Smokey Robinson Integrates CrackerBarrel – WTF?!?


Famed singer joins an
all-star roster of musicians to sing for the notorious restaurant chain. Maybe
a lunch counter sit-in would’ve been a better idea.


By Fred Mills


Ya know, they don’t call it Cracker Barrel for nothing, kids.


Even by my own skewed standards, the promotional postcard
that arrived in the mail announcing a new Smokey Robinson compilation
courtesy that bastion of soul, funk and urban sounds, Cracker Barrel – made me
do a double take. Now And Then, arriving Nov. 1 and available exclusively at the venerable roadside eatery
chain or via mail order at the CB online store, will feature six tracks from
2009’s Time Flies When You’re Having Fun plus six live classics including “Tracks of My Tears” and “The Tears of a
Clown.” (If you pre-order the CD “you could be one of the lucky ones to receive
a signed copy,” by the way.)


What the fuck? Smokey Robinson at Cracker Barrel?


Let’s see, Cracker Barrel Music currently lists 24 artists
and releases, among them Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, Merle Haggard, Amy
Grant, Kenny Rogers, Alabama, Alan Jackson, George Jones and the Zac Brown
Band. We ain’t exactly talkin’ Chocolate
City here. And while it
is admirable that Smokey is willing to step up and integrate this particular musical
school… whew. Was Starbucks not an option?


Literally two days after I got the postcard in the mail, the
following news story
appeared at “Plea deal in beating at Georgia
Cracker Barrel,” about a racially motivated attack at the Morrow, Ga., Cracker
Barrel in 2009 by one Troy Dale West Jr., a white man, upon Tasha Hill, a black
woman. You can read the entire story here; it’s pretty self explanatory.


The fact that it occurred at a Cracker Barrel would normally
be incidental, except for the nagging fact that the restaurant chain has a
shameful history regarding race relations dating back many years. One could go
as far as suggesting that perhaps people like Troy Dale West Jr. feel empowered when they walk through the
doors of Cracker Barrel. For example, in 2001, a $100 million federal lawsuit
was filed
against Cracker Barrel alleging “systematic discrimination” and “acts
of alleged racism in 175 cities in 30 states” – specifically, denying African
American customers service and effectively segregating them by seating them in
the smoking section. The company later settled in 2004 with the Justice
Department for a reported $8.7 million.


Then in 2006 Chris Rock’s mother sued the chain over
allegedly ignoring her and her daughter during a visit to a South Carolina
Cracker Barrel. It doesn’t take much Googling to find other such incidents,
complaints posted online by present and former employees, and more. Cracker
Barrel is, like, the George Wallace of restaurants chains. You youngsters
reading this may have to look up the name “George Wallace”…


In an interview at, Robinson acknowledged the
chain’s regressive image, offering a somewhat tepid explanation – that reads
suspiciously like a p.r. agent’s spin terminology – for his decision to do the
CD: “It’s time to change that imagery of Cracker Barrel. I’m very happy to be
the one breaking that ground with them. It’s progress.”


Shit man, are you
fucking kidding me?
C’mon Smokey – like I said, there’s a reason the joint
is called Cracker Barrel. Hope you’re
getting a sweet payday when all is said and done, ‘cos your credibility just
received a foreclosure notice.


Where’s George Clinton when we need him?



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