About Us

mingle-wood-about_03

A Rich Tradition of Music at Minglewood Hall

mingle-wood-about_03The history of Minglewood Blues is long and complex. The original Minglewood Blues, written by Noah Lewis, was recorded on January 30, 1928 in Memphis, TN by Cannons Jug Stompers featuring Gus Cannon on Banjo/Jug, Ashley Thomson on Guitar/Vocal, & Noah Lewis on Harmonica.

“New Minglewood Blues” was a complete rewrite of the song “Minglewood Blues” that Noah Lewis had previously recorded with Canon’s Jug Stompers in 1928. Eric Levy discovered a verse in a song called “It Won’t Be Long” recorded by Charley Patton in 1929 that may be a source for Noah Lewis’s “New Minglewood Blues” recorded two years later.

You ever go down to Memphis, stop by Minglewood
You ever go down to Memphis, stop by Minglewood
You Memphis women don’ mean no man no good

New Minglewood Blues was recorded by the Noah Lewis Jug Band on November 26, 1930 in Memphis. This recording includes Noah on harmonica, John Estes on guitar, Yank Rachel on mandolin and an unknown jug player. This version is very similar to New Minglewood Blues as played and recorded by the Grateful Dead. New Minglewood Blues by Noah Lewis:

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion’s den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion’s den
My number one occupation, stealin’ women from their monkey men
If you’re ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood
If you’re ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood
The women down there, they don’t mean a man no good
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion’s den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion’s den
My number one occupation, stealin’ women from their monkey men

The Grateful Dead’s version on their first LP was a modified version of the song by Noah Lewis, recorded in 1930, on which it was originally based (“New Minglewood Blues”):

I was born in a desert, raised in a lion’s den
I was born in a desert, raised in a lion’s den
And my regular occupation is seeking women from other men
When you come to Memphis, please stop by Minglewood
When you come to Memphis, please stop by Minglewood
There women [??] don’t mean no man no good

“New Minglewood Blues” was itself a complete rewrite of the song “Minglewood Blues” that Noah Lewis had previously recorded with Canon’s Jug Stompers in 1928:

Don’t you never let no woman worry your mind
Don’t you never let no woman worry your mind
Then she keep you worried, worried all the time
Don’t you wish your [?faro] was little and cute like mine
Don’t you wish your [?faro] was little and cute like mine
She’s a married woman, but she comes to me sometime
Well I got a letter Lord, and you heard it read
Well I got a letter Lord, and you heard it read
Baby I’m coming back baby, and now be on your way

The Myth of Minglewood

An Interesting Story by someone looking for the Myth! Or is it? I knew the song was written by Noah Lewis and that he was from Henning,TN, just north of Memphis. I started with a map of western Tennesse and noticed a small town about an hour north of Memphis called Menglewood. Given the proximity to Memphis and the closeness of the name I thought this would be a good place to start.

I also have found other old blues songs that refer to Menglewood (spelled with the “e” instead of the “i”), but I can’t be sure that the different is not a transcription error.

While in Memphis I found a copy of a long, out of print, book called Memphis Blues that contains a lot of information about the music of Memphis in the 1920s and 1930s. It included a chapter on Cannon’s Jug Stompers and another on Noah Lewis. Here are a couple of quotes from that book about Minglewood.

John ‘Red’ Williams (Memphis pianist):”The song Minglewood Blues was popular around Ripley. There was a piano player there who played that song. I can play it too. I learned it from him. Minglewood is a box factory.”

Eddie Green:”I helped Noah to make up Minglewood Blues. At the time we both worked on the Minglewood.”

So one afternoon my wife and I set out to find the Menglewood I had seen on the map. We drove north of Memphis for about an hour. We passed the location were the town was on the map without seeing any signs, so we turned back and asked some of the locals at a gas station. Turns out we had driven right through it! What we found was about 8 to 10 houses bunched together along side a rural road.

We saw a woman in her yard planting flowers, so we stopped and ask her. Turns out, Menglewood is an old name for this very small community. The side road by her house used to be called Menglewood Road, but it had been changed to a route number. Menglewood itself had been merged with another nearby community and there were no signs left that refer to it as Menglewood. The locals still use the name, but it’s slowly fading away.

I was really hoping for a sign to take a picture of, but none was to be found. You may ask why would you stop by Minglewood when you’re in Memphis if it was a saw-mill or a box factory? One explanation I’ve seen is that the song refers to a “good time” place near Minglewood where the workers went to drink and gamble.

So, did I find Menglewood? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure. The little community that’s called Menglewood is sort of far (25 miles) from where the saw-mill was supposed to be in Ashport, especially for the 1920s. I guess I’ll just leave this one open until I get a chance to get back to Tennessee.

The Tastee Bread Factory “Rises” Again

by Roy Barnes

The industrial building standing since the early twentieth century at 1559 Madison has sheltered a multitude of uses within its walls: Tastee Bread Factory, Memphis Designers’ Showcase, Holy Trinity Community Church and since 1999 the Strings and Things Music Store. Plans are now underway to convert the building into an entertainment venue with a concert arena perhaps rivaling the New Daisy in size.

Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects are principal architects for the conversion. The concert area, seating as many as 1,500, will be at the core of the project and will fill the west end of the building. A restaurant, a $500,000 project designed by Atkins, Buchner, Price Architects, will occupy the center and will seat 150.

What will happen with the east end remains to be seen, or rebuilt. A covered parking area, part of the original building, was demolished in the fall. An outdoor patio, a new addition or even surface parking have all been mentioned as possible replacements for the fallen structure.

Leading the project is the DeHart Group which bought the building from Strings and Things. DeHart, a Collierville company with varied business interests (including entertainment — they own Zarr Records and TCB Entertainment) has also been buying many of the properties behind the building, perhaps as use for venue parking.

(Originally published in January-February 2008 edition of The Keystone, a publication of Memphis Heritage.)