With Mud Island River Park opening for the season Saturday, April 13, it seems an appropriate time to sound a musical note for the park, that once featured a regular Memphis music revue on the ampitheater stage early in its existence. And who can forget the Sidney Shlenker plan to build numerous stages and performance areas on Mud Island and rename it Festival Island?
I’ve got the t-shirt on that one, literally – a late 1980s early 1990s neon job of “The Great American Pyramid” that came with attending the massive auditions of seemingly every band ever formed in Memphis over several nights at Sam Phillips Recording Studio on Madison.
So, a few months ago, imagine my surprise when I came across a Rita Coolidge tune titled “Mud Island.”
The song, written by Coolidge, was on her debut A&M album “Rita Coolidge” in 1971, about 10 years before the Mud Island River Park made its debut – a time when the island was still flooding on a yearly basis and the idea of Harbor Town and other housing developments on the island sounded like a science fiction plot.
The song even predates by a few years the initial planning for the river park when it was to be called “Volunteer Park.”
“Mud Island” wasn’t a single from the album and it would be about six more years before Coolidge hit the big time starting with a cover of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.”
“Mud Island” has a Memphis vibe going for it and lyrics about a man left behind to travel the river and perhaps a future meeting.
Normally, this post would have already included a link to a YouTube video but there aren’t any.
Memphis, as it turns out, is a city that figures prominently in Coolidge’s life. It is where she met her future husband, Kris Kristofferson.