By: Lauren Tingle
Born in a Crossfire Hurricane
The pre-party leading up to my father’s first Rolling Stones concert started early. It was 9am in Memphis on Independence Day in 1975, and Gregg Tingle was expected at Waring and Avalon for Frisbee and a barbecue of illegal activities with his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers. “The ’70s drugs were in full force with THC brownies and mushroom Kool-Aid,” dad recalls. “It wasn’t on anybody’s mind that it was going to be 105-degrees at 3pm with 80% humidity.”
Dad didn’t hang with the Sig Eps long. He ditched the party early because he found a better drug. He left in his olive green Fury Sport that went from zero to 60 at the tap of the gas to get ready and pick up my mother, a then 18-year-old Lorrie Nedelkovic. The Stones were their first date.
At 2pm, dad arrived at 3520 Clarke Rd. to complete chaos. A man was on fire in the backyard. Mom’s neighbor Mr. Stotz, drunk and bored in retirement, had sauntered over to the house with a cocktail in hand for a visit. My papou (Greek for grandfather) Mirolüb Nedelkovic was burning a stump and working on a lawn mower at the same time. When the stump fire crept out of control, Mr. Stotz in a drunken stupor pulled off a 100% cotton sheet hanging on the clothesline and attempted to smother the blaze.
It didn’t work. A breeze kicked up and blew the burning sheet onto Mr. Stotz’s hairy legs. Wearing a western shirt, gauze drawstring pants and long hippie hair, my superhero dad quickly assessed the situation, grabbed a damp towel from the line and extinguished Mr. Stotz, who had fallen to the ground with his legs a horror film of stinking, burning flesh.
Miraculously, Mr. Stotz stood up with blood running from his wounds and started for home. He was so marinated drunk he didn’t feel any pain. Horrified, mom asked, “Mr. Stotz, do you want me to call an ambulance?”
“Naw,” Mr. Stotz said. “I’ll just go home and put some Unguentine on it.”
Mr. Stotz ended up in the hospital for six months with third degree burns and a staph infection from an unsophisticated burn unit at Baptist Hospital in downtown Memphis.
Mom and dad made it to the Stones that afternoon. But they got their pyro in early. They were on the main field of the Memphis Memorial Stadium for $9.50 each. Charlie Daniels Band, Furry Lewis and J. Geils Band opened. Refreshments were courtesy of the Memphis Fire Department who hosed down Stones freaks passing out from Mick and the Boys rocking out in triple digit temps.
Weeks later, front page news of the now defunct Press Scimitar showed baby marijuana plants sprouting all over the stadium field.
But it’s Alright Now…
Right before my 31st birthday, I made new friends with a booking agent who asked me a funny question. Sitting on my couch with a girlfriend back home blowing up his phone, he asked me, “Do you think you’re ever going to make it in the music business?”
Without hesitation, I said, “Without a doubt, yes. I’m inexhaustibly positive.” The trick is putting your spirit first before everything else. It’s the only thing that lasts forever. Mostly, though, I have no room in my heart for any kind of nonsense, especially those who emotionally cheat on their partners.
He quizzed me on my top Flaming Lips show. “It has to be the time I made my Ryman Auditorium stage debut as a skimpy Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz,” I said. The blue and white gingham dress smelled like sweat from previous occupants and ended right below my rear. I remember a confetti cannon blew right as I walked offstage blowing the skirt up and giving the Ryman a free show of my drawers. Before the concert, a bunch of us girls looked at one another and asked, “Should we wear pants?” We were reminded, “This is a rock show. You don’t wear [sic] pants.”
When Wayne Coyne learned my name to autograph my t-shirt, he said, “You’re really named Tingle? Whoever you marry has to take your last name on principle.”
Being a Tingle is pretty glorious.
