memphis.
The next contact Holt makes is with Otis “Woody” Woodward, an earthy old gentleman who is the business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stagehand Employees (IATSE). Woodward “knows the Coliseum better than anyone,” says Holt, and is in charge of all the work to be done there. “This union we have here in Memphis … is probably the best stagehand union in the country,” proclaims Holt. Bands often start their tours in Memphis because they can count on their show starting off with competent and professional equipment handling at the very least. A stagehand will make around $6.50 an hour setting up The Who concert and may work as much as a 16-hour day. Woodward will have received a copy of The Who’s rider well before the day of the show, and Holt leaves the Coliseum set-up almost completely in his hands.
About the time that tickets go on sale a month before the show, Mid-South receives a letter from The Who organization requesting several bits of local information. In his reply, Holt supplies the following answers: The capacity of the Coliseum is 11,999. Show-time will be at 8 p.m., July 10th. Bruce Boyd of Curtis Limousines will pick up The Who entourage at the airport on July 9th and deliver them to their hotel. If for any reason a doctor is needed, for treatment or medication, Dr. George Nichopoulos will be at the band’s service. Horn and keyboard service may be acquired at Amro Music or Sound South, respectively. Recommended restaurants are Justine’s, Folk’s Folly, The Pier, and The Rendezvous. And finally, recommended hotels are the Hyatt Regency and the Holiday Inn-Central. The Who later choose the Hyatt from the list, but skip the nightspots and restaurants.
On a Saturday afternoon about a month before the show, the Ticket Hub announces that tickets will go on sale the next day at noon. During that night, hundreds of kids jam the Hub’s parking lot, drinking, smoking, sleeping, and practicing the beer-can rowdiness which seems to be generally characteristic of rabid Who fans, most of whom are after the precious stage-front tickets. Within hours of the box office’s opening, most of the tickets are gone, although the show is not officially declared a sell-out until just hours before it is to begin.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Holt spends more and more time on the telephone, tending to arrangements. He speaks to Dean Lotz, former pro football player and present owner of the Nautilus health club, about his “T-Shirt security force,” a group of 12 or 15 weight-lifters occasionally hired by Mid-South to supplement Murray Guard’s security force around the stage. With Chris Johnson of Seessel’s grocery he arranges an extensive supply of food and drink to feed everyone from technicians to stagehands on the day of the concert. The list looks like a menu for a battalion of junk food addicts: donuts, cookies, coffee, Coke. Holt then calls Leon Kreeger of the “Mr. Bourbon” liquor store to arrange delivery of two or three cases of assorted wines and alcohol to the performers’ dressing room on concert night.
Then Jim Holt works on a couple of “extras” which he hopes will pay off in the future. He calls his friend Gary Strong, of the Malibu Grand Prix entertainment center, and arranges for delivery of a “Space Invaders” video pinball machine to The Who’s dressing room the day before the concert. He knows they’ll have some time to kill between equipment checks in the afternoon and wants them to have something to remember him by. A promoter has to think of these things. It was Mid-South Concerts, for instance, who provided the Rolling Stones with their own backstage swimming pool on that sweltering July 4th in 1975; and Jackson Browne with a half-dozen fertilized eggs for breakfast; and Van Halen with a box of M&Ms from which all the brown ones had been removed.
For thinking of “extras” to satisfy a band’s quirks and passions, a promotional firm will be rewarded with an unofficial sanction to handle that band anytime they are in the area. Perhaps the best and most consistent “extra” is the contact that Holt makes about a week before the show. He calls on Mrs. Mable Winfrey to cater the band’s backstage meal. Mrs. Winfrey works out of a tiny kitchen in her South Memphis home, providing the stars with authentic home-style meals. She has impressed the likes of John Denver, Linda Rondstadt, Teddy Pendergrass, and Queen, and is said to make “the road” a little less lonely for those whose home it is.
Everything has gone smoothly thus far, but about four days before the show, Holt is to run into his first major headache. The phone call comes from Delton Bass, who works with The Who’s road crew. A change had been made in The Who’s food rider, and Holt is reminded that band member Roger Daltry requires a Japanese dish prepared from raw fish called sashimi. This special request wouldn’t normally cause a problem, except that there is only one restaurateur in town who knows the dish, and he only gets it once a month — flown in fresh from Chicago. More disturbing is an evident shortage of bottled Bitter Lemon in Memphis, another “essential” part of The Who’s somewhat eccentric food requirements. Holt has neglected the two items, thinking them relatively easy to find, but with two days left until the show, he discovers that he is wrong. Panic sets in, for it is the lack of little details such as these that can negate all the good will a dressing room pinball machine will offer. For two days, Holt sweats out his oversight, aware that his reputation as an effective provider depends on one thing: raw fish.
