A ‘Little’ Memphis in the Verde Valley, AZ
Story and Photos By Ken Billett
Junior Wells wails out another sad line about loving the wrong woman. Vicki and I smile at Junior’s plight. It’s hard to empathize with Junior when you’re celebrating your 30th wedding anniversary. Our love of the blues – while enjoying local craft beers at the Verde Brewing Company – provides a momentary reminder of the love for our adopted hometown of Memphis.
Memphis and the blues are known far-and-wide and our travels reinforce that the Bluff City is beloved the world over. Heck, in November ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast live from the intersection of BB King Blvd and Beale Street. That’s both a testament to our great city and to the success of Memphis Tigers football. It was wonderful seeing Tiger fans and college football fans of other stripes crowding Beale that Saturday on a cold, cold morning.
Meanwhile, in Arizona
The Verde Valley is home to the Verde River, which winds and snakes its way through the high desert of northern Arizona. Magnificent red rock formations rise from the desert floor, and everywhere you look there is natural beauty that’s millions of years old. With its countless array of sheared mountains and striated red rocks, Sedona is the tourism anchor for the valley.
That rugged, natural beauty eventually brought Hollywood to Sedona and the Verde Valley. More than 100 movies – mostly Westerns – were filmed in this area. Westerns featuring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart were shot in and around Sedona and its famed red rocks.
Even a young actor originally from Tupelo, Mississippi came to Sedona and fell in love with nature’s wonders.
Yes, Elvis, as in Presley, filmed Stay Away, Joe in Sedona. During production of the 1968 film, Elvis was so captivated by the red rocks that he sent for Priscilla and his Memphis buddies to come hang out with him. One of their haunts was the Coffee Pot Restaurant, so named for Coffeepot Rock, which can easily be seen from the restaurant’s current location. Coffee Pot restaurant is best known for its breakfast menu, including its 101 Omelettes. The omelette favored by the King was, in fact, number 101: jelly, peanut butter, and banana.
Elvis is everywhere.
Back at the Verde Brewing Company, we finish our delicious craft beers and our equally delicious Elote-style nachos topped with pulled pork. The pulled pork is smoked and tender. While not quite the barbecue nachos Memphis is known for, these were excellent with a Southwestern punch of creamy, spicy Elote sauce. Maybe Central BBQ should add Elote sauce to its menu?
Yes, we found a little bit of home in the Verde Valley of Arizona. <>
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Ken Billett is a resident of Poplar Ridge Farms – within the Memphis city limits – and a contributor to StoryBoard Memphis.