"Meanwhile, back at the Peabody"
If you read my column last month, you'll remember my wife Kathy and I had a large time seeing the Rolling Stones in concert at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. We later saw some of the band members and singers at the lobby bar of the Peabody Hotel, along with some of our friends from Nashville.
After brunch the next morning, we went down to the lobby to write a few post cards and relax in the bar and sip a bloody mary before checking out. As I sat there gazing around the beautiful Italian Renaissance lobby, I couldn't help but wonder what floor the Stones were on and what they might be doing right about then. It was around noon, so I figured they were more than likely asleep.
I spotted a young man carrying some vinyl albums under his arm jogging across the lobby towards the entrance. I couldn't see all the way over there due to plants, people, and the famous Peabody fountain where the Peabody ducks do their walk twice a day. A minute or two later, I strolled over and found the young man with two or three other people standing around him.
"What's going on over here?" I asked.
"I just talked to Mick Jagger and he signed two of my albums!" he blurted. "He was on his way out to go running!"
"Let me see," I said in disbelief.
Sure enough there it was -- Mick Jagger's signature scribbled across the front of two old Rolling Stones albums.
"He's coming back in about an hour!" the proud young man said.
I couldn't believe Mick Jagger had come through the lobby of the hotel and I had missed him. I went back across the large expanse of the room and told Kathy what had happened. We decided to walk up the street to the post office, drop off the post cards, then come back and wait for the reappearance of Mick.
I soon saw a problem. When he had come off the elevator and headed out the door the first time, it had been totally unexpected. Now the word had spread and a small crowd was gathering. There were also two security men outside the door waiting for him. We were told a car drove slowly along beside him with his own security, so he would be well surrounded on his return to his room.
I thought to myself, what a great sight. Mick Jagger jogging through the streets of Memphis. Somehow it made perfect sense.
After a long wait, it happened. There he was, ten feet in front of me walking rapidly along the wall with four men around him.
"Hey, Mick!" someone called as a few flashbulbs went off.
"Hello, how ya doin'," the prince of prance answered as he disappeared between the elevator doors. Several pairs of eyes watched the arrow above the doors as it went past every floor but the top one. It stopped on number twelve.
Kathy and I stayed around to watch the famous ducks do their exit walk from the fountain to the elevator where they ride with the duckmaster to the roof and stay in their large fenced area until their morning appearance and into the fountain again for another day of swimming and being stared at.
We decided to have supper in the coffee shop before departing. Curiosity was eating me up along with nostalgia and rabid fanhood. We were checked out, car packed, and yet I still wasn't convinced we were about to leave Memphis with the Rolling Stones still there for a day off before heading to New Orleans, their next tour stop.
We had been on the fence during lunch. By the time we left the coffee shop, we were ready to see what rooms were available. Perhaps on the twelfth floor? I went to the desk and arranged to look at the available room on the "club" level of the Peabody Hotel. When the manager happened to come into the private lounge on the top floor as we were being shown around, he offered us a discount since it was our anniversary. That sealed it. We were now going to spend the night at the Peabody with the Rolling Stones down the hall! Were we crazy? A little, but we came to the accepted reality among most mortals that you only live once.
We were given complimentary champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The waiter in the club floor lounge was talkative enough, so I immediately picked his brain about what the boys' habits were, since he'd been serving them for a couple of days at that point. We learned that Keith Richards arose each evening around 7 p.m. and went to bed each morning between 6 and 7 a.m. It was around 6:30 p.m. by this time. A mild rush of excitement ran through me. As we sat there eating chocolate-covered strawberries and sipping champagne, I realized our luggage was still in the car. I left Kathy there and went to have our luggage brought up. Upon my return, Kathy was still there alone temporarily in hog heaven. Once we returned to our room, she told me:
"A guy that I think was Keith Richards came into the lounge while you were downstairs. He had a cigarette dangling from his mouth, looking like he'd just awakened, looking for some white wine."
"What! Are you sure it was him?"
"Yes, I'm pretty sure," she answered.
Once again I was in shock. Kathy said his young wife was in and out as well. She didn't think it was a good moment to intrude on their privacy. She was probably right, but . . . oh, Lord, why was my timing so bad.
I returned to the lounge promptly and planted myself there for quite some time. Nobody. A security man was planted at the end of the hall that led to their rooms. I didn't dare.
I was in the club lounge again at 7 a.m. for breakfast. Hoping. But no such luck. We slowly packed and made our way down to the lobby around noon. We found out the Stones had gone down to B.B. King's Blues Club the night before their concert and jammed, tearing the crowd apart.
We checked out and went to the old Sun Records studio where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and many others had made recording history some thirty-five or thirty-six years earlier. I highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Memphis. We'd been to Graceland on a previous trip. It's truly a trip in itself as well.
We drove back to Nashville with a copy of the Memphis paper and a smashing review of the Stones' great performance. I was filled with love, rock 'n' roll voodoo, a little anxiety and near-missed greatness.
So long Mick. Maybe another time. As Chuck Berry so perfectly put it, C'est la vie.
Alan Rhody is a Louisville-born singer and songwriter who has penned hits for Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Van Shelton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood and others. He can be contacted for performance schedules and product at: P.O. Box 121231, Nashville, TN 37212.