I’m thinking tonight of my friend Di Anne Price. I was an incredibly shy, quiet (even), 19 year old in Memphis when we met. I’d never known anyone like her — she was so forward, everything was “out there” with her. She played the piano like it was part of her, she sang with the passion of a master story teller. Oh she could sing, and some of the songs she sang would make 19 year old me blush six shades of red — and she knew it and reveled in it.
When I’d walk in and she was playing without her Boyfriends (band) Di Anne would lazily lift one hand from the keyboard, crook her finger and wink at me — even as she sang. When I’d sit beside her on the bench, she’d begin some dramatic piano flourishes (so she could stop singing), kiss me on the cheek (usually on the cheek, but she’d always leave a lipstick print), and practically beg me, “Tell me everything!!!!” She could carry on a full conversation and continue hammering out miracles on the piano. She always, always asked about my family, my mom and dad, and Samuel.
We’d have the longest conversations about music (especially Memphis music), the world, her triumphs and struggles, and mine. She begged me to write a book; she told me that she thought I could tell the stories of Memphis music and the “old” musicians (of which she was the very youngest, even though I’d never ever say she was “old). She said I could tell those stories like no one else — maybe because I was a young, white, country boy who’d fallen in love with the stories with fresh eyes.
Di Anne often said if she were 20 years younger or I were 20 years older that “she’d make sure we’d cause a scandal”. After she’d finished playing at the Peabody, she’d sometimes call “Mama” to come pick us up; Mama would pull up in her red Suburban and off we’d go careening through downtown Memphis laughing all the way to some club I’d never have thought to go in by myself (and frankly where there weren’t many, if any other people that looked like me). She was at home anywhere, though, and she made sure I felt at home, too.
I don’t have any special claim on Di Anne; no doubt there are thousands of people who she made feel just as special, just as important. She had a claim on me, though. I learned from her, she drew me out, helped give me confidence and a willingness to “put it out there”.
I discovered today that almost all of her catalog has been uploaded to Youtube. I had all these songs, but I’m tickled to death that they’re easy to share now… I hope you get a chance to listen to some (or all) of her music.
Di Anne died in March of 2013, far too young. I loved her and I miss her. I’d like to hear her sing to me one more time. I’d like a chance to “Tell her everything!” one more time.