Packed in a room standing shoulder to shoulder. Everywhere people are singing, swaying and sweating! Extremely loud music, a screaming crowd, bright lights flashing and a pounding bass. An exhilarating experience! This was a Tora Tora concert back in the 80’s and it’s still the same today.
How many of you remember Memphis local music in the late 1980’s? Back then the support for local bands was amazing! Places like Stage Stop, Rascals, Night Moves, just to name a few, were packed with people who were energized to see their favorite head bangers and rock-n-rollers grace the stages. I know because I was there.
If you are too young to remember those times or were there and just don’t remember because, well, it was the 80’s, then now is your chance to experience seeing one of the biggest bands that formed in Memphis during that time. Tora Tora will be performing at The New Daisy Theatre on November 10th 2012 for their 25th anniversary party. If you have never been to one of their shows, then you don’t know what you’re missing.
With the show right around the corner, I spoke with Tora Tora’s bassist Patrick Francis and he answered questions that some of the fans wanted to know.
Your Memphis fans are very loyal and I know a lot of tickets are going to be sold. Are there still tickets available? There are tickets available. Memphis is a notorious walk up crowd. We will sell two or three hundred tickets up until a week before the show but then all of a sudden we will start selling two hundred a day. But tickets are still available.
You have a lot of fans that have followed you since the band formed back in the 80’s that know your history, but could you tell us a little about how the group originally formed for the new fans who might not know the story? Actually we started back in the Fall of 1986 and we just got together to play parties. We learned some cover tunes and that lasted for about three or four months and then we started writing our own stuff. And, well it was pretty good so we kept on and on and then we killed the cover band thing and just kept writing and started entering competitions like The Battle of the Bands. The big one that we did was at the fair grounds and it lasted for an entire week. You had to play forty-five minutes of original music and the were over sixty bands in this competition and we won that. That was great! One of the prizes was a day in Ardent Studios to record and we also won a couple thousand dollars, so we just gave Ardent that money and we went in there and we cut our first independent EP. It was called To Rock To Roll and it came out in 1987. We only made a thousand copies of that and sold everyone of them.
You know, there is a lot of luck and timing involved. You have to have good musicians and definitely a good singer. That’s the most important thing, but there was a lot of luck and timing involved. When we played, all the partiers from Collierville, Kirby and Germantown high schools would come every time we played and it was a lot of people. I mean back then, it was just exciting to go out and see a band and it just doesn’t seem that way anymore.
You guys used to rehearse in a warehouse downtown right? Well, it wasn’t downtown it was right by the Mid-South Coliseum, It was right behind the Coca Cola factory. We could walk out our door and the Coliseum was right there. And we were like, we’re gonna play there one day, and eventually we did.
So what about the band name? Being from Collierville, I had someone tell me a story about how there was originally another name thought about before Tora Tora was decided on. Is this true? Well, as kind of a little joke. What did you hear?
I was told “Free Beer” Yeah, that’s it. That’s it, you’re right. Well, that was kind of a joke though. We said, well, if people drive by and see “Free Beer” on the marquee, there gonna stop, you know. They might be disappointed, but at least they’re gonna stop. Remember, we were 18 and 19 years old back then.
Is there a defining moment that stands out for you during your time with Tora Tora? Well, I guess our first showcase is something I’ll always remember. It was at the warehouse, not at a club. The guy who eventually signed us from A&M Records, Brian Huttenhower was there. We had sent demo tapes to every record label there was and we got three bites. All three came to see us. Brian said he got in his car and Tora Tora was playing on the radio on Rock 98. He said he couldn’t believe it! That just doesn’t happen, And then that got him excited. Then he came to the show and we had him a spot upstairs away from the crowd, but he said, “No, No, I want to get down in the middle of it!” So he got down in the middle of it and he eventually worked his way to the front. And that was one of our best shows we ever played. Afterwards he helped us clean the parking lot up and clean the warehouse up. We made a great friend that night . That was something I’ll never forget.
So if you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently or would you do it all the same? Oh, there are many things I would do differently now that I’m older and wiser. A lot of things we would do the same though. It was kind of nice that we were raw and young. I mean the music might have been a little different. We bang around some new stuff now. It’s good, but it’s just not as raw and we just didn’t know any better back then. We didn’t know how to write songs and those were some of the best ones.
Are there any future plans for you guys or are you just going to do some shows here and there around the Memphis area? Yeah, we’re just gonna do some shows here and there. All of us work and we all have families now, so we don’t have a lot of time to commit to a full four of five day a week job. Cause back then, Tora Tora was a full time job. We were constantly writing, we were constantly rehearsing. We got together everyday just like a real job except we didn’t come in til noon or one, but we would stay til three in the morning. So, we made a day of it. It’s a commitment if you really want to do it right. Unfortunately, we just don’t have the time to do that and Anthony lives in Nashville now. He comes down for a couple of practices before each show. But, you know, as long as we have the cake baked, he can ice it easily.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m just so grateful and it’s so overwhelming to me that we had a fourteen year hiatus where we did nothing. I mean Anthony and I played in Homemade Flavor around town with Hal McCormick for about 8 years and that was a lot of fun, but I’m just amazed that after so long that people still remember us and come out to see us play still. I had a bet with Keith when we first started talking about having our reunion show. He was like “We couldn’t fill up the Stage Stop.” And I was like, “Man, yeah we could.” Don’t underestimate it.
I read about your Rocklahoma show too. That’s amazing. Yeah, now that’s what started it. We got a call from those guys saying “Would you be interested in Rocklahoma?” and we’re like “Well” and we all said “Yeah, sure, let’s go dot it!” And, that was a lot of fun.
Do you think that’s a possibility again? You know, we could do more festivals out of town. That M3 festival in Maryland is one we would love to do. It’s right out side of Baltimore. But yeah, that is a possibility of us going and doing some more festivals out of town.
I really appreciate you talking to me. Thank you so much Patrick. Well hey, we are just thrilled that people are still interested in us. Thank you.
Anthony Corder- Vocals
John Patterson- Drums
Keith Douglas- Guitar
Patrick Francis- Bass
Get your tickets now to see Tora Tora on November 10th at the New Daisy Theatre.
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