On my coffee table sits a three-pronged black folder my aunt Vera Lee put together chronicling the family history. The first page shows the Tingle family coat of arms with waving stripes of argent (white or silver) and gules (red) representing peace and fortitude, respectively. A gold lion claws above the arms representing strength, courage and dignity.
An explanation reads, “The family name of Tingle is English in origin. The name is derived from one who was a dweller at a meeting place or court. Variants: Tingley, Tingleton, Tinkle, etc.”
The earliest known Tingle in America was Thomas Tingle. May 11 marked the 153rd anniversary of his enlistment in the Confederate Army. He was 34 at the time and served almost the entirety of the war. He only broke once to bury his first wife, with whom he raised five children. He remarried after the war to a lady named Permelia and had four more children by 1870. After she passed in the late 1870s, Thomas remarried a third time, this time to Louisa. Together, they had six children before she passed in 1916.
By the time Thomas passed at 94, he welcomed to the world 15 children and outlived all three wives. He also tragically buried three of those children — a pain no parent should suffer.
Vera Lee’s findings include Thomas’s obituary. The headline reads, “The Death Angle Came.” The body reads, “Uncle Tom lived a devoted life to his family, his neighbors, his country and his God … Uncle Tom was for three-fourths of a century a devoted member of the church and put his religion and church ahead of other things. He looked on the church as his family and called them as his children for he had lived with them all their lives, had talked to them about their souls interest.”
“We all feel we have lost a father. Uncle Tom not only loved and appreciated his neighbors, but they were thoughtful of him; often called to see him and talked with him which was a pleasure to both he and them.”
“His friends ‘capped the climax’ the day of his burial by making up a nice sum of money to put a tombstone to his grave, ‘Acts speaks louder than words.'”
The words on Thomas’s tombstone are words I live by to this day. I do my best to follow through on everything I say I’m going to do. Sometimes I fail. But failure happens in life and it’s a waste to get hung up on it.
Just observe the pain Thomas endured in his nearly 100 years on Earth — death, destruction, uncertainty and he faced it all with love.
There’s a picture of Thomas within the first few pages of Vera Lee’s research. It shows an elderly man, all legs, seated in a chair in front of an old barn with a lean-to. His right ankle rests over his left knee showing a flash of sock. His right hand is propped on a cane. A neatly trimmed white beard frames his high cheekbones — a signature trait that runs through the Tingle family to this day. I guess it’s in our nature to smile all the time.
My grandparents Wilkins and Elva Tingle played a huge part in my raising. I learned my ABCs and how to tie my shoes from Wilkins. My first word was “Beagle” because they had a few on their three-acre spread along with blueberry bushes, pear trees, hives of honeybees and a full garden of homegrown veggies. Grandpa called me Susie and they never spent money on anything they couldn’t afford. Dad lost Wilkins in 2003. Before he passed, they spent the day together cutting grass with grandpa’s oxygen tank hanging off the back of his riding lawn mower.
We just celebrated Elva’s 94th birthday. In 2011, we surprised her with custom frames made of repurposed wood from their first farmhouse outside of Memphis. It’s now an ancient ruin of the South with vegetation overtaking the family home. The place is a stone’s throw away from Woodland Hills Country Club where my parents first met, got engaged and had their wedding reception in August, 1979.
Mirolüb was one man away from death. World War II was ending and Hitler had ordered the Nazis to mass execute all prisoners at various work camps, in particular, at Dachau, where my papou was imprisoned. A trench of bodies and another prisoner waiting his turn separated him from his fate. Mirolüb looked up at God in heaven, and said, “This is not my end.”
A shot fired killing the man in front of my papou, and he fell with the dead, pretending to be hit. Once night fell, Mirolüb escaped to the woods where he found a rescue camp of other escapees and conscientious objectors seeking shelter on the run. When they heard the enemy approaching they moved. After the war, Mirolüb lived a few years in Nuremberg before immigrating to the U.S. through Ellis Island. He settled in Hot Springs, Arkansas where he worked as a tailor at a men’s clothier. He met a spitfire of a Greek woman named Sophia Katsivalas at a local diner. She had earned a degree in English before she left Greece to escape World War II — a very rare feat for those times.
