Several years ago, on my first pilgrimage to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, my friend and I were waiting in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. Her husband was bringing the car around for our drive to the airport after a wonderful weekend of BBQ, and visits to Graceland, Sun Studios, the Stax Museum, and the Civil Rights Museum. I noticed a shop in the lobby with some very cool rockabilly shirts in the window. I went in and found a wonderful gentleman behind the counter. The sign in the store said Lansky’s. I asked, “Are you THE Mr. Lansky?” He smiled and said yes. Well I told my friends to park the car. We had some shopping to do. You see, Bernard Lansky was the man who had a clothing shop on Beale Street, and all the cool blues musicians shopped for threads there. A young kid named Elvis did too. Yeah, THAT Elvis. I bought a couple of shirts and Mr. Lansky and I had a chat. Almost missed my flight. He told me stories about Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Albert King, B.B. King, and told me about the time Carl Perkins came in to say goodbye. Carl was dying of cancer. Mr. Lansky was so generous with his stories. We posed for a picture and he asked if I’d like an autograph. Of course! He signed a picture of his younger self helping a very young Elvis on with a jacket. He said Elvis came in that day and said he needed a new jacket for his first national TV appearance. I recognized that jacket. I said, “That’s the one he wore on the Dorsey Brothers Show.” ”That’s right”, Mr. Lansky answered with a smile. He knew a geek when he spotted one. That turned out to be an unforgettable moment of a great weekend.
I’ve made two more trips to Memphis, and stopped by both times to buy shirts and chat with Mr. Lansky. My last time there, my brother and sister and I had checked into our hotel and made it over to Lansky’s. We were walking in the door and his son stopped me. I thought maybe he was getting ready to close the store for the evening. Nope. He said his Father wasn’t there but would be back the next day. He knew why I was there. To hear more stories and bask in the glow of a wonderful man who knew how to dress people and share memories.
Well I returned the next day and was not disappointed. I treasure those times at Lansky’s. I didn’t forget to shop. My budget demanded that I pick out no more than 5 items. His son was ringing up my order and said they knew I was from Chicago but didn’t know what I did for a living. I told him D.J. and he said he had just the shirt for me. No pressure. Not a sales push. Just thought I’d be interested. The shirt featured four vintage microphones embroidered down the left hand side. Wore it when I interviewed Tori Amos. She loved the shirt. Me too. Mr. Lansky taught his son well.
Yesterday I got the news that Bernard Lansky died. Memphis has lost another legend. Hal and Julie Lansky has lost a loved one. I lost a living legend that became a marvelous acquaintance. I’ll never forget his kindness. You might want to visit their Facebook page at Lansky 126, or their website at http://www.lanskybros.com. They plan on keeping the store open. When you go to Memphis, be sure to stop by Lansky’s and buy a shirt or two. And tell Hal the D.J. in Chicago will never forget them. God bless Mr. Lansky and his family.