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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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John Vergos

John Vergos was born in 1948, the same year that his father Charlie Vergos opened the Rendezvous. In the mid-1950s, the Rendezvous started charcoal grilling ribs. As the story goes, the discovery of an old coal chute in the restaurant’s basement inspired Charlie Vergos to switch from ham sandwiches to pork ribs.

Rubbed with a Greek spice mix, spritzed with a vinegar solution, the ribs are cooked over charcoal and eaten without extra barbecue sauce.

The waiters are the star. Take Big Jack Dyson. He’s been serving families, tourists, and celebrities since 1968. He fondly remembers when Rendezvous waiters wore Nehru jackets, when founder Charlie “Big Daddy” Vergos patrolled the restaurant, and when The Rolling Stones ate their first ribs.

Want to sit at one of Big Jack’s tables? Then head down the stairs, and walk straight back. Or just ask for “Jack in the back.” This man’s popular though, so there might be a wait.

We first visited Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous in 2002 as part of our initial foray into documenting Memphis ‘cue, a project that included photographs, original essays and a smattering of oral history interviews. Visit the original Rendezvous page.

Date of interview:
2008-07-02 00:00

Rien T. Fertel

Rien T. Fertel

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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