I drove up to Cincinnati on Saturday morning to spend a day there before the Kymp Kamp Music Conference in Louisville the next day. The drive up was relatively uneventful except for the twisted, broken trees everywhere caused by the recent ice storm.
It was already dark when I got to Covington, Kentucky and I drove straight up to Shake It Records on the Northside of Cincinnati, but they were having an instore concert, and the store was so crowded that it was hard to move.
Back at my car in the parking lot, I used my iPhone to call restaurants, but with it being Valentine’s Day, everyone was on a long wait. I finally found a restaurant called Rookwood Pavilion, which was up on Mount Adams east of downtown, and they told me that there wouldn’t be a wait, so I drove over there as quickly as I could, and found that the restaurant was in an old pottery kiln with a view of the river to the south and downtown to the west. Inside, futuristic dance music was playing, and some of the tables were inside the old brick kilns. I had a strip steak with frites, relaxing while some sort of cool neo-soul was playing overhead. I pulled out my iPhone to capture it with Shazam, and found that it was a song by an artist I’d never heard of named Jamie Liddell.
After dinner, I had called Abdullah, my friend from Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center in Cincinnati, but he was about to take a friend out to eat, so we agreed to meet up the next day, and I headed downtown to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, where there was live music going on. After midnight, I drove out to the Holiday Inn in Sharonville where I had reservations and checked in.
To my surprise, I discovered that The Record Exchange in Winston-Salem was still open, even though I had thought all of the stores in that chain had closed. I was informed that a couple of them had become part of the Plan 9 chain based in Virginia. After a mid-morning break for a latte at Cafe Prada west of downtown, I headed over into the hood on the east side of Winston-Salem where there was supposed to be a record store called Miss Lady’s Creations. I found that it had closed down, so I left the promotional materials with a hip-hop clothing store in the same shopping center, and then I drove to Greensboro.
On the westside near the airport was a store called Hood Locker, and after I visited there, I drove across to a Biscuitville restaurant for a chicken biscuit. The manager there was from Germantown, Tennessee, and his brother had been best friends with Tim Auvenshine, the Select-O-Hits sales rep who passed away a couple of years ago. It really is a small world.
The rain was much heavier now as I made my way to two other Hood Locker locations which sold both clothing and music. Then I headed downtown where there was a new record store called Da Beat Music, but although the lights were on and the music playing inside, the doors were locked, and knocking didn’t bring anyone to the door. So I ran across the street in the rain to a coffee bar and enjoyed another latte before beginning the drive down I-85 toward Charlotte.
I had not known that there were panels scheduled for Friday at the Mid-Atlantic Music Conference, so when I first arrived in Charlotte, I had stopped by EZ Records in Eastland Mall. Then I got a call from Kysii Ingram asking me where I was, so I rushed to the Crowne Plaza hotel and checked in, but I soon found that the conference events weren’t being held at the hotel, but I a place called the Imaginarium a few blocks away.
I managed to make it into the opening panel before it was over, and afterwards I and a couple of the other panelists decided to go to dinner. There was supposed to be a Saltgrass Steakhouse out at Pineville, but when we drove out there, we found it closed and abandoned, so we had to settle for Longhorn Steakhouse instead, which was decent. Afterwards, I had a hard time finding any coffee bar open after 10 PM even though it was Friday. I finally found one in the area just below downtown off of South Boulevard, and even they closed at 10:30, but I managed to make it there before they closed. Then a frightful storm came up, so although it was past closing time, we all stayed there for awhile until the rain let up enough to leave.
All the jazz clubs in Charlotte seemed to have gone out of business, so I went back to the hotel and to bed.
The CD Alley store that I needed to visit wasn’t open yet, so I drove further down the street into Carrboro, where there was a cool used book store, and there I purchased several books by Bertolt Brecht. There was a coffee house across the street from the bookshop, so I stopped there for a latte, and by then CD Alley was open. Next door to the record shop was a Marxist-Socialist-Anarchist bookstore called Internationalist Books, and in there I found a book that I had been looking for about the Wilmington Ten case. The other music store in Chapel Hill, Back Door Music, turned out to be used only, and the rain had picked up somewhat when I visited there.
