Demand the Original Antenna Founding Story on Historic Marker

The Shelby County Historic Commission unveiled a sign at the former site of Antenna, 1588 Madison Avenue in Saturday, Oct 5, 2019. Many people have contacted me since that moment to express their disappointment that the text for the sign contains several misleading inaccuracies, including:

* inaccurate opening date of June 28, 1981

* a story about naming the club after rabbit ear tv antenna

* no mention of original founder Jimmy Barker, from whom Steve McGehee took over the club

* no mention of Antenna branded events leading up to the club's opening  

Antenna's true origin has been well documented in a series of articles in the Commercial Appeal, The Memphis Flyer and others, as well as in two award winning movies, both directed by Memphian C. Scott McCoy, and both have played at the Malco On The Square:

* Antenna:Origins (short)
* Antenna (feature)

The accurate version of Antenna's founding events are as follows:

* Jimmy Barker had the idea to create a music video venue in Memphis after visiting the Mudd Club in New York City in late 1980. Accompanying him was his then girlfriend, the late Melody Danielson.

* Mr. Barker created the name for the club after seeing an ad in New Music Express for a London hair salon called Antenna.

* Mr. Barker hired David Fisher, then a student at the Memphis Art Academy, and Mr. Barker's roommate, to design the Antenna logo.

* Mr. Barker began promoting Antenna branded musical events and fashion shows in collaboration with the late Kay King, owner of Chelsea Ltd., a rock inspired specialty clothing boutique in Overton Square, with events hosted at Solomon Alfred, Pogo's and other local venues.

* Mr. Barker ran paid ads for these events in a local entertainment magazine published by Memphian Greg Belz. 

* Mr. Barker organized Antenna promotional photo shoots with local and national acts, including the Rockats, at photographer Larry Kuzniewski's studio in Madison Ave  to promote the brand  

* Mr. Barker rented a former cotton loft on Front Street for the first independent Antenna party in December 1980, with art installations and live music.

* Mr. Barker initiated a contract to license music videos for broadcast at the club and events fom New York based RockAmerca. 

* Mr. Barker, along with partner Phillip Stratton, negotiated to takeover the existing lease for The Well, at 1588 Madison.

* Mssrs. Barker and Fisher purchased used TVs for Antenna at Motel Salvage on Summer Avenue. 

* Mr. Barker hired Charlie Lawing from Strings & Things to install the club's A/V equipment.

* Mssrs. Barker and Stratton opened the Antenna at the Madison Ave location in March 1981.

* Mr. Barker booked the first national and International acts into the club in the following months, including:

* The Brides of Funkenstein (USA)

* The Fall (UK)

* The Plimsouls

* Romeo Void (USA)


* Mr. McGehee was invited by Mr. Stratton to lock Mr. Barker out of the club in June 1981 after a falling out over Barker's proposal to move the club to a larger location. The Historic Marker erroneously cites this as the date the club opened.

The reality is that Mr. Barker created the Antenna brand eight months prior to Mr. McGehee's involvement. While Mr. McGehee's tireless dedication to the Antenna led to the creation of the club's true legacy, for the Historic Marker to credit Mr. McGehee as the club's founder is inaccurate and misleading.

We demand that the parties responsible for the creation of this marker modify the text to accurately reflect the true founder, brand creation story, and significant dates so that future generations know the whole story.

Update #34 years ago
I changed the signatures goal to 85 to correlate to the legal capacity of Antenna when we opened in march 1981, prior to the later expansion.

I’d like to deliver the signatures this week to the Shelby County Historic Commission, so please help by spreading the word and encouraging others to add their signatures!

Thanks to all!

Jimmy Barker
Update #24 years ago
I suspect no one who provided the misleading misinformation for the historical marker expected the backlash that ensued immediately upon the unveiling. Thanks to all who wanted the real story told, the Shelby County Historic Commission has agreed to review the situation and is expected to vote on changes. Based in that, and those who have asked me to do so, I have reopened this petition for signatures.

Every signature will help show the commission that we who were there care, so please share.
Update #14 years ago
Folks I’m shutting this down. Too much drama.

This was not created with the intention of blaming anyone for getting details wrong about events that happened almost 40 years ago. I believe that the people involved in the creation of the marker acted in good faith.

My apologies if anyone’s feelings got hurt in the process of trying to set the record straight.

Maybe we can just create a Wikipedia page for the Antenna, the process allows for cotisations, footnotes, etc.

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