Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Avett Brother’s Crawford Finds Hope in ‘Best-Worst Place’ of Memphis

Last weekend, I found myself with my two brothers at Beale Street Music Festival awaiting one of our shared favorite music acts: the Avett Brothers.  Their act is one that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing before and was easily a top 3 act of this year’s music fest (at least in my biased anticipation and in their delivery).

While I went into the night merely hopeful to hear them perform “Talk On Indolence” or “Live and Die,” little did I know that I would literally be reminded of a story of life and death that is very close to the band’s history with Memphis.

Sometime in the past couple years, I belatedly learned about the battle that Hallie Crawford has had with cancer.  Hallie is a patient of Memphis’s “Best-Worst Place,” St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Hallie is the daughter of the Avett Brother’s bassist, Bob Crawford, and I remembered her story after her father was donning a Memphis Tigers shirt on stage this past Saturday night.

It just so happened that we partnered with St. Jude for a run of St. Jude/Choose901 T-Shirts to both support their great work financially and visibly.  Remembering Hallie’s story, I knew I had to get Bob a shirt and ask him how he feels about Memphis.

I had the opportunity to ask Bob a few questions about his Memphis experience:

Jeff: Memphis has to be a bittersweet place for you and your family; could you easily describe your relationship with the Bluff City?

Bob: Our family first arrived at St. Jude on October 20th, 2011. It was under the very worst of circumstances. We had just been told in North Carolina that there was no hope for Hallie; she did not move, was blind, and could barely lift her head, and to top it off we were told her cancer was incurable. The journey from North Carolina was done over night in a donated tour bus. It was our first night with her in our care since [discovery of] the tumor on August 28th, 2011. The bus drove all night through monsoon-like rains. The rear shock absorbers didn’t work and so every time the bus hit a bump, Hallie’s body would start to fly up in the air. My wife and I didn’t sleep at all that night. We were in the back of the bus holding her down, giving her meds for the first time alone, and changing her feeding bags. When we arrived in Memphis the next morning the bus literally dropped us off at the front door of St. Jude. It was surreal and we were so scared. I remember sitting in the patient registration area waiting for Hallie to be called back. It was loud and busy and it seemed like we had been waiting forever. I looked at my wife holding Hallie all bundled up in her arms and realized coming to Memphis had been a terrible mistake. I said, “We have to get out of here, we need to go back to North Carolina now.” And then, almost as if on cue this nurse, whose name was Margret approached us. She was literally a friend, of a friend, of a friend, of our bands business managers. Calmly and sweetly she just said, “Stay. It’s going to be alright. Just stay.”  I am sure she was an angel sent to us at the perfect moment. Soon Hallie was called back and we met her doctor. Dr. Cynthia Wetmore walked in and said, “There is hope. We are going to cure her. She will go to kindergarten.” It was amazing. Once things fell into a bit of a routine, my wife and I would drive around occasionally, or run errands. We didn’t like Memphis at all. It wasn’t a destination of our choosing, fate forced it upon us. We were in exile. It wasn’t until we had to come back when Hallie had a recurrence that we fell in love with it. Memphis is a very deep place. There is grit in Memphis. If you’re here long enough you get to the gold beneath the grit, and then you fall in love with the grit itself. It is quintessentially [an] American city that is rich in culture and diversity almost like nowhere else.

Jeff: How is Hallie doing now?

Bob: Hallie is doing great right now. She is two years off treatment. In fact, true to Dr. Wetmore’s prediction, Hallie will enter kindergarten this fall. She was also recently moved from an every three month check up schedule to every six months. The only sad part about that is that if things go well we will only have to visit Memphis twice a year instead of four times a year, but given the circumstances it’s a true blessing.

Jeff: Given, that it isn’t necessarily a place that has the highest of memories in most respects, what have you enjoyed learning about Memphis?

Bob: In his book, Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain writes that Memphis is practiced in the art of the good samaritan. We have met some amazing Memphian’s that are the dearest, most important people in our lives now. These aren’t all doctors and nurses, some are just good samaritans that took our family in when they knew us as nothing more than a family with a sick child alone in their city. The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met in Memphis have touched me to the core of my being. Not only was Hallie treated in Memphis but our family was treated there also.

Jeff: What is the best meal you’ve had in Memphis?

Bob: There are so many great restaurants in Memphis but I have to say I love Hog and Hominy the best. Go there and just order a bunch of  stuff off the menu and enjoy life. That and Muddy’s cupcakes have become part of our celebration ritual.

Jeff: How many times have you played in Memphis, and does any one show stand out above the others?

Bob: We played at Mud Island Amphitheater right as Hallie was finishing up her initial treatment. I remember that being one of [my] favorite shows ever.

Jeff: In fact, I attended said show and remember it being a wonderful night!  The skyline had a strange tint to it as downtown Memphis was filled with fog.

See Bob’s recent tweet about how Hallie’s story has helped St. Jude continue giving hope and amazing service to families like the Crawfords:

We love celebrating the great work of St. Jude! See our recent video on Jasmine Boyd who works to tell the St. Jude story: 

See our recent blog details for this Fall’s 24 hour St. Jude Ride.  Assemble a team and raise money for St. Jude!