EVERY MORNING, Josh Wadley turns on a citizens band radio and rattles off a pitch: “Get to Exit 87 Barbecue. Breakfast, lunch, dinner; half rack, full rack, or pork plate; pocket change, loose change, no change, IOU—we’ll feed you. I’m the Barbecue Man at Exit 87, here till I die with a smoker by my side. Have mercy.”
The sun hasn’t risen yet when Wadley, a convicted felon turned barbecue pitmaster, recites the spiel one January morning. He’s the owner of the I-40 Exit 87 BBQ Stand in Jackson, Tennessee, a town of 66,600 people between Memphis and Nashville. Situated on an asphalt parking lot near Interstate 40, the stand looks primitive compared with the neon-lit truck stops and mega gas stations that surround it: It’s just a retrofitted cargo trailer under a tin awning, with a fort of hickory logs and a smoker and grill out back.