Memphis Barbecue Restaurants Ghost Pit Chronicles
CHELSEA TO THOMAS TO FIRESTONE, PT. 3

     The road trip concludes today, north onto Thomas from Chelsea, then east on Firestone, to the vicinity of the post office. On the way, just a block south of the Thomas/Firestone intersection, is Marble Avenue and this neat ghost pit, one I stumbled upon.
    The assessor’s office says the building went up in 1920. Don’t know about the pit, but the place has had several restaurant names over the years (here’s a few) — Farris Grill (1955), Margie’s Grill (1960), Mary’s Cafe (1970) — before settling into the club/lounge/bar business: Bradford’s Lounge (1975), no listing for 1981, and then the current name, One Block North, in 1992. Record spin, anyone?
    So, north on Thomas from Chelsea, there is yet another Loeb’s commercial strip with barbecue restaurant (870), barely a stone’s throw from the one on Chelsea, but this one also had one of the rare Loeb’s doughnut shops.

Here’s what it looks like today.

This was probably a good place. Long gone.

     On the west side of Thomas at the traffic light for Firestone is this sprawling entertainment complex/barbecue restaurant. I haven’t been there yet.This swoopy angle from Google

is circa summer/fall of 2011. Here it is in December 2011, with the name changed to Lee Lee’s

… and last month, with the black paint removed. I think I like the black, or maybe it just looked good against a gray sky.

    Heading down Firestone, there is 665,

a structure from 1940, known as the Blue Goose Cafe (1955), Bessie’s Place (1960), and then a long run, at least as early as 1970 and into the 1990s, as Carter’s Blue Note. Its1971 phone book listing said it served barbecue, which earned its mention here. No pit is visible.
     The final stop is 731 Firestone and another place I found by accident. I don’t know much about it, other than it was a “sundry and grocery” under several names from the 1970s into the 1990s.



CHELSEA TO THOMAS TO FIRESTONE, PT. 2 (or CHELSEA IS MY SUMMER)

    Continuing down Chelsea toward Thomas, we cross the street to 809 and this place, which was Frostee Freeze Ice Cream in the 1970s. It made The Commercial Appeal’s “84 in ‘84” barbecue restaurant listing to set up that year’s Memphis in May Barbecue Cooking Contest, preparing to open as Hank’s Southern Style Barbecue. By 1992, it was closed. Today, it’s a model ghost pit — a used car dealership.

It’s difficult to get around town without passing the site of an old Loeb’s barbecue restaurant. Here are three shots (Aug. 2010, June and Dec. 2011, respectively) of the Loeb’s that opened in 1967 at 760 Chelsea, documenting its run as a tax service. It housed a Loeb’s grocery and laundry/cleaners  into the 1980s, and also a Corned Beef House in 1970. It was home to a hair salon in 1992.

Here’s how it looked for its grand opening, and some coupons.

CHELSEA TO THOMAS TO FIRESTONE

    No, that’s not a baseball double-play combo. It’s a route to my post office, on Firestone, when I have to pick up a package. It’s also a route that is rich with ghost pits and one going barbecue concern. We’ll travel it over the next few posts. I sampled some city directories from 1970-1992. The pits come along quickly on Chelsea, starting at Breedlove.

  

 1038 Chelsea:  The assessor’s office doesn’t list the year this building went up, but the 1948 city directory says it was home to a restaurant, the Rainbow Inn. It has had many names over the years: Raymond’s Lounge (1970), Chelsea Lounge (1973), Marion’s Lounge (1975), Leo’s Place (restaurant, 1981-1992, at least). Looks to be unoccupied now. No idea who was responsible for the pit.

878 Chelsea:  Again, the assessor doesn’t list the age of this conglomeration of buildings. From city directories: Metal Vent (874-878, 1970), Herman’s House of Styles and House of Hits Record Shop (874) and Metal Vent (878, 1973-1975); Metal Vent (874-878, 1981-1992). The Chelsea Restaurant, listed by the Health Department at 876, shows up in 1999, when operator was applying for a beer license. It disappears from the restaurant inspections about five years later.

   868 Chelsea: Immediately west of the Chelsea Restaurant is this place. The 1970 city directory lists it as a bakery thrift store, but since at least 1973, it has been home to the In and Out Grocery.

LOIS PIT BAR-B-Q, WELLS STATION ROAD

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    Lois Pit-Bar-B-Q was a fixture for more than 40 years at two locations on Wells Station in Berclair. The restaurant went through a couple of ownership changes in that time, but always kept the name of its founder, Lois Schuchman, even more than 30 years after her death. Here’s a trip back through old newspapers, phone books and city directories. Pretty much all of the family members who might have detailed information appear to be deceased, so this timeline of sorts is the best I can do.

