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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

< Back to Oral History project: Tennessee BBQ


Jim Neely

On a whim, and tired of driving twenty-miles across town to buy his Proustian barbecue sandwiches, Jim Neely opened Interstate Bar-B-Que in an old grocery store in Memphis. A successful insurance salesman, Neely had no restaurant experience, just a remembrance of barbecue past.

He fondly remembers when Memphis was a “country town” where his father could raise and slaughter pigs in the back yard. He also, without remorse, remembers having to be served out of the back doors of barbecue joints.

Jim Neely is the founder of the Neely barbecue dynasty, and his three-decade old restaurant a site of Memphis history.

We first visited Interstate Bar-B-Que 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 Interstate Bar-B-Que page.

Date of interview:
2008-07-16 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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