Stage call at the Coliseum is at 8 a.m., July 10. Jim Holt has already been here an hour, pacing back and forth in the loading area like a man on trial for his life, his head still pounding with nightmares of man-eating sashimi. The stagehands are shuffling about, waiting for instructions from boss Woody. The IATSE has some 35 full-time members in Memphis, and about half of them are here this morning, looking like refugees from some father and son wilderness camp. Woody gathers three or four of them in a small huddle around him and mumbles for a while, apparently giving assignments to different work crews. They finally break, and assembling their crews, set to work like a colony of converted drones. But the platform they erect over the next couple of hours is sturdy enough to support a whole herd of Cadillacs, and slowly it becomes obvious how they have earned the praise of their peers. Sometime later, in fact, one of The Who’s seasoned road crew, a pot-bellied Yul Brenner in a ten-gallon hat, allows simply, “Damn nice stage here … real solid. Gonna do some rockin’ on this baby.” Then the bald man of few words spits on a narrow apron behind a stack of wood, rubbing the spot away with the toe of his boot. By noon, stage construction is finished and the stagehands break for lunch. Jim Holt has logged about five miles back at the loading dock, and The Who’s roadies and equipment men move into action.
Out on the main concourse, north, Bubba Bland and Officer Charles Downs, chief of Coliseum indoor security, have been watching late ticket purchases much of the morning. Downs, whose rather laid-back demeanor seems out of place in a uniform, is determining what kind of show, or more specifically, what kind of crowd to expect tonight. “Some kids come in here so high at noon, you know they’re going to be trouble at 8. But that’s mostly for those, you know, hard rock shows.” One can imagine the good officer lining up his men sometime before the show like a bunch of fighter pilots before that crucial dog-fight, tapping his palm with a swagger-stick and addressing them as if they were his sons. “Men, this is going to be a tough one ….” And around 6:30 or so, they’ll solemnly file out to their posts, readying themselves for anything from some high punk brandishing a stiletto to intermission Frisbee-throwers gotten out of hand. The Coliseum’s security force is meant more to be seen than heard tonight — a reminder that even rock-and-roll has rules. Still, the affable Officer Downs insists, “Discretion is the better part, you know, of valor.”
By mid-afternoon, the sound and light crews have gotten their equipment moved in and set up. The stage is now flanked by two mammoth banks of flat-black speaker cases in every size, as if shielding it from enemy fire; of course, in the end, these battle-scarred wooden boxes will be The Who’s ultimate weapons tonight. The light-rigging men are swinging from a truss about 20 feet above the stage like a couple of nimble monkeys, weaving together hundreds of feet of heavy-duty electric cable. The equipment crew in general is a hard-looking bunch of fellows, road-weary, tattooed, and resembling a gang of modern-day pirates. They’re an existential lot, calmly flirting with death — “the big bang,” they call it — every day. Some of that cable is as thick as a man’s wrist and will handle eight or nine hundred amps, and according to one real skinny guy with hideous scars all the way up his right arm, “that ain’t no tickle.”
As the afternoon wears on, and the different systems are being cranked up, the “sound” of electricity issues from the speakers assembled on stage. One of the sound men calls it “the Buzz” — a sign of a bad connection somewhere. At the huge mixing console on the main floor, a tall boney fellow is manipulating a whole wall of color-coded switches, trying to find the right combination, and cursing into the intercom leading up to the stage. A reporter gets too close, and the sound man casts a chilling sidelong glance his way and hunches over the board as if to protect it from prying eyes, muttering some veiled threats about how he’d like to “break somebody’s face.” He returns to the matter at hand and orders a new cable for the left bank of speakers. It’s getting close to 5 and activity is getting feverish. Hookup men are swarming around the stage and in the wings there is a comment about the top blowing off the Coliseum if things don’t cool down. It sounds serious. Real or imagined, there seems to be a pressure building, like when you go up to a mountain and can’t pop your ears. Showtime is imminent.
