In a Perfect World: “Waffle House” Would Be Legit Musical Sub-Genre
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 18, 2008
Jukebox heroes, grits in their eyes
I’m not sure if I’m weirded out that the phenomenon of the Waffle House Jukebox exists, or if I’m shocked that it’s not more common a practice. It’s certainly not something I’m used to–sure, I’ve been in plenty of other restaurants that have their own jukebox (it’s one of the things that I miss most about the lack of retro diners in my regular restaurant rotation), but I don’t recall any of them having an entire column or two of songs with subject matter devoted entirely to their establishment. The songs, with titles like “Waffle Do Wop,” “Last Night I Saw Elvis at the Waffle House,” and “844,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger” (some clips of which can be heard here) sound much like the other rock, country and pop selections to be found on the rest of the jukebox’s selections, but just happen to be generally breakfast (and specifically Waffle House) related. And at the price of six for a dollar, you can certainly afford to pepper a couple of these songs in with your regular musical selections.
How these songs happened to come into existence has never been properly explained (to me, anyway), but apparently many of the performers are part of or relations to the Waffle House family–Mary Welch Rogers, for instance, who appears most often in the WH section of the jukebox, was the wife of Joe Rogers, founder of the esteemed chain. But indeed, the culture of the connection between popular music and Waffle House would be a rich one even besides the jukebox, thanks to numerous references in hip-hop songs (including The Fixers and DJ Quik’s super-underrated “Can U Werk Widdat”) and two different rock albums entitled Scattered, Smothered & Covered (a popular slang-y way to order hash browns, as Unsane and Hootie & the Blowfish are no doubt both fond of), among others. Clearly, music and Waffle House are drawn together in a way more inextricable than say, IHOP or Denny’s (though if there’s no rapper that’s ever turned “Moons Over My Hammy” into some sort of sexual reference, that’d be truly shameful).
So my question is this: Why don’t more artists take advantage of this phenomenon? I mean, I don’t know what the demographics are, but I’d imagine a healthy percentage of diners on the low side of the Mason-Dixon (and even some above) eat at a Waffle House at least once every six months or so, and you gotta figure that even if all of them won’t make jukebox selections themselves, most will be in the establishment when others choose songs. If say, The Shins decided to record an EP’s worth of Waffle House-related material, they could either make some sort of deal to sell them to Waffle Houses across the country (who would no doubt be grateful for the new material), or they could release the EP commercially, recoup modest sales numbers for their efforts, and then license the songs to the Waffle House chain for free, where they will receive free publicity from now until virtually the end of time. Where’s the downside, exactly?
But hey, lets not even stop there. If the Waffle House is really an inspiration to musical creativity, why shouldn’t everyone, regardless of genre, get in on the action? Instead of doing a covers album, like everyone else in their genre is doing, why doesn’t Cinderella or Winger come back with an all-Waffle House LP? Now that Kanye has Graduated, can he spend an hour Killing Time at the Waffle House? When will we get to hear the sonorous tones of Brian Eno’s Ambient No. 5: Music for Waffle House? And let’s not even get started on how lax recent country stars have been lately in their lack of Waffle House acknowledgement–c’mon, people, show some pride in your culinary heritage!
Of course, I can’t say that this really has too much of an effect on me one way or the other–living in New York, I only pass Waffle Houses on road trips, and doubt I’ll ever go more than two or three times in a year. But next time I’m there, I want to see a little variety in the jukebox’s WH-related selections. Ludacris. Taylor Swift. Come on, The Flaming Lips!!! Let’s set a precedent here.