    Lois Schuchman (maiden name Kyle) moved to Memphis in 1945. I can’t find when she married Norman Schuchman, but they took out a mortgage here in October 1947, and the 1948 city directory lists him as an operator with the Memphis Street Railway. Seven years later, he’s still a driver, but Lois has taken this job:

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Little Pigs barbecue was a local “chain” owned by Frank Howell (I know some stuff about him, and wish I knew a lot more). Through the 1950s and 1960s, he owned restaurants all over town, as many as a half-dozen at a time. In 1955 he had four – the one at 671 South Highland that most people probably remember (one I miss), 548 East Mallory, 620 Semmes, and 2150 Young (about where Goner Records is now; sadly, the pit is a goner, too). I don’t know which one employed Lois Schuchman. Without family information, it’s impossible to say what led her to open her own barbecue place, but the link to Frank Howell is certainly interesting.

     Lois Café, with husband Norman as an employee, opened in 1960, yet another name change for an established eatery at 1491 Wells Station that already had barbecue on its menu.

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     Barbecue defined the restaurant’s identity the next year, and would for the rest of its existence.

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     in February 1967, Lois Schuchman died at age 50, after an illness of more than two years, according to her obituary. A few months before, Lois Pit Bar-B-Q had been sold to Howard Underhill, and Norman Schuchman had opened another restaurant, with a reminder of its pedigree, at the site of a former Loeb’s.

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    The Schuchman’s on Graham would go on until 1973, despite its out-of-the-way location, but at this time, Norman Schuchman was also opening Old Stage Bar-B-Que, a site known today as Brad’s Bar-B-Que.

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By 1974, Old Stage had a new person in charge.  Norman Schuchman  would eventually move back to Arkansas, and he died in Ravenden Springs in June 2003, at the age of 84.

        The original Lois Pit Bar-B-Q, now owned by Howard Underhill, remained at 1491 Wells Station through the mid-1980s. In 1987, the Polk’s directory lists the owner/manager as Connie Johnson, who appeared in the 1983 directory as a waitress there. The really big change shows up in the 1989 directory, with a new location down the street at 1456 Wells Station, shown in this post’s lead photo. (One of the businesses at this site was Electric Wiring Service, which moved into the 1491 space and is still there. Dan Rokitka, owner of Electric Wiring Service, is responsible for one of this city’s best human-interest stories. Feel free to take a break here and Google him. You’ll be glad you did.)  The move could have occurred in 1988 (I couldn’t locate a city directory for that year), but it did involve the construction of this impressive pit.

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Howard Underhill died in 1995 at age 58, and the restaurant continued into the early 2000s under Connie Johnson. I ate there once in the late1990s, when I was using my Mondays off to visit different ‘cue shops. I remember nothing about the food, so I’m guessing it was pretty unremarkable. The interior was dark (maybe darker than the old Neely’s), and the only employee, probably Connie Johnson, was smoking a cigarette behind the counter. I was the only customer.

     The end for Lois’ apparently came in 2003. That’s the last year a restaurant inspection score shows up in The CA (a 97, out on a good note). A week before publication of that score, Lois Pit Bar-B-Q was included in a CA taste test of 20 local restaurants as a runup to the Memphis in May barbecue contest. In a possible foreshadowing, Lois finished last, with a score of 116.5. I don’t know how that was arrived at (the winning score was 278), but here are the judges’ comments: “Good texture, no fat or gristle. Bland taste of meat. Sauce and slaw almost saved it, nice smoky aftertaste. Sauce was ketchupy. No flavor.”

    Since then, as the demographics of the neighborhood have changed, the building has been home to Hispanic establishments (May 2010)

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And currently

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Finally, here are some pictures of the original Lois pit at 1491. A few years ago, Dan Rokitka told me that Code Enforcement was after him to tear it down. Luckily, I got these shots before he did.

