The first thing John David Montgomery ever gave me was a pair of red chopsticks. To be fair, they were the only things he ever gave me. To be even fairer, he tried to give me a Bud Light when last I saw him, but I politely passed. I still had a ways to go on the bottle in my hand…
(John David sings a verse of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ at the Under the Hill Saloon)
I met John David while researching, The Allure of Natchez, a big story on the Mississippi River town in the March ’09 issue of Southern Living. He’s part of the story, but back to the sticks.
Some call John David “J.D.” Some call him the mayor of Under the Hill, a commercial section of town that backs up beneath the town’s bluff. (If Under the Hill had toes, they would always be sticking in Old Man River.) Some call him the head bartender at the Under the Hill Saloon. There are books that have been, should be, and will be written about this place. It’s like a fine bottle of bourbon: Beautiful and pleasing to admire when capped. Once opened and poured, however, it awakens, burns, brings laughter, and in excess, darkness.
Again, back to the sticks. A handful of people determined that John David looks like Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita’s beloved character from the Karate Kid Trilogy), and those few began calling him such.
Remember the scene when Mr. Miyagi, in teaching Daniel focus and patience, catches the fly with chopsticks?
John David has a party trick where he “catches” a cigarette–a Marlboro Red in fact–with chopsticks and smokes it.
I snapped the pic, then he gave me the sticks.
He also has a signature rendition of "House of the Rising Sun," that you’ll likely catch him performing on weekend nights in the Saloon. Click on the audio box above, to hear him for yourself. Do yourself a favor and meet John David in person, though. He’s one-of-kind.