Al Green Takes a Stand: Live at Full Gospel Tabernacle, Memphis, TN, 1 June 1997 (mp3)
Sunday morning in Memphis and I am in my truck heading down Elvis Presley Blvd. I pass Graceland. I always pass Graceland. No need to stop and hang out with a dead guy’s things when not too far down the road lots of life lurks. I get to Hale and take a right. A quarter mile down, past rows of houses, I see Al Green’s church, the Full Gospel Tabernacle. I pull into the parking lot, slick my hair back and get out of my truck.
I’ve been on the road for three weeks, going town to town digging for books and records, and I look like I’ve been on the road for three weeks. I try to straighten my shirt. I wet my fingers and crease my pants. I take a rag out of the truck and give my shoes a quick shine. I am going to church so I need to look presentable. The reflection in the truck window shows a someone who looks tired and in need of a shower & shave. Good enough. I walk toward the church.
In the parking lot, I am greeted by a tall, well dressed Black man. He asks if I am here for the service. I tell him that I am and he directs me toward the front door. A rotund man at the door, greets me, asks me where I am from, and shakes my hand. He tells me everyone is welcome at the Full Gospel Tabernacle. I make my way inside and take a seat in the back with a small number of other visitors.
Al Green’s church is not what one would expect from the 1970s love man soul superstar. My first visit to the Tabernacle, I was shocked to find a very modest building, one that holds no more than 400 people. Nothing is ornate, nothing ostentatious: The Full Gospel Tabernacle is more municipal hall than Crystal Cathedral. The church is about two-thirds full and about a quarter of those present are visitors, folks from out of town or tourists there to see the great Al Green. This is my second time there so I count myself as a visitor.