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1737 MADISON AND 942 EAST E.H. CRUMP REVISITED

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    Today’s Commercial Appeal has a Business item about a new restaurant and bar slated to open this summer at 1737 Madison in Midtown, to be called The Canvas. Partners Brandon Knight and Robert Coletta (no mention if he’s connected to our restaurant Colettas) are planning an art theme – with finished works on display, works in progress and acoustic music. Bar-food menu. Made me think of the old Fantasia, almost directly across Madison, from the 1970s. It was an after-work spot on Sunday nights.
    The Canvas will follow the Echoes of Time antique store (which has moved just down the street) at the 1737 address, along with a vintage instrument shop, the Prescription House drug store, and the Coat of Arms Barber Shop (plus the Taylor Topper Co., which sold custom-made hairpieces). And this, from 1960:

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   The Barbecue Center of Memphis was post No. 2 on this site, years ago (hard to believe). I went into the building when the antique shop opened and inquired about any indications of the barbecue business that might still exist. The owners didn’t let me nose around, but assured me nothing was there. Letters sent to the family who ran it were not acknowledged.
   The Canvas follows the Crosstown/Midtown opening of Fox Cee’s at another old barbecue site, 394 North Watkins, Mr. Bobby-Que, discussed a few posts ago.
      Also, last year I noted the closing of Al’s Tasty Burger Inn, in a former Loeb’s and Brown’s at 942 East E. H. Crump. That location is back, too, as the Crump Street Grill (spiffy sign).

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Haven’t stopped in yet, but if they have burgers that are as good as Al’s were, they could do all right.
     Good luck to all.

A FLOATING BARBECUE RESTAURANT?

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     Recent items in The CA’s Mid-South Memories from 1964 have chronicled Elvis Presley’s purchase of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, the USS Potomac. The King paid $55,000 for the boat, which was in poor condition, with idea of donating it to the March of Dimes, the polio-fighting charity FDR founded in the 1930s. That plan fell through (good accounts of this are at portoflongbeach.blogspot.com and usspotomac.org), so Presley turned to St. Jude’s, and handed the Potomac over on Feb. 14 to St. Jude founder Danny Thomas.
     Today’s Mid-South Memories entry reported this:
     “Laundry executive William Loeb last night offered to pay the cost of bringing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s yacht to Memphis and suggested it be transformed into a plush riverfront restaurant with net proceeds going to St. Jude Hospital. Entertainer Danny Thomas, the hospital’s founder, who accepted the 165-foot Potomac from Elvis Presley in Long Beach, Calif., last week, told The Commercial Appeal by telephone yesterday that “the offer sounds wonderful. I hope something can be worked out in the future to save and enshrine the yacht for history.”
   In addition to being a laundry executive, Loeb was at this time a barbecue executive. His restaurant chain

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was starting to take off, with 16 Memphis locations listed in the 1964 phone book. A.B. Coleman and Porter Moss, the get-it-done guys for Loeb’s barbecue enterprise, were building and opening them pretty much before the company knew it.

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    A Loeb’s Bar-B-Q on the Mississippi?

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Pure speculation, of course, but anything for a blog idea. The Potomac never came to the Bluff City, but Loeb continued to expand his restaurant chain. By early 1965, a big move across the Mid-South was on the drawing board.

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     Here’s the 740 East McLemore shop from a few years ago, and a couple of coupons. Enjoy.

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775 E.H. CRUMP EAST and 1129 NORTH HOLLYWOOD

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    This classic ghost pit was a pleasant discovery about a year ago, one of those places you stumble upon by accident. Somehow, during many drives east and west on E.H. Crump over the past three years, I had managed to miss it. Despite having an address to research, it remained in the “unknown” file for several months until I was looking at a phone listing from 1977 and this leaped off the screen:

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    Like so many of these mom-and-pop places, it was in business probably no longer than a couple of years. Researching the address was doomed from the start because it never made the Polk’s city directory. It’s only phone book appearance was 1977, and it did make the Cole’s city directory in 1978 (largely worthless because Cole’s doesn’t tell you who owns businesses). Cole’s did indicate that it had a prior life as a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
    Today, this outstanding ghost pit is a tire shop —

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Brother’s Tire Service and Car Wash. Auto service businesses are a favorite ghost pit incarnation. This one at 2380 Park, once Sanders Restaurant, is one of my favorites.

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     A recent ghost pit discovery is this place at 1129 North Hollywood —

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Superior Funeral Home, which in 1970 was the

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Dead end, indeed.

