We left late one Friday night once everyone was off work, and drove for ten straight hours until we pulled into the parking lot of our cheap motel. The sun was just rising in the east.
We crashed and slept for maybe three hours total, then got up and headed to Graceland. After that, we wandered down to Beale Street, where we spent the rest of the night (mostly drunk) listening to live music as it poured out of the clubs and onto the street.
Standing in front of one of those clubs was musician Rudy Williams.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Williams was a staple of Beale Street. He was blowing his trumpet there long before my friends and I took that quick impromptu road trip, and would continue to play there for more than a decade after.
Drunk on booze and music, and armed only with my Mamiya RB67, I shot this quick photo of Rudy.
He stopped playing and asked if I’d send him a copy of the picture once I got the negs developed. I told him I would. He handed me his business card. I still have it.
The Mayor of Beale Street. You’re goddamn right.
Once I got back to Columbus, I kept my promise and sent Rudy a copy of the photo. I never heard one way or the other if he ever actually received it.
Years would pass. Thirteen to be exact. Right up until last week, when I figured I’d look Rudy up and see if he was still playing for the masses on Beale.
I found this.
Sadly, he’s not. But I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet him, if only for a minute, and grab that image in the process.
Long live the Mayor,