I then drove on to Durham, first to Bull City Records, which proved to be a vinyl only store, and then to Offbeat Music, which is one of the best record stores I had ever been in. The store was located in Brightleaf Square, former Liggett & Myers tobacco warehouses that had been turned into a collection of hip boutiques, shops and bistros. The store was full of used classical and jazz CDs, as well as great imports, and it was all I could do to keep from spending all my money there. A Brazilian bistro across the courtyard had good espresso and gelato, and then I drove on over to Raleigh, with the rain even heavier. I stopped at Schoolkids Records near the North Carolina State campus, as well as a coffee bar and two used record/bookstores, and then I drove through downtown over to the eastside, where there was a store called Mr. Freeze’s, not far from a housing project.
Further out on the northeast side was a store called Big Katt Records, and once I had left some promotional things there, I headed eastward toward Greensboro and Winston-Salem, making a brief detour into Burlington to stop at Keith’s CDs & Tapes. Finding a decent place to eat dinner proved to be far more difficult than I had imagined.
I passed on through Greensboro into Winston-Salem and got checked into my suite at the Residence Inn. I then decided to eat dinner at The Loop Pizza Grill, which was outstanding, and then I drove downtown looking for live jazz or at least a coffee bar. Winston-Salem’s downtown was dead, looking like it had experienced a half-renaissance that died aborning. Few places were open, although I did find a coffee bar, but, by the time I located a jazz event (in Greensboro) it was too late to go back over there. I finally drove back to my hotel and went to bed.
Monster Music and Movies is owned by the same Nashville firm that owns Pop Tunes in Memphis, but this store was nearly a block long and full of music. I noticed a new CD from the Numero group that featured the Young Disciples from East St. Louis, a group that had been formed as part of an anti-poverty program in the 1960’s, so I bought that, a new funk compilation from Soul Patrol and the new Mercury Rev CD. The girl that was working at Monster recommended that I head over to the Cat’s Music on Folly Road, but when I got there, they refused the promotional items and told me that they were closing down the store.
After walking around the harbor and taking pictures, I drove out to Loco Record Shop, and then back downtown to King Street, where there were a couple of stores. 52.5 was mostly a rock store, but there were a few jazz and rock items, and down the street was an old and intriguing store called Honest John’s Records and TV Repair. On the shelves were plenty of old LPs and a handful of old 45s, but I didn’t have time to look through them. Instead, wanting coffee, I used my iPhone to locate a place called Kudu Coffee, which was just across from the campus of the College of Charleston. In keeping with the name, the coffee house was decorated with African artifacts and artwork, and the coffee was very good. Driving further south on King, I ultimately came to the Battery, the wooded park at the tip of the peninsula featuring monuments, cannons, statues and stately mansions. Despite the wind, it was warm enough to walk around, and I took a lot of pictures, but it was much later in the day than I had intended, so at 3 PM, I headed across the Septima Clark Bridge onto Highway 17 for the drive to Wilmington.
I had driven this route in reverse a month before, going from Myrtle Beach to Charleston, but today the trip seemed to take forever, made worse by the traffic signals and endless snarls in Myrtle Beach. Once I crossed into North Carolina, I was still much further away from Wilmington than I had imagined, and by the time I arrived there, it was pitch black.
I approached Wilmington with some foreboding. From my reading, Wilmington had always been a place of riots and racial tension, the scene of the Wilmington Ten incident, so I half expected to see an old and decrepit port city of deteriorating buildings and was quite surprised to see the charming downtown with its restored buildings lit up for Christmas. Christmas choral music was drifting across the chilly night air (whether live or a tape I could never determine), and the threat of rain seemed imminent. After leaving some posters at CD Alley, I decided to walk around the corner to Port City Java for some coffee, but across the street I noticed an antiquarian bookshop, so I ducked in there and ended up buying several books about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Then I ran back across to the coffee bar for a latte to go, and then drove eastward from downtown. What my iPhone thought was a record store in a Black neighborhood east of downtown was actually a recording studio, but fortunately, that put me closer to Gravity Records, an indie rock store that nonetheless was thrilled to get some Pastor Troy promotional items. In the store they were playing a disc by a British singer named Richard Hawley, whom I had never heard of, but whose mournful, melodic tunefulness seemed to fit the dark, foggy, chilly night.
