R.I.P. Hal White
The first time I ever saw Steve Earle, he was sitting alone at a Hal & Mal’s two top, turned sideways in his chair, back to the wall, just finished eating some of Hal White’s food. Over the years, Hal fed and hosted a ton of artists at his restaurant in a depo/warehouse structure on the edge of downtown Jackson, Mississippi. I first saw Emmylou (with the Nash Ramblers – God, I wish she’d tour with them again) at Hal & Mal’s. Same for Shelby Lynne, Nickel Creek, James McMurtry, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Steve Forbert and so many others.
Hal White died yesterday at St. Dominic’s Hospital, the result of an aneurysm. He was 64. Hal was the older brother to Malcolm White, his business partner. Malcolm was Hal & Mal’s impresario, but Hal was the guy who kept the place open and put the food on the tables. There are some great quotes on Hal in this article in today’s Clarion-Ledger.
Hal was quite a cook. He ran an excellent kitchen with good, solid food. The menu is here, you can see for yourself that it’s Southern food, a merger of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Orleans and a bit of the hills of Northeast Mississippi. My personal favorite? The red beans & rice. Half order. After you finish, you say what everybody always says, “Man, I don’t know how you’d eat a whole order.”
I’m going to miss Hal White. In my mind’s eye, I see him standing at the end of the bar, close to the kitchen door, with his apron on, having a beer, or maybe just talking to someone at the bar. He’s a little grumpy, maybe, because he was that way sometimes, but he’s still glad to see me. And I’m glad to see him. That’s the way it was, a lot of times. And will be again. Amen.