MISSED ‘CUES

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 The previous post about Bobby Hendricks, aka “Mr. Bobby Que,” got me thinking about the barbecue places I could have visited right after I moved here circa 1980. Mr. Bobby Que was one of them, in my neighborhood, but at the time I wasn’t interested in barbecue as something to be sought out and savored.  If any food was a revelation around this time, it was probably Mexican (Don Tios on Poplar was an early favorite). It wasn’t until more than a decade later that I devoted my Mondays off to exploring Memphis barbecue, and made it to Payne’s, Cozy Corner, Interstate, Little Pigs of Highland, A&R, Lois, Bryant’s and Neely’s.
     The scraps of paper in the top picture with names of old Memphis restaurants represent a fair portion of my world of dining out in the early 1980s. When my wife and I were dating then, we would sometimes go out to eat after work Saturday night, and these pieces of paper were the solution to this exchange: “Where would you like to go?”  “I  don’t know – whatever you like.”  Yes, we put them in a hat and drew one.
      I remember enjoying The Pier, but it gradually fell from consideration; I probably got cheap. Kubla Khan was on Beale, as was Tempo’s, if memory serves. Tempo’s is a total blank; Kubla Khan may have been a Benihana-type place.
      The Peking was an immediate favorite; I think A-Tan’s, our current Chinese of choice, is its descendant. Caramba was a pretty good Downtown Mexican place, but Lupe and Bea’s won us over from the start. If we made it to the old Paulette’s, it apparently didn’t make a huge impression. We’ve been to the one in Harbor Town; that will do for a while. We went to Anderton’s right to the end; always a good choice. We didn’t go to Erika’s enough, but it’s in my top 5 of Memphis restaurants. My first visit there was a farewell luncheon for my old boss, and Erika baked a Black Forest cake in his honor – one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
      Of course, barbecue was had. Not sure which was the first place, Gridley’s or Mr. Ray’s (Mr. Ray Gammons). Probably ate Tops at work. The Public Eye was the first real consistent go-to place, but was no match for John Wills. We ate dinner there on the way to the airport to start our honeymoon. We followed Wills out east; my pick for Father’s Day dinner for years.

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   So, back to the question: What did I miss? Here are a few:
Berretta’s, 3477 Park; Bill’s Barbecue, 4118 South Plaza Drive; Brady and Lil’s, 601 South Parkway East;

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    and Brown’s (multiple locations of old Loeb’s shops); Lewis Bar-B-Que, 2930 Austin Peay; Ninner’s, 584 North Third; Bar-B-Q Lodge, 3333 Winchester; Tennessee’s Best Barbecue, 3246 Jackson; Earl’s Hot Biscuits, 179 E. H. Crump;

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and John Willingham’s when it was at 150 U.S. 72 in Collierville (may have been the Sunset Restaurant earlier).

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    I did make it to a couple of Willingham’s other places later, as well as these: Cozy Corner; Germantown Commissary (just once); Harry’s Bar-B-Q Pit (73 Monroe in Downtown, in its final incarnation as Mike’s); Leonard’s on Bellevue (the week of its closing);  Beasley’s, 954 Jackson (when it was Jango’s).
     My daughter liked Jango’s, and it’s a place I miss. Our cat almost never showed interest in people food, but she was usually at the table sniffing the plates from Jango’s.

394 NORTH WATKINS, MR. BOBBY QUE
    Earlier this month, The Commercial Appeal ran a story about FoxCee’s Overton Park Bar and Grill, slated to open by the end of this month at 394 N. Watkins. The story mentioned a couple of earlier establishments at that location – a vegetarian restaurant (Balewa’s, which brings to mind the concept of onomatopoeia) and a coffee shop (the Edge).
    Further back, of course, it was home to the much-loved and greatly missed Lupe and Bea’s from the mid 1980s and into the 1990s, and briefly before that, a barbecue restaurant – Mr. Bobby Que.

      Mr. Bobby Que – Bobby Hendricks – is a self-styled “research scientist” in barbecue and a teacher of his techniques. He’s also the self-described first “personality” in the field of barbecue, long before the Food Network and others were even imagined. The main sources for this post are a January 1980 column in The CA by its legendary writer, Bill Thomas, and a biography by Eric Parton in Hendricks’ 1976 book on barbecuing. There are also a couple of newspaper stories from 1983. The events, dates and places from these various accounts don’t always jibe, but this is the gist of the story. (My apologies for the clunky format; had to do it on Firefox.)

    Thomas and Parton cite different dates for Hendricks’ arrival in Memphis (1972, or 1970), but the Conroe, Texas, native (b. circa 1942) found himself in the Bluff City with an eye on a music career. His biography says he had begun to pursue music in Los Angeles at the age of 15, and appeared on “American Bandstand” singing backup to big names, including Bobby Bland, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Things were looking up.

    He also brought with him a love of barbecuing, instilled early on by his grandfather, who was considered the best pit man around Mt. Zion, Texas.