The guys at the store warned me that the trip to Raleigh on I-40 would take about 2 hours through rural lands of absolutely nothing, and they weren’t far from right. I was ravenously hungry, but the exits along the way either featured nothing or fast food. Raleigh seemed to be a place of feast or famine, with very expensive upscale restaurants and the usual diners and fast food, but little in-between. A promising-sounding steakhouse proved to be out of business, and another proved to be $30 and up for entrees. Finally, I discovered a mall in Durham where there was a Cheesecake Factory, and I stopped there, but, noticing a Champps Americana across the walkway from the Cheesecake Factory, I decided to eat there, thinking that it would be cheaper than Cheesecake Factory. It wasn’t, and the food, while basically good, didn’t stand out.
After a dessert and coffee at the Cheesecake Factory, I drove another few miles into Chapel Hill, and had no problem finding the Sheraton Hotel. My room proved to be very luxurious indeed, and I went straight to bed.
I made a brief stop at the Jury Room Coffee House across from City Hall, but, as they didn’t have any espresso drinks, I had only a gelato there, and then headed over to the Aroma Coffee and Wine Bar for a latte before I hit the road toward Columbia. There were several record stores in Columbia, and they were scattered across the city, and, as it was late in the day, it was getting dark, but I managed to visit all three of them, and then I continued on to Sumter.
There I left posters at the Music Gator, but I found the other store closed for the evening, and now I headed southwards toward I-95. Thoroughly hungry, but wanting to eat in Charleston, I made my way into the city, and having called to make sure that restaurants would still be open, I headed across the massive Septima Clark Bridge into Mount Pleasant, where there were several waterfront restaurants along Shem Creek.
I chose a seafood restaurant called JB’s, which was built with a view of the water, and I ate dinner there, although it was extremely cold both inside the restaurant and outdoors. After dinner, I resisted an impulse to go to Red’s next door where a band was playing, and instead, I drove down King Street to Market Square and a dessert cafe called Kaminsky’s, which I knew was open until 2 AM. I had a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie and a cup of coffee there, and then, with no information about any jazz clubs, I drove into West Ashley and checked into the hotel there. It was quite cold, but I managed to get my room warm and comfortable.
First day of my Select-O-Hits sponsored trip across the Carolinas promoting the new Pastor Troy album T.R.O.Y. At Birmingham, I drove into Mountain Brook to a pizza place called Bongiorno for lunch (okay but not outstanding). Mountain Brook, a “new town” which had apparently been built in the 1920’s or 1930’s, was primarily residential, but with three central “villages” that housed cafes and other businesses. I managed to pass though Atlanta with little difficulty, but it was getting dark earlier these days, and colder as well, especially at Augusta.
The rappers V-Tec and Hill met me at the T-Bonez steakhouse in Augusta for dinner, and then I drove downtown to the Metro Coffeehouse for a latte before heading out to Club 360 near Barton Village, which was supposedly having an event. There were a few cars there and a radio station van out front, but I changed my mind about going inside (I was really tired), and headed back to my room at the Courtyard hotel.
Went up to Bartlett High School early in the morning to vote, and the wait wasn’t that bad since most people had early voted. In the evening, I watched the results, and was quite amazed and thrilled with Barack Obama’s victory. I called a lot of my friends from all over the country to celebrate.
These are the 45s that turned up in the flea market in Forrest City:
THE SILVERTONE SINGERS OF WYNNE, ARKANSAS feat. LONNIE HARRIS JR. Where Jesus Is/Go Back to God DESIGNER 5541 (1970)
THE SHAW SINGERS He Never Left Me Alone/ Go Out in Jesus’ Name MESSENGER 7006
THE WOLFE FAMILY OF MARIANNA, ARKANSAS I Felt A Change/In The End DESIGNER 7280 (1977)
THE SHAW SINGERS Don’t Move The Mountain/I’ve Got Something D-VINE SPIRITUALS 4163
THE SHAW SINGERS Life Will Soon Be Over/ I Made A Promise To The Lord DESIGNER 8875 (1970)
THE ZION JUBILEE SINGERS Be What You Are/Feel the Fire Burning DESIGNER 6320 (1972)
JESSE “GUITAR” BOX with HARRY DALLAS BAND Heart Trouble/ Lying Girl ACQUARIAN 9002
BOBBY RUSH She Caught Me With My Pants Down/ Buttermilk Kid LAJAM 008 (1984)
J. T. WATKINS Baby, Let’s Get Married/ Lady’s Man BIG THIGH 001 (1987)
R. L. HAMILTON & THE HEAVEN BOUND SINGERS MARIANNA, ARK I Found A Joyful Song/ He Did A Miracle MULTITUDE 1237 (1970)
BROOKLYN ALLSTARS Let’s Rap/ Swing Low Sweet Chariot JEWEL 171 (1965?)
