Memphis Rent Party

Just released March 6, 2018

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Also available, Memphis Rent Party the soundtrack on Fat Possum as LP/Download. Learn more here.


Memphis Rent Party-HC-cat

A celebration of uncommon music and musicians from Memphis and environs, from the acclaimed author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion.


“Blues, being the wellspring of all American music for over a century, is always worth studying.

Robert does it right.” –Keith Richards

“An emotional map of musical Memphis. If you don’t know these characters,

let Robert Gordon introduce you.” –Elvis Costello

“Robert Gordon’s book is proof that Southern heritage is American heritage, and all sorts of people–black and white, familiar and strange, dead and alive–are what it is.” –Greil Marcus


The fabled city of Memphis has been essential to American music–home of the blues, the birthplace of rock and roll, a soul music capital. We know the greatest hits, but celebrated author Robert Gordon takes us to the people and places history has yet to record. A Memphis native, he whiles time in a crumbling duplex with blues legend Furry Lewis, stays up late with barrelhouse piano player Mose Vinson, and sips homemade whiskey at Junior Kimbrough’s churning house parties. A passionate listener, he hears modern times deep in the grooves of old records by Lead Belly and Robert Johnson.

The interconnected profiles and stories in Memphis Rent Party convey more than a region. Like mint seeping into bourbon, Gordon gets into the wider world. He beholds the beauty of mistakes with producer Jim Dickinson (Replacements, Rolling Stones), charts the stars with Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star), and mulls the tragedy of Jeff Buckley’s fatal swim. Gordon’s Memphis inspires Cat Power, attracts Townes Van Zandt, and finds James Carr always singing at the dark end of the street. 

A rent party is a celebration in the face of looming tragedy, an optimism when the wolf is at the door. Robert Gordon finds mystery in the mundane, inspiration in the bleakness, and revels in the individualism that connects these diverse encounters. 



In this excellent collection of essays, Gordon (It Came from Memphis), a veteran music journalist on the Memphis scene, masterfully writes about the outlaws, rebels, and tragic figures who provided the spark for the city’s entertainment industry. … Gordon’s book is a grand, funky musical tour of Memphis.” Publishers Weekly  Click here to read the full review

“The acclaimed music chronicler tells the story of Memphis through its songs. Gordon seeks to evoke the heart of the metropolis as reflected not only through its physical landscape, but also through its soul … [He] makes a convincing case that if music can’t exactly save us, it can tell us who we are.” Kirkus Reviews  Click here to read the full review