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Memphis Dive Bar Adventures: Wild Bill’s, The Last Real Place in Memphis

by Rob Bellinger
photos by Rob Bellinger and Dan Meade

The Memphis dive bar scene is legendary, but not many people outside Memphis know that.  Here are the ten most insane Memphis dive bar adventures we had, over the course of just six nights.  All the stories are true.  Take your pick — one or all!

The Last Real Place in MemphisActual Meth Camper | Snake Tattoo Face | Down by Sundown | Ghost Mustang & the Magic Skillet | Bar-B-Brawl at the Bar That Never Closes | Perfect Ribs at 3 a.m. | Cougar in Training | Searching for Life on the Mississippi | PRAYING FOR YOU HATERZ

 

EPISODE TWO: WILD BILL’S, THE LAST REAL PLACE IN MEMPHISMEMDIVE_e2_summ

Rosary Blues Guitar
As soon as we rolled into Memphis, we hit up Central BBQ and saw a blues show at Minglewood Hall.  Since both of those places are newer establishments, we really wanted to see some old Memphis.  When the show let out around 11 p.m., the night was far younger than we realized.  My phone buzzed.  It was Memphis Que, the barbecue blogger who’d graciously helped us plan our trip, sending us another anonymous Facebook message.  He invited us to have a drink at Wild Bill’s, which a local would later call “the last real place in Memphis.”

Wild Bill’s is a wooden storefront juke joint in a residential neighborhood, where musicians play ragin’ blues and soul all night long on battle-worn instruments.  You pay your cover to the doorwoman and step into a cloud of cigarette smoke surrounded by four red walls.  The only beverages the bar sells are 40s, nothing smaller.  There might also be food, but the kitchen was long closed when we got there.  Someone asked if I wanted a 40.  No, I said. I have to drive.  Okay, fine.  Budweiser?  Hey, my 40 is empty!

Not to worry — someone’s plastic BYO bottle of Evan Williams bourbon made the rounds.  First Memphis communion.  A pack of Pall Malls followed suit.  Like breathing gravel.

Wild Bill's Music

A stunning, beautiful, tall, voluptuous, Amazonian, African-American woman in a far-too-tiny gray dress came through the front doorway.  As soon as she paid her cover, she started dancing at the band, gyrating and swinging and air-humping pretty much pornographically.  There was no choice: everyone in the bar had to see her.  I was seated a few tables away, and I felt like I was wearing 3D glasses.

Without looking at each other, the musicians automatically switched, mid-song, into “Brick House” by the Commodores.  Maybe Gray Minidress Woman visited frequently.

“Girl, you about to make me go get some Viagra!” shouted one of the singers into the mic.

I stepped outside for a break from the smoke.  I wanted to take a photo of the very Memphian, handpainted sign above the club entrance.  A two-door car buzzed into the parking lot, and a gentleman hopped out bearing a saxophone. He warmed up in the street for a moment, dashed into the joint, and jumped right in with the band.  Then he started working the room, table by table.  Anyone who hadn’t been dancing before was now grooving along.

The Saxman Cometh

The Saxman Playeth

The party rolled on for hours, allowing us to sober up.  When it was finally time to go, Memphis Que told us to head over to Alex’s Tavern, and to do it before the clock struck 3:30 a.m.  That’s when patrons forced out of every other bar in the city head to The Bar That Never Closes….

Choose Your Next Adventure:

The Last Real Place in MemphisActual Meth Camper | Snake Tattoo Face | Down by Sundown | Ghost Mustang & the Magic Skillet | Bar-B-Brawl at the Bar That Never Closes | Perfect Ribs at 3 a.m. | Cougar in Training | Searching for Life on the Mississippi | PRAYING FOR YOU HATERZ

 

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