Posted: Sep 3, 2009 11:40 am
FOR THE LOVE OF SHIRLEY
September 18th – 19th at the Hi-Tone Café
With Jack O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers
Snowglobe – Jeffrey James & the Haul
Greg Cartwright – Bullet Proof Vests
Impala – John Paul Keith & the One, Four, Fives
Vending Machine – The Angel Sluts
For the last 33 years, Miss Shirley Williams has worked as a bartender at Midtown's Lamplighter Lounge (1702 Madison Ave.), serving pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon, her famous Shirley Burgers and hand-cut fries.
Five nights a week, for three decades, she's also served as mother, sister, friend and confidante to thousands of customers, who have ventured in for a cold beer and a kind word.
Along the way, Williams has developed a clientele that includes musicians Alex Chilton and Jack White, authors Robert Gordon and Ace Atkins, filmmaker Craig Brewer, and the late Memphis painter Charlie Miller. The Lamplighter has appeared in numerous film projects, including music videos for Cat Power and the Country Rockers, and, most recently, in documentary films about Jack Oblivian and Jay Reatard.
The resolutely honest Williams has a tough side as well – she's occasionally wielded a club at rowdy drunks, and, in a legendary incident that made the pages of New York Magazine, she banned photographer William Eggleston from the Lamplighter for years after he tossed one of her just-made cheeseburgers at her head.
Eggleston has a precarious relationship with the Lamp, one of his favorite haunts. In fact, he's barred from entering. "I got really drunk one time," he admits, "and I threw a hamburger at Shirley, who had just made it. But we're still friends."
Shirley concurs. "He calls me up every now and then, asks how I'm doing, and I say, 'Good,'" she says, fond but firm. She is pleased to own an Eggleston photograph at home and proud of his success, but, like the Lamp's regulars, her feelings for her famous neighbor are complicated. "I like Bill, but he can't come in here. Will you be sure and tell him I said hello?"
– from New York Magazine, November 2, 2008.
Now Miss Shirley needs our help.
Faced with health problems in early August, Williams has been unable to make many of her shifts at the Lamplighter. Although she has some health insurance, she is faced with mounting medical expenses; simultaneously, her income is disappearing along with her connections to her work family.
That's why some of Williams' biggest fans have organized "For the Love of Shirley," a two-night benefit at the Hi-Tone Café featuring many of Memphis' finest musicians and the Lamplighter's best customers, who will be performing gratis.
The $10 per night cover charge (with additional donations welcomed and appreciated) will go directly to Miss Shirley. Photographer Don Perry will be hosting a "Prom Picture Photo Booth" at the Hi-Tone as an additional fundraiser. The Hi-Tone will also be donating ten percent of all bar sales that evening, so be sure to lift many glasses to our favorite bartender.
Shows start at 9:00 PM both nights.
For more information, contact Scott Rogers at (901) 485-2851 or memphisscottrogers at yahoo dot com, Dan Holloway (901) 278-8663 or hitonecafe at gmail dot com, or Andria Lisle at (901) 274-3186 or alisle at comcast dot net.
Friday night Sept. 18th
Jack O. and the Tennessee Tearjerkers
John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives
Bullet Proof Vests
Saturday night Sept. 19th
Jeffery James & the Haul