The two fell in love, married and moved to Memphis where they had my mom, Lorrie. While yia yia (Greek for grandmother) was recovering from the birth, papou filled out the paperwork for the birth certificate.
The nurse asked, “Name?”
“Lorrie,” he said, “L-A-R-R-Y.”
Though he spoke six languages fluently, papou’s attempts at speaking English were strained. I’m confident the first words he learned in English were “God damn it.” He peppered almost every sentence with the phrase. He loved his girls, but his experiences in the Holocaust made him a brooding man. And he smoked like a chimney.
Mom found out she was pregnant with me the same day yia yia was diagnosed with cancer. But Sophia lived long enough to hold me as an infant, and while I was new to the world, mom was saying goodbye to the one she had always known — a world with Sophia in it.
Papou doted on his girls. When he wasn’t tailoring at the Hickory Ridge Mall, he was taking me to toy stores, spoiling me rotten. He traveled after yia yia passed. He vacationed in Greece and Mexico. He traveled west and called from Yosemite National Park. I can still hear the message he left on the answering machine. In his thick Serbian accent, he shouted, “Lorrie! I’m in Yose-moto! It’s beautiful!”
He was the most stylish man I knew, too. There’s a picture of him holding my mom as an infant in a field in South Dakota wearing a button down shirt tucked into nice dress slacks with a gold watch fob that spelled his name in capitol letters. Yia yia and papou were always skeptical of mom’s American friends, a practice common to many immigrant parents. My papou certainly didn’t know what to make of my hillbilly hippie dad when he came to pick mom up for their first date.
Life’s Been Good
Nothing in my life would be possible without my family, and I thank God for them every day. So to answer the question, “Do you think you’re ever going to make it in the music business?” Yes. I will, and I already have. It’s a blessing to get paid to write for a living. Sure, there are things I would change in mainstream country music. But I was pretty much born for this, and I’m blessed to have parents who turned me into the loyal music fan I am today.
One Friday afternoon, I set up my Eno hammock by a sandlot near my home. School had just let out and a group of children had started a game of football. If I had to guess, their ages averaged around seven. Nestled in my hammock, I listened to the game. I heard one kid shout, “Interception! Interception!” I thought, Do they even know how to spell interception? How did they know what that word meant? Did their parents spend their falls screaming at their TVs if a play didn’t go their way? Did they have siblings in sports? Regardless, they were clearly huge fans of the game and they were having the time of their lives using big words they learned from someone or somewhere else.
I started to imagine my perfect Tingle world, a world where folks raised their children to devote themselves to music just as much as they did physical activity. A loyal sports fan will buy season tickets to support their team even if they’re terrible. There are season ticket holders for music, too. Vince Gill has devoted fans who have seen him play live every year for the last 30 years. I will buy every Sheryl Crow album she releases. I remember buying a Starbucks compilation she organized just because it had her name on it.
But music fans can be a little more critical. “I liked his last album, but I don’t much care for this one.” I’ve said so much about some of my favorites, including Dave Matthews Band. But I’ll still buy everything they record.
I believe streaming services have made music fans even more fickle. I’ll hear, “Oh, I’ll check out his stuff on Spotify and see if I like it.”
Don’t even get me started on my colleagues in the music industry. At almost every invite-only show I’ve been to, the audience is made up of professionals with their arms crossed, faces in thought and heads spinning with one question, Is this a hit? Too much judgment can be toxic to the mind, and make people forget how to have fun.
So parents, do the world a solid. Raise your children to be responsible music freaks. Nothing terrible will happen if Little Jimmy is raised to know the difference between a major and a minor key or be able to pick out a walking bass line just as much as they know plays of a game. Music will always be there for them when their bodies start to go. It will be there for the pain they’ll endure when you’re not around anymore.