    But the music dream was snuffed out when Hendricks was an innocent bystander as two men were fighting outside a club in Orange Mound. A shotgun was involved and it went off, hitting Hendricks in the chest and right arm. Critically wounded, Hendricks hung on at John Gaston Hospital as doctors waited 10 hours to get the blood he would need for surgery. They saved him, but his arm was severely mangled. By 1974. after four more operations and a lot of physical therapy, Hendricks had regained most of the movement in his arm, but its strength was largely gone.

     Parton writes that Hendricks struggled after this, taking any job he could to support his young family but finding his physical limitations daunting. He says this was the time Hendricks turned to cooking as a possible way forward, and soon realized that his barbecue was what got people’s attention. Parton says Hendricks spent four years developing his sauce, and three years designing “the right cooking bowl for charcoaling” (consecutively or concurrently? Don’t know.)  One of the 1983 newspaper articles said he had spent 23 years “studying” pork and beef ribs, and quotes Hendricks as saying: “It took me at least seven years to produce poor barbecue… . After those seven years, the barbecue took a turn for the better.”

    Another 1983 newspaper story says that in 1975, Hendricks was in Oakland, Calif., doing his barbecue research. But we do know for certain that in 1976, Hendricks was in Memphis, building his brand as a barbecue personality and publishing a book, “Barbeque with Mr. Bobby Que.” The book covered all the usual bases – selecting equipment and firewood, discussing the various types of meat for barbecuing, recipes for sauces and side dishes, and tips for cooking – plus memories of family gatherings back in Texas. It included pictures of Rufus Thomas, and was illustrated by Rick Alley of The CA.

    In the book’s introduction, Hendricks recounts his 1976 appearance on Marge Thrasher’s call-in TV show “Straight Talk.” He called WHBQ, told Thrasher’s secretary that his barbecue was the best “bar none,” asked for an appearance on the show, and promised to bring plenty of food. He said the show had just added a “kitchen,” and he would be the first to use it. After his 9 a.m. segment, folks in the studio swarmed the kitchen set to get a taste of his ribs and chicken.
      The time from 1976 to 1980 is a bit murky, but from Thomas’ January 1980 column (the lead photo of this post accompanied that article) we know that Hendricks had been cooking for a restaurant that had closed in May 1979, and his effort to open a place under his own name on Airways had been derailed when his backer pulled out. Thomas doesn’t give an exact address on Airways, but from the photograph, it is 2291 Airways, which had been a Berretta’s until 1976 when it was sold to Will Lyons, who opened Will’s Bar-B-Q. Was Hendricks cooking for Lyons? Don’t know. Hendricks did tell Thomas this:

    “Business was good, but the guy with the money just didn’t want to be in barbecue. I used to walk into the dining room and cheers would go up. I was making people happy and they were making me happy, eating my barbecue.”

    At any rate, Hendricks was ready for his own place at 2291 Airways, until his backer backed out. Again, Hendricks to Thomas: “The building has my name all over it, and people keep asking me when I’m going to open up. They won’t believe that I’m penniless. That’s the trouble with being on TV or in the newspaper or having your name up on the side of a building where everyone can see it. People just assume that if you’re getting that much attention, you’re doing OK. They won’t believe that personalities go broke.”

    And this: “Here I am, good at something – but I can’t do it. It’s not the town, either. This is a great city for barbecue. Memphis sells more barbecue than any city in the world. A lot of it is not very good barbecue. People here will drive 50 miles for good barbecue. So the city is crying for barbecue. And here I am – a barbecuer in a barbecue town – and I can’t get work.”

    Finally: “I feel like I paid my dues in Memphis. This is where I got hurt as an innocent bystander – and this is where I  became a barbecue personality. Besides, this is the capital of barbecue. This is the big time. It’s worth fighting to stay here.”

     So he did. Six weeks later, The CA ran an item about his new place, in an empty fast-food restaurant on Watkins at Overton Park. He went into partnership with Rev. W.A. Sesley, who was pastor of Morningstar Baptist Church. Mr. Bobby Que opened in March, and lasted no more than two or three years. I was living here at the time, but barbecue wasn’t a big interest for me then. Barbecue started and stopped at John Wills on Central (a ghost pit I regret not photographing), with an occasional visit to the Public Eye.

