Christopher Blank

News Director

It all started with ghost stories. Dad convinced me that spirits lurked just outside my bedroom door at night. After years of night terrors, I began listening to LPs of spooky tales, memorizing them and acting them out around campfires on those balmy winter nights in South Florida. In this way, other children would suffer as I had.
 
Naturally, this dramatic flair evolved into a prestigious four-year engagement on the high school drama circuit where my mother’s rapturous reviews provoked standing ovations also from my mother.
 
One day, while working part time as a copy clerk at the St. Petersburg Times, an editor asked me why my hair was dyed bright orange. I explained that it was because I was “an actor.” Was my future decided out of pity? Out of concern for my mental health? I cannot read minds. However, the next thing that happened is that I was made a theater critic.
 
For more than a decade, The Commercial Appeal’s readers tolerated my opinions on everything from classical music to ballet. Even WKNO-FM let me create a little club for theatergoers.
 
When this fine radio station went looking for someone to tell stories of the “news” variety, I made the argument that Memphis is a city full of great stories; no other has a richer cultural narrative. The crossroads of America is a crucible of stories from all walks of life. Also, crossroads are known for ghosts and devils, and who doesn’t love those?
 
They totally bought the argument. So now, I’m looking for great stories. What’s yours?

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CULTURE DESK
2:01 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

More Memphis Streets Should Honor Great Musicians

Dedicated to the "Father of the Blues," Handy Circle can be found on Google Maps (inset). But you won't find it if you take a walk down Beale Street. The sole street corner where Handy's name would be found says "Rufus Thomas Blvd."

Memphis is a city of legendary music and musicians. It's time our streets get some soul. 


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IN MEMORIAM
7:03 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

B.B. King Brought More than the Blues to Memphis and Indianola

Travis Crawford adjusts the letters on a marquee across the street from B.B. King's restaurant on Beale Street Friday morning.
Credit Christopher Blank

  

The great bluesman B.B. King died Thursday (May 14)  in Las Vegas. But in the two cities most associated with his life, his legacy is more than just the blues.


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CULTURE DESK
11:22 am
Thu May 14, 2015

Pork: It's What's for Winners

Paul Holden, pitmaster with Willingham's, stands beside the smoker patented by the late Memphis barbecue icon John Willingham. Holden is not only competing in ribs this year, his team is one of three that are selling ribs to the public.

It's pitmaster vs. pitmaster at Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

  

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CULTURE DESK
6:30 am
Thu May 7, 2015

A New Hall of Fame for the Blues

On Friday, the Blues Foundation opens its brand new Blues Hall of Fame at 421 South Main Street in Memphis. It honors the many musicians, from the Mississippi Delta cotton fields to the nightclubs of Chicago, who have risen to the top of the art form.

On WKNO Culture Desk, Blues Foundation president and C.E.O. Jay Sieleman explains what makes Memphis the "Home of the Blues" and why its important to honor these often marginalized players.

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FOOD
7:30 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Chicken Wings in a Pulled Pork Town? Jennifer Biggs Says Wings are Taking Flight

Once considered a humble -- if messy -- finger food, chicken wings and drummies are on the rise even in Memphis' best barbecue joints.

Commercial Appeal food critic Jennifer Biggs says that wings have come along way from the spicy, fried and sauced appetizer that originated in Buffalo in the 1960s. Memphis restaurants now serve them in a variety of styles, though it's not uncommon to smoke them. After all, Memphis is where smoked meat is king.

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