MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Elvis Presley played there. And Jerry Lee Lewis did often.
So did Wayne Jackson of The Memphis Horns and Donald "Duck" Dunn of Booker T. and the MGs.
Hernando's Hideaway in Whitehaven was purchased by country singer Dale Watson and a partner, who plan to reopen it in late March as a music venue for local and touring roots musicians.
In a 1987 story in The Washington Post, Eve Zibart described Hernando's Hideaway as "an old warehouse-cum-roadhouse with its windows bricked up and painted black, where Jerry Lee Lewis still beats the boogie-woogie piano."
Watson, who is the driving force behind the Ameripolitan Music Awards to be held in Memphis next week, can list the musical greats who performed at the place: "At some time in their career, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, of course Jerry Lee — he called it his office, he was there so much in the '80s and '90s," Watson said.
Hernando's Hideaway closed in 2006, but continued operating as a private event center. Watson, who splits his time between Austin and Memphis, purchased it last June from Willie J. and Hatti Nelson for $110,000, according to records of the Shelby County Register of Deeds. The circa-1900 building at 3210 Hernando Road was last appraised for $88,000.
Located near Brooks Road in Whitehaven, its neighbors include the Davis Motor Home Mart, which is surrounded by razor wire, as well as a Super 7 Inn and Old Nonconnah Missionary Baptist Church.
Patrick Trovato, currently of Long Island, New York, is co-owner of Hernando's Hideaway with Watson and plans to serve fast-casual food from the newly installed kitchen.
"We will have the best cheeseburger in Memphis, if not the entire state of Tennessee," Trovato said.
Watson recalls his first visit to Hernando's Hideaway in 1983.
"I had to see what it looked like," he said. "It was pretty 'Woo!' It was a rough little place. It was very dark and had a lot of carpet. Very smoky — and that was just in the daytime. But I'm glad I went in there back then."
"What I really love about Memphis and what it's doing, as opposed to what I see in Austin or Nashville or other places, is it doesn't seem so quick ... to tear down places that are part of the soul of Memphis," Watson said. "And so, it's nice to see that type of thing, because it keeps the character of the city and the soul of the city intact. I feel like that's what we're doing with Hernando's."
Watson has a house about two miles away for use as a 1950s-style, Elvis-themed Airbnb for touring bands, his friends and fans in town for Elvis-centered festivities.
Inside, visitors encounter a "Jungle Room" and a "Peacock Room," vintage appliances and mid-century modern furniture. It's a retro home of the future. With voice controls, Google can turn on the jukebox or turn the light in the Jungle Room red. There's also an analog music studio, and a backyard with room for a tour bus and two Airstream trailers that will be added as Airbnb offerings.
Watson bought the house in May 2017 because of its proximity to Graceland. He paid $45,000 for the three-bedroom home, according to the Shelby County Register of Deeds. It was last appraised for $62,000.
"I could have spent three times as much and got into Midtown or Cooper-Young," Watson said. "But I like it here."
The musician has come through Memphis while touring over the last 30 years.
"The cost of living here is amazing," Watson said. "So is the cost of housing. And so, I jumped on it, and I just fell in love with what Memphis has become. I used to come here and it always felt so depressed. . . . It just seemed that there is a palpable change of the air in Memphis. It feels like the city became proud of itself again."
In addition to buying buildings in Memphis, Watson also has brought a music awards ceremony to town. The sixth annual Ameripolitan Music Awards begin this weekend.
"It's the second year in Memphis," Watson said. "I think it says something, too, because I think this is where the kind of music that Ameripolitan is — honky-tonk, western swing, rockabilly, outlaw — it all kind of stemmed from here."
The awards show is Feb. 25 at the Guest House at Graceland. Performances during the four days leading up to the awards will be held at venues including Blues City Cafe, Club 152, Minglewood Hall and Rock n Roll Cafe.
Watson wants Hernando's Hideaway to serve as a hub for the Ameripolitan music movement.
"What made Memphis famous is the original music and that's what we're going to offer here," Watson said. "With the best damned hamburger in Tennessee, apparently."
Information from: The Daily Memphian, http://https://www.dailymemphian.com/