Walking Tall 1973

Living in the south during the 1970s I knew about the sheriff named Buford Pusser. Hollywood made some enhancements no doubt but… Many small towns in the south were crooked. The town I lived in blocked all restaurant and store chains from moving in…and a few other things. A man that lived in our town ended up writing a small pamphlet book about the place and all of the shenanigans going on and he ended up with a bad case of dead. At least that was the tale I was told when I was young.

I do remember hiking in the woods as a kid and running up on a copper contraption. It was older but it was no doubt on what it was used for…

The movie is not a great five-star flick but it’s a good entertaining film about what happened in McNairy County Tennessee with the big stick carrying Sherriff Buford Pusser. They definitely massaged the truth and you will not get the “Rock” in this one. I don’t really look at it as true or not…just an entertaining movie. It has more of a realism feel than the most current remake.

It’s a vigilante drama and a revenge fantasy that paces itself pretty well. Joe Don Baker is believable in this movie. If you hate violence this is not for you. The Sheriff almost single-handedly cleans up the town with the aid of a big stick. The film is cleaned up and not as grainy as I remembered. You will see the future 70s pinup singer Leif Garret as the Sheriff’s son…also future Rockford Files dad Noah Beery Jr. I watched the movie recently and it holds up better than I remembered.

The cast included Joe Don Baker, Elizabeth Hartley, Leif Garrett, Dawn Lyn, and Noah Beery Jr.

My wife and I traveled to Memphis to visit Graceland in the late 90s. On the way back home we got lost (pre-GPS and I have no sense of direction) and ended up in McNairy County. I remembered the name and we looked up we saw Pusser’s old home which was turned into a museum. We walked in and the lady working there was super nice. We sat on his couch, looked at his car, badges, guns, and uniforms. Before I left I could not resist…I just had to buy one of those big sticks…which was just an ax handle with his name and also a VHS tape of the Sherriff’s story. They may not allow so much freedom now.

It was pretty cool being able to touch and walk around freely after the “stay behind the rope!” mentality at Graceland…which I understand completely…Hey it’s the home of the big E. If you ever go to Graceland and if you have a couple of hours to spare, drive to this museum it is interesting… it’s like going back in time to the mid-seventies…it was just a fluke that we found it but it was fun.

Off topic of the movie again but Jimmy Buffet had a Buford Pusser story. I’ve heard this from different sources but this is from http://www.buffettworld.com… The movie was good but this would have been GREAT to see.

In 1974, Jimmy Buffett had a run-in with famed “Walking Tall” sheriff Buford Pusser. The story is referred to in “Presents To Send You” from the 1974 album A1A and also in “Semi-True Stories” from the 1999 album Beach House On The Moon.
In both songs, few details are mentioned. But at a show in 1974 at the Exit Inn in Nashville, just a few months after the incident, Buffett took some time to tell the crowd about the altercation:

“There were a lot of rumors circling around that I had an encounter with this young man. Which are true. We finished doing our recording over at Woodland Studio, real happy that the album had come out so well. All the lightweights had went out to get a few bottles of champagne and celebrate. Sammy Creason and Chuck Nease and I decided to go out and get a bottle of Cuervo Gold Tequilla and 3 straws. We went at it and in 15 minutes we were just knee-crawlin’ drunk. So we proceeded to the flashiest night spot in town, the roof of the King of the Road Hotel.

We’re there dining and dancing. Ronnie Milsap was on vacation. Sammy Creason was with me, so we provided just a gala of entertainment. Me on acoustic guitar so drunk I couldn’t hit the chords and him just pounding the drums out in 3-quarter time. Ran everybody out. We got the screaming munchies and we were going to Charlie Nickens to eat. And I couldn’t find my rent-a-car, which was parked somewhere amidst thousands of cars in the parking lot of the fabulous, plush King of the Road hotel. It was a little bitty car. It was hiding among many big ones there. And there was a Tennessee Prosecutors convention going on there. If they had made it to room 819 they would’ve had a closed door case.

