Friday, November 14, 2014

Red Hot Truck Stop

This article appeared in the Oxford American - March/April 2001

Truck Stop Heaven

Time never leaves anything alone - take it from a natural-born road dog.

By Meridian area (Philadelphia-born) Country singer, Marty Stuart

It is with whole-heart-conviction that I tell you that the best cup of black coffee ever served in the Southern states was at the Red Hot Truck Stop in Meridian, Mississippi. This wasn't your ordinary cup of interstate steam. It reminded me of what Brother Howard Finster had said about dipping snuff. He said, "After I take a dip, it gets real quiet and then things come to me that normally wouldn't." A cup of coffee from the Red Hot had that same kind of power; it caused you to drive differently. If I were headed up North, words and melodies began to dance around in my head as though leaked from God's pen and onto me in a twangy kind of way. If I were headed South, the coffee revealed things to me about Hattiesburg and New Orleans that even the natural light of day tends to overshadow.

The Red Hot itself was one of the last great truck stops in America. It didn't take a backseat to anything Route 66 had to offer. It was the Southern edge personified; a gathering place for all sorts of ramblers. A café society of good ol' boys in affordable cowboy shirts and the kind of good ol' girls who'd fetch you out of jail even though they had called the law six hours earlier to come lock you up. At the Red Hot, I met people like Trigger Thrash, Wirehead, Fats Domino, Percy Sledge's valet, Hank Jr.'s crew, Mama Rabbit, and Elly the Pinball Queen. It was an atmosphere where the lines on Merle Haggard's face didn't have to be explained, Hank Williams' words could be taken to heart, and the waitresses had a way of knowing your life story the minute you opened the door.

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