      For his trials and tribulations in Memphis, Hendricks did earn this paragraph in John Egerton’s 1987 book “Southern Food,” in the chapter titled “On the Barbecue Circuit”:

     “The story of Bobby Hendricks, a.k.a. Bobby Que, is illustrative of the magnetic pull and potency of the pit culture in Tennessee. A native of Texas, Hendricks migrated to Memphis in 1970, hoping to make a name for himself as a rhythm and blues and gospel singer. But it was the gospel of barbecue that fired his soul and his imagination, and after seven years of experimental cooking he published a book, “Mr. Bobby Que,” that included testimony on his secret sauces. At last report, the self-styled “barbecue research scientist” had moved to the West Coast, hoping to evangelize the heathen masses into the pork kingdom.”

      The 1983 wire service stories are datelined San Jose and Oakland, Calif. I did my usual searches to try to find Hendricks, calling numbers in California and his native Texas, and sending a couple of letters to Texas addresses. Not having heard anything in more than a week, I ‘m pretty sure they are “return to sender.” Maybe he’ll stumble upon this. I did buy his cookbook.
     Looking online, you’ll find several videos for “Mr. Bobby Que” from 2007, which are infomercials for a rub/sauce/mop package he was selling. There is one video of seven minutes; the shorter ones are cut from it. There is also link to a blog radio site from 2011 or so that lasts an hour. I think it was a call-in program, but in the opening 15 minutes I listened to, no one did. He did say his promotional efforts were aimed at putting “a face on barbecue.” Later, he mentioned a face other than his own, referring to himself as the Rodney Dangerfield of barbecue: “I don’t get no respect.”     

SAM’S BAR-B-Q, HUMBOLDT, TENN.
    We’ll start 2014 by taking care of some 2013 business, a visit to Sam’s Bar-B-Q in Humboldt, Tenn.
     Founder Sam Donald opened the place in 1988 after decades of cooking barbecue for other people. He died in 2011, and the restaurant is now run by his daughter and son-in-law, Seresa and Jon Ivory. 
     Sam’s came on the radar a couple of years ago, about the same time Helen’s in Brownsville did, when a lot of regional/national media discovered her. A fire in June 2012 was an unfortunate boost to Sam’s media profile. However, the bad news turned heartwarming quickly, as barbecue enthusiasts from across the nation, led by the Southern Foodways  Alliance, the Fatback Collective and Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, came together to help rebuild the restaurant. 
     Until last summer, our West Tennessee barbecue experiences were visits to Bozo’s in Mason, usually stopping on a return to Memphis from points east. In June, we made a day trip to Helen’s to see what the excitement was about. (It’s about some of the best barbecue you’ll find anywhere.) In November, we went to Nashville to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit, and were planning a return to Helen’s. I remembered Sam’s, which had made its way onto my must-try list, so we decided to hit the two-lanes and go a little further out of our way.
     As they say, it’s worth the drive. The sandwich — shards of well-smoked meat, creamy slaw and hot sauce – was pure barbecue harmony.  Like Helen’s, Sam’s gets the hot sauce right – zingy for sure, but not overpowering. When my wife inquired about the sauce’s firepower, Mr. Ivory grabbed a bottle and squirted a sample onto her outstretched finger.  
    Sam’s is also known for its pies, so we took a couple of slices of sweet potato home. In the kitchen, pies are placed atop a stove to cool. My slice had acquired a nice smoky taste.
    You can probably see where this is headed – 25 miles down U.S. 79 to Helen’s. Less than an hour after leaving Sam’s, we were ordering from Helen. She laughed when we told her where we had just come from. What were we supposed to do, anyway? U.S. 79 in West Tennessee is one great barbecue trail.
   Just before we got to Sam’s, we passed another barbecue place. Not sure what its name is or whether it’s still in business, but it was worth a snap as we drove by. In Huntingdon, we stopped at Joe’s BBQ – for directions to U.S. 79. It looks like it could be worth a stop. I loved the truck display out front – the top-line models fromDetroit’s Big 3, in red.

SEASON’S GREETINGS    My thanks to everyone who takes the time to stop by. It has been a year of lots of good barbecue, and lots of new places to get it. I didn’t cook enough at home, but I did get a pig painted on the roof of my car, courtesy of my daughter.      I have a few more things to pass along for 2014 — including, maybe, finally, the story of Little Pigs of America, as best as I have been able to find out. (By the way, an e-mail from David A. Barrett, aka Carsonman, is at the top of the GPC wish list, as it was last year.)     I hope everyone has a great Christmas and a happy new year. We’ll get to see a lot of family, enjoy another smoked turkey from Porter Moss at Showboat Barbecue, maybe catch Darlene Love on Letterman. See you back next year.

