Dive Bar Jukebox with Jack Sonni
"I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger."
Remembering Jack Sonni. (December 9, 1954 - August 30, 2023)
Welcome back to Dive Bar Jukebox, where bartenders, writers, chefs, musicians, and a cast of cool characters answer the question: If we were hanging out together at a bar and I put ten credits on the jukebox, what songs would you punch in and why? The answers reveal thoughts on their favorite dive bars along with a hand-picked, annotated playlist for your weekend listening pleasure.
Please welcome today’s special guest…
I first met Jack Sonni in the fall of 2019 when I was In Oxford, Mississippi, on the book tour for Last Call. I had been visiting Oxford regularly for over a decade attending the annual Southern Foodways Alliance Fall Symposium, and the good people of Oxford really turned out for me that night. It was a packed room and my talk and cocktail party were hosted by Saint Leo, the wonderful folks from Square Books were on hand to sell books, and John T Edge graciously moderated the discussion between me and two local bartenders.
After the talk, everyone hit the bar and gathered for cocktails and shared trays of bar snacks as I settled into a banquette with a cold pilsner to sign books. It was one of the longest signing lines I’d experienced on the book tour and since I have a habit of spending quality time with each person who takes the time to come out to see me, these folks displayed a lot of patience. But even if I’m spent and weary I always answer any questions people might have about the book or listen to a story or look at photos someone wants to share or, in turn, ask someone a few questions about the area or where I should stop for breakfast on my way to Memphis the next morning.
When the end of the line was finally in sight I noticed a tall, lean angular man in a black suit was anchoring that last-in-line position holding a copy of Last Call. He had a salt-and-pepper goatee and was wearing sunglasses at night (indoors) and rocking a sharp black hat. I know, I know, BTP Author problems, but sometimes the last person on line can be a handful. Especially when they chose to be last and they’ve waited a long time. But that wasn’t the case when it was the Man in Black’s turn at the table. I stood up to shake his hand and thank him for his patience. His name was Jack and he mentioned he was a writer from California but had a place just outside Oxford and we talked about books, and bars, and bitters, and cocktails. He had a very cool English professor vibe, a hep cat with an old-school manner in both his speech and sincere enthusiasm. But what I didn’t know was that this cool cat was an actual rock and roll musician.
A bartender friend came over after Jack walked away and said, “You know who that was, don’t you?” I didn’t. “That’s Jack Sonni. He was ‘the other guitar player’ in Dire Straits. He’s a good guy. He’s a regular at City Grocery.” Before he left I let Jack know how nice it was to have met him and mentioned I’d be hanging out at the upstairs bar at City Grocery after the event and invited him to join me. He said he was more of a day drinker and it was getting late, but wished me well. But by the time I made it across the Square to City Grocery with a squad of local bartenders in tow, I smiled when I saw Jack at the corner of the bar with an Old-Fashioned in front of him, waiting for me to join him and continue our conversation. We’ve been good friends ever since that night.