Backstage, life is just as hectic. Already, unused equipment is being rolled into place for the “load out” at the end of the night. In the middle of it all is a tall black guy in a doctor’s O.R. smock, stethoscope, and swimming trunks. He’s smoking a huge stinking cigar and roller-skating back and forth between two backstage gates. No one seems to pay him much mind. But the crew here seems leery of anyone not in their club snooping around asking questions. There is an ante-world of the promotion industry that is not usually visible even to those who might be right in the middle of it. Whether that is a calculated coverup or not is hard to tell, but even Kelley, who has been here twice already today, assumes a low profile — slipping in, checking signals with a still-nervous Jim Holt, and ever so quietly slipping back out when satisfied that everything is okay.
Outside, the same crowd that littered the Ticket Hub with the detritus of rock-and-roll addiction is at it again. Says a blank, smiling, sad-eyed youngster on whom an appeal to reason would be wasted now, “It’s gonna be The Who, man. It’s gonna be heaven.” Mid-South Concerts has brought the people what they want.
Back on the main floor, “The Buzz” continues. Tempers won’t stand up much longer in this tension, and the profanity increases proportionally with the feedback. When the new cable is finally installed, the sound man delivers a short, all-but-prayerful directive: “Plug it in and see what happens.” Success is what happens, and he can’t help flashing a little smile — albeit an evil-looking one — for the place is quiet at last, and his job is all but over until showtime. Almost immediately it seems as if someone has opened a door somewhere and vented a little of that pressure. And if the final equipment check goes smoothly, maybe the top won’t blow off after all. It’s safe now, and Ray Moore dispatches his small army of usherettes to start popping down the folding seats — about 12,000 of them tonight — with a skill that only practice brings. The time is 5:45.
Six p.m. is dinner time, and it’s Mrs. Winfrey to the rescue. The menu tonight includes country-fried steak, peas, squash, salad, and cornbread. For 15 precious minutes, the only sounds backstage are smacking lips and contented groans. After a resounding belch, the Yul Brenner of the West shakes his naked head: “Mable, this stuff is dynamite.” After dinner, the atmosphere is decidedly more relaxed. From The Who’s dressing room comes the “blip, blip, beebeep” of the Space Invaders, and by 7:45, Mrs. Winfrey and her assistants are just “trying to pack it up and get it out.”
Sitting crouched in a small closet in a hallway directly behind the stage is a guy named Jim. Fifty-ish, with that lean and hungry look that seems to prevail among these people, he’s a Coliseum electrician and his sole duty tonight is to raise and lower the house lights when given the cue over the headset he wears. He’s hunched over a tattered copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, silently mouthing the words as he reads, oblivious to the activity around him.
At 8, the cue comes, Jim does his job, and the show is on. The Who rushes the stage as if running from Death itself. Outside in the halls, the elderly ticket-takers adjust the cotton in their ears while inside, the fans crawl like some huge animal closer and closer to the stage, and perhaps to the brink of deafness. This is “the test,” and a sell-out crowd proves success. Even Jim Holt is here, in a fine mood, for he has just been told that after sashimi every night for the last three weeks, Roger Daltry is sick of it anyway. The pressure is on The Who, now.
Somewhere near the end of the show, Kelley, Watkins, and a clean-cut man who speaks with a thick English brogue and carries a briefcase meet in the subdued light of the Coliseum boardroom. The man is known to Mid-South Concerts only as “Regis.” Faint smiles flicker across the faces of the three while cost sheets, invoices, and contracts are checked for accuracy one last time. Everyone satisfied? Only a gentle nod — but it tells the story. Bart Maverick could appreciate this. These are the trappings one might expect to find at a gentleman’s game of chance — silver jewelry, manicured hands, fine clothing. There is thick carpet, leather chairs, and paneled walls. There are cigars and low lights and a cool quiet word. And there is money — lots of it … more money than many men see in a year.
This is the Payoff. Kelley hands a pile of cash to the mysterious tour accountant, who puts it in his briefcase and then leaves as quietly as he came. Kelley will count his later. Now, as the cigar in the ashtray struggles for its last breath, Bob Kelley simply sits back and chuckles to himself … a chuckle that any winner could understand.
Mark J. Davis was a frequent contributor to Memphis magazine in the early 1980s, introducing readers to life at Southland Greyhound Park and taking them inside this city’s old pool halls. He also explored issues within the Memphis Fire Department and profiled politician Minerva Johnican. After a 20-year stint in IT management with a major athletic wear company, he now serves as editor/publisher of a small denominational magazine based in Memphis.