SEASON’S GREETINGS
    My thanks to everyone who takes the time to stop by. It has been a year of lots of good barbecue, and lots of new places to get it. I didn’t cook enough at home, but I did get a pig painted on the roof of my car, courtesy of my daughter. 
     I have a few more things to pass along for 2014 — including, maybe, finally, the story of Little Pigs of America, as best as I have been able to find out. (By the way, an e-mail from David A. Barrett, aka Carsonman, is at the top of the GPC wish list, as it was last year.) 
    I hope everyone has a great Christmas and a happy new year. We’ll get to see a lot of family, enjoy another smoked turkey from Porter Moss at Showboat Barbecue, maybe catch Darlene Love on Letterman. See you back next year.

MILESTONES, AND OTHER TOTALLY RANDOM STUFF
    First, congratulations to Carl and Veronica this week on the second anniversary of Cave’s Soul Food & More on Jackson in Vollintine-Evergreen. My faves: barbecue chicken, the hamburger, ribs, and Tuesdays for pot roast. Stop in and wish them a happy birthday.
    Another place to stop by and grab a meal and convey good wishes is Moma’s Bar-B-Que on Stage Road in Bartlett. They have just reopened after a bad fire earlier this year. They could have locked the door and walked away, but they’ve rebuilt and come back. It’s a place that was a former Loeb’s in the mid-1970s. We may stop in this weekend. (Dec. 14: We did, and had a fine lunch. They have new hours — Tuesday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-3 p.m.)
    Speaking of old Loeb’s restaurants, the former chain’s site on Cazassa was on the auction block last month, with bidding to start at $25,000. There were no bids, so the auction company said it would entertain offers. Then last week, there was a fire at the building. Probably the end of that one.
     The Johnson St. Market in Binghamton was the subject of a previous post, when it was Taylor and Sons Grocery. Since then, it has acquired this neat mural. Like it.
    Another earlier post mentioned a Loeb’s foray into doughnuts. Found this ad for a second location, from the early 1970s.
     Back before Thanksgiving, The CA ran a feature on Tom Lochamy, who owns The Bar-B-Que Pit in Olive Branch. He was organizing a drive with churches and other groups to feed 1,000 people at the holidays. I hope it was a big success. Buried in the story was a reference to Tom’s father, Pete, which said he had some 30 barbecue restaurants based out of Birmingham, Ala., from 1951-1980 I tried with no luck to find something on the chain. Not one advertisement — of course, maybe he didn’t need to advertise. All that turned up was this matchbook on eBay.
     And before there was Corky’s, there was a place by that name on Jackson, next to a Walgreens.
     That’s all, for post No. 100.      

READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP

        This time last weekend, my art history major/artist/museum employee daughter was painting this pig on the roof of my 1997 Chevy Malibu. She has lots of fond memories of the car – it was the first one she drove, and now it’s my daily ride. It’s still full of stuff from her high school days – books, mix tapes (some pretty good ones), running shoes, probably some old schoolwork.

     All this started with an offhand comment about repainting the roof, as the clear coat was deteriorating rapidly, followed by the paint underneath. I was thinking about a white top to maybe make it a bit cooler in the summer, but my daughter saw it as a canvas. Before long, I agreed to let her paint something on it. With my interest in barbecue, the something became a pig. One thing about driving a beater, you can do pretty much whatever you want to it.

     The image had to be something that could be done quickly and relatively inexpensively, preferably with spray paint, so my daughter chose a pig that I had featured in a previous “Pigs in Ads” post. It’s a clip-art pig profile you see from time to time in old phone book ads for barbecue restaurants.  She free-handed the pig onto a piece of  paper, which she cut apart to use as a stencil for the pink pig and black outline and highlights.

    The toughest part was finding a pink spray paint. I had in mind something fairly light, but the only pink I found at the local big-box hardware retailer was a berry-tinged shade. So I left it up to my daughter, who chose fluorescent pink over something called “Ballet Slippers.”  (Her main interest outside of the art aspects of this project is to see the car on Google Earth, so the fluorescent was an easy pick. No Jamie Wyeth “Portrait of Pig” tones here.)
     The work went without a hitch. The pig looks great, and the fluorescent pink is growing on me. Now, the Malibu just has to keep going long enough for the satellites to snap it. They say GM cars run crappy longer than other makes, so we’ll see. I asked my daughter if she wanted me to cut the roof out when it’s time for the ‘Bu to head to the crusher. She said no, but I probably will. The pig would look nice hanging in a barbecue restaurant.
     Google Earth, it’s your turn.

