March 2018

By Marshall Chapman

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

Last week, three men in a large, white van from the Jean and Alexander Heard Library [Vanderbilt] came to my house and hauled away just about everything I once deemed important—letters, postcards, journals, early recordings, manuscripts, press, music videos, VHS tapes of TV appearances, demo cassettes, legal pads filled with lyrics and song ideas, show posters … you name it. I even parted with my most treasured possession—an autographed picture of Robert Mitchum on which he inscribed “To Marshall—With enthusiastic appreciation of your talents—and your kindness—Robert Mitchum.”

At first, I only wanted to let Vanderbilt have things that would make me look good in posterity. But then I thought, Hell, the weird stuff’s the most interesting! So into the van went everything. Including a 1979 issue of Penthouse in which Penthouse Pet of the Month, Dusty Jackson, proclaims that Marshall Chapman and Dolly Parton are her two favorite artists. Then proceeds to explain why (not printable here). Needless to say, when I went home to Spartanburg that Christmas, I remember being besieged at a cocktail party by men—many of them friends of my parents—wanting to know (1) if I knew Dusty Jackson personally, and (2) if I did, would I introduce them to her. And please be assured that there is nothing quite as surreal as seeing one’s name in print adjacent to close-ups of certain parts of the female anatomy rarely exposed to daylight.

Once I started going through everything, letting go became easier and easier. Stuff I never thought I could part with, like the chair that Elvis Presley once sat in at the Piedmont Steak House in Spartanburg. My mother got that chair for me at an auction in the spring of 1997 after the venerable restaurant had closed its doors for good. For over twenty years, The Chair occupied a sacred place in my dining room. Guests would arm wrestle over who got to sit in it. My one regret is that I didn’t keep a register of who actually did sit in it—both the famous and the infamous.

But for the record, James McCullough of Vanderbilt Acquisitions was the last person to sit in the Elvis Chair before it left my house for good. And somehow, that seems fitting.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit

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