I guess we were feeling kind of stir crazy. When I saw the Facebook post that said Elvis was going to be celebrating his 76th birthday at Sweet P’s BBQ, it just seemed like a great place to be on Saturday! And it was!
Sweet P’s is owned by Christopher Ford, the son of two of our best friends, Dawn and Richard Ford. They were happy to accompany us and we met up with many other of their family members and friends. The night was a surreal blast, as these photos will attest. It was campy, but cozy. Although “Elvis” looked and moved better than he sounded, nobody much cared. We knew all the words and sang along loudly enough to drown him out.
The real Elvis has had a very special place in the life of Christopher Ford, himself a former musician, most notably the lead singer of the band Gran Torino. “I like his music,” Ford said recently. “But I admire him more as a folk hero than anything. I like his story. He was an American icon.”
Ford and his wife, Kari, like Elvis so much that they named their baby daughter Presley when she was born six years ago. And the restaurant, Sweet P’s, is named after her. (Follow?)
“Elvis” on Saturday was really Alan Lemmons, an Elvis impersonator from Dandridge. Ford found him by responding to an ad Lemmons had placed in Metro Pulse. Lemmons’ wife, who bills herself as “Sweet Harmony” is a combination of back-up singer and manager. “She’s his Col. Tom Parker,” Ford quipped.
Lemmons is a recovering alcoholic and he’s not shy about admitting it. He announced from the stage that Saturday was his 384th day of sobriety. He credits God for this and, perhaps for that reason, favors many of Elvis’ gospel songs in his performance. When he launched into “How Great Thou Art,” it prompted one patron to remark, “You don’t often hear this song performed in a bar!”
Another interesting thing on Saturday: the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” program, which came to Knoxville several months ago and taped scenes at Ye Olde Steak House, Dixon’s Barbecue on Magnolia Avenue, and Sweet P’s, aired in a re-run Saturday afternoon. During that program, host Adam Richman took on Sweet P’s “El Gigante” burrito challenge and ate a 4-pound pork burrito, a half-pound of mac and cheese, and a half-pound of banana pudding during the course of an hour. Richman became the first person to win the challenge and took home a Sweet P’s t-shirt and poster. And Sweet P’s got national exposure.
I guess a bunch of college kids watched that re-run Saturday afternoon, because about 20 of them showed up at Sweet P’s Saturday night asking if one of their group could take the challenge. He made it through the burrito, the mac and cheese and half the pudding — and still had 22 minutes left. But, despite much encouragement from his buddies, he just couldn’t go any further and, well, let’s just say things did not end well for him. (When he started turning green, I quickly fled the vicinity.)
But it did end well for us! And for Christopher. “It was awesome,” Ford said afterward. “It could not have been more perfect for what we wanted.”
Thank-ya. Thank-ya very much.