POPLAR AND MANASSAS, TASTE OF TENNESSEE BAR-B-Q
   I’ve been driving past Taste of Tennessee Bar-B-Q for months, curious about it but never stopping. My daughter’s guest post last month about her late-night visit to a couple of barbecue food trucks under an interstate overpass in Knoxville persuaded me to put this place on the list for a visit. On vacation earlier this month, I stopped by – twice.
    I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s the real deal – all cooking done onsite and nothing but ‘cue on the menu. The proprietor is Eddie Armstrong, a native of Little Rock who began cooking and selling barbecue in 2006 when he was living in Florida. His wife is from here, so that brought him to the Bluff City.
      He refurbished this trailer, installed a smoker, and at the suggestion of a friend set up shop at Poplar and Manassas. He negotiated a deal with the convenience store owner to rent the corner spot, and was off and cooking. He’s closing in on his first year of business, and says the location has been a good one.
    A generator supplies power to the trailer, but the smoker is a charcoal burner. A U-shaped trough, roughly 4 inches wide and  3-4 inches high, is filled with charcoal and ignited at one end. The amount of smoke he wants determines where the hickory chips are placed in the trough. The smoker stays busy during the week – shoulders, briskets, pounds and pounds of  chicken, rib tips and turkey legs.
     My first stop was a pork shoulder sandwich, piled high with well-smoked shoulder and complemented with a creamy coleslaw ( my favorite) and a sauce with a finely tuned spicy-sweet balance. A pork plate on the second visit added a side of beans, which were good, but not extraordinary.
    Back at work, I stopped on my way in one day for a chicken sandwich. At my desk, I decided to snap a pic of it before chowing down. Good thing — under the top of the sandwich was a full leg quarter. I don’t know if it was a fluke or is the normal serving, but it certainly was a surprise. Anyway, I  went on and dismantled the leg quarter – great smoky flavor and more of the tasty sauce — and mopped up with the bread. Next time, I’ll get the chicken plate, but you can’t go wrong either way. Just look before you bite into the sandwich.           
    This is fast, delicious take-out barbecue, smoked onsite. A turkey leg to get in the Thanksgiving mood sounds like a good idea.

614 VANCE, CULPEPPER’S CHICKEN SHACK
     This ghost pit was the last in a line of restaurants known as Culpepper’s Chicken Shack, a  name that was legendary in early Memphis barbecue. Four decades of that famous cooking ended tragically here.
   The owners, Walter and Hattie Culpepper, started in 1932 on Fourth Street, just off Beale. They served average folks, gamblers and “sporting people” (according to Mr. Culpepper’s obituary), and some of the top entertainers of the day, from Cab Calloway to Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley, and Stax musicians in the 1960s.  They served blacks and whites alike, despite the deeply segregated society. Mr. Culpepper’s obit stated that Boss Crump was a patron, which served to blunt police harassment and bring the Chicken Shack to the attention of white Memphis.
   A fire led to a move to 204 Hernando, and the restaurant continued to flourish throughout the 1940s. A second shop was opened at 1664 Kansas. Around 1970, this building at 614 Vance became the Chicken Shack’s new home. In 1971, during a robbery at the restaurant, Hattie Culpepper was pistol-whipped, a beating so severe that her injuries kept her hospitalized until her death in 1992, according to Mr. Culpepper in an interview for her obituary. He said the attack erased any desire to keep the Chicken Shack going. He died three years later at age 85.
    The Chicken Shack is a ghost pit I found by accident. It was in the “unknown” file for a long time, as most of my research was mistakenly focused in the 1950s and 1960s. In those years, the front of the building housed various businesses, while the back half was a cab stand. I probably had its identity early on, but just didn’t recognize it for a couple of years.
    The sources for this post are the Culpeppers’ obituaries from The Commercial Appeal, which provide a strong factual foundation. Still, the ultimate piece of the story would be the news account of the 1971 robbery, which I could not find after reading all of that year’s microfilm of the Press-Scimitar. (For this kind of needle/haystack searching, I usually look at the P-S simply because there is less of it to go through; for me, at least 90 minutes to search a month. Forty-plus years ago, competition between the P-S and the CA was fierce for every scrap of news, so the two newspapers were pretty much equal in range of  coverage.) Considering the brutality of the crime and its victim, it’s hard to believe this robbery would have been buried in an agate listing, or not reported at all. Or, maybe I just missed it. The special collection files at the public library and University of Memphis did not have any reference to it.
     You always want that definitive piece of information, that last half-percent, but sometimes 99 and a half has to do.