The nightlife in Memphis is diverse, even though some think it is not on par with other metropolitan cities. Amid that backdrop one local group of club owners is laboring to place Memphis back on the map for juke joints.
Located in the basement of Bon Ton Restaurant on Monroe, the SugaShack is every bit of a flashback in time to when music was “real” – and so were the singers. During my visit I was treated to an amazing tribute to Stevie Wonder.
The conductor for our journey to the SugaShack is Larry Springfield.
Carlee McCullough: Thank you for taking the time to share with our readers your experience and knowledge. What is the SugaShack?
Larry Springfield: My pleasure! SugaShack is a makeshift funky, soulful good time. It’s the quintessential juke joint, a modern day speakeasy.
C.M.: What prompted you to go into the nightclub business?
L.S.: I’ve always wanted to have one and I’ve been working them all of my adult life as a performer. But it came to me out of necessity. I needed a job or a source of income and the gentleman who contracted me to work his clubs approached me with the opportunity. He showed me the space that we’re in now and as soon as I saw it I was all in. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. So with a little vision, sweat equity, and capital. It was a no-brainer.
C.M.: Who is a part of your team and how does the dynamic work?
L.S.: Tommy Peters, the owner of B.B. King’s Blues Club, and I are the owners. I’ve worked for him for years and now he’s my partner! Tommy is what I call a silent-but not-so-silent partner. I also have two gentlemen, with whom I do concerts, shows and other events, Hulesy Britt and Rick Farwell. They help run and promote the club. With Tommy’s expertise in the night club and restaurant business and our success as promoters, it seems like a natural transition. All of us have our area of expertise that makes us a good team.
C.M.: Where did you get the name SugaShack?
L.S.: Isn’t it cool? I’m a huge Marvin Gaye fan and if you’ve ever seen the album cover for the record “I Want You,” there’s an Ernie Barnes painting that’s the face of the cover. In the painting is a banner that says, “Welcome to the Sugar Shack.” Years ago I told myself that if I ever had a night club that I would name it SugaShack, with just a little change in the spelling.
C.M.: What is the concept of SugaShack?
L.S.: We offer a place where the true adult audience loves to come and enjoy themselves in a festive, fun and safe atmosphere. We believe that our place is a true intimate performance venue that puts you up close and personal with the soul of Memphis. Most of the clubs in Memphis have the same music being played by different bands. We feel it very necessary to change up the song selection often. We showcase the music of a soul superstar by making that artist the theme for the night or weekend. It has been well received so far.
C.M.: What type of live music does the SugaShack present?
L.S.: The kind that takes you back, the kind that makes you remember when. Most of the artists we feature are no longer here. So we would like to give you as close to a live performance by that artist as you can get. You can’t put a price on great memories
C.M.: Who is your ideal customer?
L.S.: Any lover of great Soul music. And I do mean any!
C.M.: What is next for the team and SugaShack?
L.S.: Anything is possible. We look forward and plan to bring not-so-well known soul and jazz acts to the club like Gregory Porter, Allen Stone, Foreign Exchange and others. We don’t mind collaborating with other promoters to get some kind of weekend festival here. But right now we are concentrating on making SugaShack a place that is known for true soul music in Memphis.
C.M.: Any closing remarks?
L.S.: I’d just like to invite lovers of Soul music out to give us a test drive. I promise they won’t be disappointed.
(The SugaShack is located at 150 Monroe. For more information, call 901-352-1927; go to www.sugashackmemphis.com; or visit SugaShackmemphis on Facebook and Twitter.)