As I’ve delved more and more into the history of Memphis and its hallowed places that have fallen into neglect or are no longer with us, I’ve found myself experiencing nostalgia for a past that isn’t my own. I figured I couldn’t be the only person to feel that way and that there must be a term for it. Turns out there is and, weirdly, it’s not even German: Anemoia was coined by John Koenig a decade ago in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows project.
Maybe the place that I feel this way about the most often is the Mid-South Coliseum. Even though it still has a stately presence in Midtown, located next to the Liberty Bowl, this 10,000 seat arena had been shuttered for nearly a decade before I even moved to Memphis. Constructed in 1963-64, it opened in October 1964 as the first racially desegregated facility in Memphis; Mid-South Coliseum management did not even include any signs advising segregation, which was a bold decision in those days.
While the Coliseum was the home of Memphis Tigers basketball, hosted indoor soccer & hockey games, and packed the arena with weekly wrestling events, it was its concert history that makes me the most nostalgic about its past, a past which, even if I could have, wasn’t able to experience. You see, from 1964-2006 the Mid-South Coliseum hosted a huge roster of legendary performers across all genres of music, from Rufus Thomas to Andy Williams, Loretta Lynn to Jay-Z, the Beatles (famously*) to Anita Baker, Frank Sinatra to R.E.M., Led Zeppelin to Barry Manilow … the list goes on and on and I get, well, a little anemoiac. Thanks to the Memphis Public Library’s Mid-South Coliseum Collection, I’ve been able to get a (perhaps too-) tantalizing taste of what those shows must have been like.
Naturally, as I worked on my series of Memphis landmark prints, including the Coliseum was a no-brainer. Initially, I planned to use my drawing as the basis for a series of mock concert posters showcasing that concert legacy, but making prints of real people (many of whom are still alive) was uncertain terrain for me, and something I couldn’t ethically wrap my head around doing. Happily, armed with the Library’s database and some internet sleuthing (as well as talking with friends who actually got to experience the Coliseum in its prime), I settled on a middle ground that lets me focus on the building and its history, not trading on the images of actual (often still-living) personalities to do so: ticket stubs! Plus, tracking down ticket specifics scratches the research itch that I often get when I’m working on historical projects!
Here are a few of the dozens of ticket stub designs I’ve worked up as 8×10″ prints. By the way, a selection of these prints are on sale at Arrow Creative, whenever I do pop-up shows, and in my Square store. Enjoy!
*(The Coliseum was one of the stops on The Beatles’ final American tour in 1966. They played a pair of concerts on August 19, 1966, in the midst of of protests and radio airplay boycotts after John Lennon’s controversial “more popular than Jesus” remark. Memphis city council called for the cancellation of the concerts (supposedly for safety reasons), but the show went on, despite protests from the KKK and an anonymous assassination threat. At least according to Wikipedia.)