BROOKLYN ALLSTARS Did You Stop to Pray This Morning/A Prayer for Today JEWEL 186
BROOKLYN ALLSTARS He Said He Would Move/ Family Prayer NASHBORO 952
THE GABLEAIRS Set My Soul on Fire/Something About the Lord SONGBIRD 1125
EMMA TUCKER Come On and Go/ Look and See NASHBORO 45-753
THE DELTA BIG FOUR Lord, Deliver Me/ Story of the Blind Man SONGBIRD 1110
ERNEST FRANKLIN AND THE VOICES OF MOUNT EAGLE Blessed Quietness/ Walking With The King CHECKER 5026
THE GOSPEL CLASSICS I’ve Been Born Again/ Don’t Let Hate Tear It Down CREED 5204
SUPREME ANGELS Shame on You/Lord, Bring Me Down NASHBORO 1009 (1974)
BOB BOLER AND THE MELLTONES OF GARY, INDIANA One Day We’ll Meet/ You Can’t Hurry God STAFF 222
ERNEST FRANKLIN My Lord and I/ There’s A Leak In This Old Building JEWEL 209 (1973)
MYSTICS Peace of Mind/ Help Me to Carry On STAFF 1001
SHELIA YARBROUGH AND THE T-Y SIX This is My Dream, My Prayer/ No Stains In My Book TRIANGLE SOUND 8770
At Forrest City, I headed over to Highway 70 where there was a flea market, and while I didn’t find any Abraham and His Sons or Ike Noble and the Uptights records, I did find a stash of Black gospel 45s, some of them from Wynne and Marianna, Arkansas, and a few on the Designer and Messenger labels out of Memphis.
I decided to stay on Highway 70 through Brinkley (the flea markets there were rather disappointing), and when I got to North Little Rock, E-Rokk gave me directions to where he was staying and I went and met him there. Since his girlfriend had to work, we took the kids with us and headed to a pizza place I had found on my iPhone called ZaZa’s Fresh Salads and Wood-Fired Pizzas on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Little Rock. The restaurant featured salads and pizzas cooked in a brick oven, as well as gelato, espresso and cappucino. We all enjoyed our pizzas, got some gelato for dessert, and then headed downtown to President Clinton Avenue to Andina Coffee Roasters where I bought some pounds of coffee to take home.
The kids were intirgued by an African drummer who was playing a djembe in front of the River Market, and then they wanted to run into a playground along the riverfront, so we walked over there, and then across the river bridge over to North Little Rock and back.
I had to get back to Memphis, so after it began to get dark, I dropped them back off at the apartment in North Little Rock and headed back toward Memphis. At West Memphis, I had seen a Huddle House and so I decided to eat dinner there, but, when I got there, I found that it was newly built and had not opened yet. So, now wanting breakfast, I settled for the Iron Skillet truckstop in West Memphis, and found that the breakfast there was really quite good.
Upon checking out of the Holiday Inn in Gainesville, Florida, I ate breakfast in the Red Onion Grill there at the hotel (too expensive) and then headed out I-75 toward Memphis, stopping for coffee at Valdosta. I got some frozen yogurt from a TCBY near the mall in Albany, and then I drove on into Columbus and across to Phenix City, where I stopped for lunch at the Char-Broil Steakhouse, owned by the famous charcoal grill manufacturers across the river in Columbus. I stopped briefly at Red Door June coffee in Opelika. The rest of the trip was relatively non-eventful, except for my fruitless effort to find coffee in Tupelo. The coffee bar downtown on Main Street had closed (and was supposedly moving to Gloster Street), but Uptown Coffee on Gloster was also out of business, so I gave up and headed on into Memphis.