So I stood on the hood of this car with a pair of… actually, they were old Ra Ra’s that I bought in Miami for 2 bucks. They were white and brown old Ra Ra’s but they were golf shoes so I had to take the cleats out but they still had the posts in them so they clicked a lot. I was standing on the hood of this particular car and as fate would have it it belonged to a rather large man who came up behind me and threatened my life real quickly. And I hadn’t been in a fight since junior high school on the city bus in Mobile. He came up and said “Son you stay right there, you’re under arrest”. So I politely turned around and said “You kiss my ass”. He didn’t. Instead he followed me over to the car which Sammy had found. I got in the driver’s side and Sammy got in the passenger’s side. My window was up, his was down and this fellow poked his head in and said “Would you like for me to turn this car over?”.

I was not scared of this individual. I just thought he was some ex-football player turned counselor. And Sammy said “look whatever damage we did ABC will pay for everything” which was awfully generous of Sammy since he didn’t have the authority to say so. Being a good company man I took up for my company and said “No they won’t. I’m still gonna beat your ass if you don’t leave us alone”. With that he pulled up then stuck his big head and his hand in and grabbed me by my hair until it separated from my head. I had a big bald spot on the back of it and I looked like a monk for about 3 months. Then he punched Sammy right in the nose. We knew he wasn’t kidding. So Sammy defended himself bravely with a big pen. He starts stabbing at this man’s arm trying to get it out of the window because we couldn’t start the car because with the new modern features of ‘74 automobiles you can not start your car unless your seat belt’s buckled and we were too drunk to get ours hooked up.

So we sit there while this man pounded the hell out of both of us. I looked over at Creason and I said “Sammy I don’t wanna die in a Gremlin.” Eaten by a shark, killed in a plane crash, but what’s my mother gonna say? Smashed to death in a Gremlin in the parking lot of the plush King of the Road hotel. Nope. So I mustered all the courage and energy I had and all the coordination I had left in my poor body and got the seat belt buckled and went to Charlie Nickens. We ordered our barbecue and on the way back we hit the Jefferson St. Bridge. Luckily there was no one around so we just backed up and headed for the hotel.

Got back, and we decided that this man may be lurking in the bushes or else may have been snorkeling around in the pool trying to scoop up coins that people threw in. So we decided to defend ourselves with a classic southern weapon: a tire tool. So we destroyed the back end of the Gremlin looking for the tire tool, found it. Walked through the lobby of these prosecutors, and we had caused a turmoil by this time. And got up to the 8th floor where we were staying and figured we were all safe. But I had forgotten my key.

So I had to go back downstairs and Sammy said well you take this I’m not going back down there. And he gave me the weapon, which I stuck in my back pocket. Walked down into the plush lobby of the plush King of the Road hotel, walked up to the desk and asked for the key to my room. This man snuck up behind me and took the tire tool out of my back pocket. I whipped around and I said “look you, that was for my protection and you started this whole thing. I didn’t mean to get on your car and I’m still gonna beat your ass if you don’t quit bothering me.” At this point, two detectives seized me, drug me into the elevator and said “son, we would call the police and have you arrested. You’ve caused quite a disturbance here tonight. But we figure your just lucky to be alive because that was Buford Pusser.” And I went “Oh. 8th floor please.”




Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

8 thoughts on “Walking Tall 1973”

  1. After seeing the movie in 7th grade in shop class I had to make myself a Buford Pusser big sticks.. I don’t know if I have seen the movie since. . enjoyed the Buffet Story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is time capsule no doubt. That happened at the King of the Road hotel that was just off of I-24. My dad ran by there a few times in the 70s when he made guitars meeting people there… It was fun seeing his old home…that was just dumb luck and my lack of direction.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have you ever heard The Drive- By- Truckers? They do a couple songs about Buford on their album “The Dirty South” which are excellent.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have heard of them. I heard they did a rock opera about southern rock and it scared me away…I’ll give them a try though…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I will definitely give them a listen then. Like I said I was thinking modern rocked up country. That is unfair because I never have listened… whenever I see “southern rock” it scares me away at times.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That is all I need to know. We have such similar tastes that I have no doubt…Funny this morning you named off my favorite songs off the Saint Dominic’s Preview on your blog…Also, that era of David Bowie (Hunky Dory) is my favorite. He was more Beatle-ish or English…I don’t know if those are the right words.
        I’ll listen to some of the Drive By Truckers tonight.

        Liked by 1 person

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