After my parents helped me move into Scarlett Commons at Murfreesboro’s Middle Tennessee State University, we hugged goodbye and mom said, “We have confidence in the way we raised you.”
They did. They raised me right. My first memory of music was my first lesson in independence. My legs would dangle off the rocking chair as mom rocked me to sleep singing Linda Ronstadt’s “I Never Will Marry,” which at 31 turns out to be a more poignant lullaby than any of us could have predicted. Dad taught me to enjoy a full album from start to finish. On car trips, he never let me skip through a CD to get to my favorite tracks. One Christmas, I asked for world peace and respect. Under the tree that year, I unwrapped Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits and sheet music to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The piano lessons my parents funded for 12 years taught me patience and confidence. My instructor Mrs. Cheryl Maccarino pretty much babysat me for 30 minutes a week for at least three of those years. She once told mom, “You’re wasting your money. All Lauren does is stare out the window.” I was frustrated over having to learn theory before I could tackle Beethoven. That all changed when I reached a level where I could play Pachabel’s “Canon in D” — a popular wedding song everyone knows. I did get to Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and more.
Dad and I pretty much lived at the Mud Island Amphitheater for a summer when his company had eighth row season passes. I was 10 and going to see the Horde Tour with Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler. Dad took me to see B.B. King at a beer festival while I was still underage. Together, we saw Wilco, Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, Fiona Apple, 311, The Cranberries and Hootie and the Blowfish. I can still remember the lights beaming under the water of the Wolf River Harbor as rescue teams searched for Jeff Buckley’s body while Sheryl Crow played onstage.
Dad chaperoned many of my high school friends to at least four Beale Street Music Festivals when their parents wouldn’t take them. I remember him driving us past an empty lot in a really rough neighborhood. Pointing at the vacant space, he said, “Lauren, that’s where America’s greatest music was made.” The lot was once the home of STAX.
Dad’s training in live music made being around drunken idiots old news by the time I hit college.
The only time we argued over music was the summer before my freshman year. Dad was dead set on me joining the high school marching band. Turns out mom was the deciding factor. We went to a welcome cookout the Sunday before band camp and mom saw an entire microcosm of the school. There were freaks, geeks, athletes, homecoming queens, kings, over accomplished brainiacs and diversity reigned. There was an Elmo for everyone. Mom looked at me and said, “You’re doing this.” And it changed our lives. Some of my best friends in life I met in band, and it ultimately got me to Nashville.
I joined the high school winter percussion ensemble and competed at Nashville’s John Overton High School. I remember my friends literally throwing instruments on the truck after our performance to make it back inside in time to catch the independent world-class percussion ensemble Music City Mystique. I had no clue who or what they were talking about, but inside, the place was packed with people to catch their 1999 production Serengetti. I was hooked within the opening notes. Performers were costumed as exotic animals and all exhibited Cirque du Soleil athleticism. It was the most imaginative musical performance I had ever seen, and I had to be part of it.
Not only did my parents support me through two years with Mystique, they also supported my sister, Lana, through her four years with the group.
My family lifts me up when I’m down and at times, they know me better than I know myself. Their loyalty and devotion to family is their legacy. I only want to make them proud.
Last week, dad and I were among the thousands at Nashville’s LP Field rocking out with The Rolling Stones. On the long walk back to the Chevy parked on Music Row, we both agreed that Charlie Watts is a human metronome and that “Midnight Rambler,” “Doom and Gloom,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Far Away Eyes” were the tightest numbers in their 18-song set. But the best part of the night was the look of elation on Dad’s face when opener Brad Paisley brought out Joe Walsh for “Life’s Been Good.” I guess because life is good when you’re a Tingle.
The Tingle Family Soundtrack
The Rolling Stones
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Booker T. and the MGs
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Stevie Ray Vaughn