Hilton Head Monthly — Like most writers, I guess, I have a file on my computer called “Story Ideas.” It’s basically a to-do list of things I will probably never do. It’s full of ideas that are pushed aside for work, or parenting, or sleep, tiny flashes of inspiration that arrive during a drive or a lunch and are addressed sporadically in the creative spaces between dishes and running and making sure your magazine gets out somewhere near deadline. My list, for years, has had “Elgie Stover” on it.
Elgie — who passed away last month, didn’t know me and wouldn’t have had the remotest clue why I’m writing about him — was one of those sharply drawn characters that we Midwestern expats encounter here in the Lowcountry and have trouble believing are not fictional. How else could you explain a guy who would show up at perfectly irregular intervals, produce some of planet Earth’s finest barbecue and spin tales about how he came to appear on one of the most loved and acclaimed albums in music history?
As my memory has it — and I warn you that most of the following is clouded by time and beer, mostly beer — I first encountered Elgie very late at night. At the time, more than 12 years ago, I was part of a small crew of lively and extremely broke journalists who would generally end our drinking nights at the inexplicably still-shuttered building that housed the old Blue Nite Cafe, where we knew some guys in the band.
The band usually closed down about 2 a.m., and Elgie would materialize at about 2:04. He’d roll up in this monstrous white truck, which in my memory was about two stories tall, and he’d be towing a monstrous and very elderly-looking black smoker, which in my memory was approximately as long as a football field. We’d gather on the porch outside the bar like children. And he’d open the grill and this giant white puff would burst out and he’d come walking through the smoke and we’d feast and feast and feast. OK, it probably didn’t go like that at all, but I’m sticking with my image, because I like it.