Europe Loves Memphis (Guest Post by Graham Winchester)
Ed. Note: I'm excited to share with you this guest post by Memphis musician Graham Winchester about his time this fall playing in Europe. As part of the Sheiks (which also includes Frank McAllen and Keith Cooper) he opened for and backed up Memphis musician Jack Oblivian on Jack's 7-week, 14-country tour. Photos and captions provided by Graham.
Jack Oblivian (and that's Graham on the drums) at Take Root Festival in Groningen. Photo via @instagraham1988.
When you're touring Europe – playing 40 shows in 40 cities – you're bound to have some exciting adventures along the way. But when you're in a band from Memphis touring Europe, you carry a badge that means more than you immediately realize.
I had a dream-like, shake-your-head experience one night. We had just played a club called Stengade in Copenhagen, Denmark. Jack and I were to stay with a young man named Emil that night.
We took a “twenty minute walk” (which translates to English as one solid hour – I did the calculations) to his house. Emil asked what other bands I played for in Memphis. I told him, "Devil Train, the Maitre D’s, and I’m doing a solo thing soon, and a few more.”
When I said the Maitre D’s he had a funny look and said, “Did you guys play at a club last year in midtown Memphis?” Emil had witnessed the debut Maitre D’s (Booker T. and the MG’s tribute) show at Bar DKDC. He and his group of Danes saw the show because Memphis was one of two cities in the U.S. (the other was New Orleans) that they deemed important to visit, based on musical legacy.
Emil had heard one of my bands during his only time in Memphis, and then by fate I met him and stayed at his house on my only trip to Copenhagen. It struck me as one fat coincidence. Yet, after pondering it these last few weeks, maybe it wasn’t. I’ll explain…
Memphis doesn’t pop up around the world by accident. There are thousands upon thousands of Memphis music fans all over Europe and across the globe who travel here. Several times on the trip, people we met talked to us about our hometown.
In Hamburg, I talked to Klaus: he loves the Young Avenue Deli’s sweet potato fries and Kwik Chek. In London, I ran into Jack Oblivian fans wearing Sun Studio and Stax t-shirts. Another time, I wore a Black Lodge Video t-shirt and people came up to me, excited that they recognized the place.
These people haven’t even seen all the new restaurants, venues, and shops that have opened in Memphis very recently. They will soon; but meanwhile, said Europeans are repping our city all over, and we don’t even know it until we fly over and see it. We don’t know it until they jump on stage and start singing lyrics to a Memphis song and we hear it. I certainly didn’t know that when I boarded the plane for Amsterdam, I would be traveling 5000 miles just to feel at home with the spirit of Memphis and its rich musical legacy right by my side.
Our crew in France: (left to right) Jack Oblivian, me, Andrew Abis, Keith Cooper, Frank McLallen. We toured in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Graham releases his first solo album this week. Head to his release shows on Dec. 12 (this Friday) at the Buccaneer ($7 cover, 10:30 p.m. start, Minivan opening) or Dec. 19 at Bar DKDC ($7 cover, 10:30 p.m.). Go here for more info.