Peter Guralnick about Porretta
Everybody tried to tell me. Graziano tried to describe it to me – and of course, I’d already heard about Porretta from Solomon Burke, Dan Penn, Michael Toles and Rufus and Marvel Thomas. But I could never have imagined what it was like until I experience it for myself. To see 10.000 people gathered in Rufus Thomas Park on a hillside receding gradually into darkness is one thing. But to see Rufus Thomas signing autographs for everyone from eight to eighty hailed on the streets as Rufolone by young and old alike, is quite another.
I said to Rufus at one point: “I knew they named the park after you but I didn’t know you own it”. He gave me chuckle and knowing wink but he didn’t deny statement. I’ll never forget this soulful people that I met in Porretta. And I’ll never forget the respect with which the greeted the music and the musicians. Everyone in Memphis should see the way in which their native music is treated in Porretta. At a time when buildings are being torn down at home, monuments are being erected in Porretta. But, more significantly, the music is being honored in a manner that it deserves the musicians are being recognised not just for the stardom but for their contributions.
For me Porretta was a soulful pause – the kind of feeling I never thought I would experience, the way things should be (not necessarily the way things always are). I think Dan Penn expressed it best: “at a time when a place for joy is getting very hard to find… there is a place in Porretta,” he sang – a place (a state of mind?) where respect and grace are everywhere”. I respectfully second that emotion. I hope to see my many friends, old and news, in Porretta next year.
Peter Guralnick, November 1995