Aretha Franklin eats at Salisbury Cracker Barrel

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2012

By Katie Scarvey
SALISBURY — Aretha Franklin must like to eat at Cracker Barrel when she’s on the road.
Last week, Twitter heated up with sightings of the Queen of Soul at the Cracker Barrel in Mebane.
Sunday evening, the singer showed up at the Cracker Barrel in Salisbury around 6:30, said associate manager Tracie Leonard.
One of her traveling companions, possibly a bodyguard, came in first and requested a table in front of the fireplace. He mentioned that he had Aretha Franklin outside.
“We didn’t believe him,” said Alnesha Speight, who was the hostess on duty. “But it really was Aretha Franklin. It was so exciting.”
Franklin, who’s lost more than 80 pounds in the past year or so, ordered grilled lemon pepper trout and vegetables.
Leonard says the Cracker Barrel staff tried to make sure Franklin could eat in peace, so no one approached her party as they ate.
Before leaving, Franklin returned that respect, complimenting her servers, signing some autographs and taking photos with fans. Speight said the singer also bought a few shirts.
Speight took a cellphone photo of Franklin, who told her she liked the name “Alnesha” as she signed an autograph.
“She was so nice and softspoken,” Speight said.
Beverly Ellis of Spencer was at the nearby Walmart with her grandchildren and her sister Bonnie Goodlett when she heard from a shopper there that Franklin had been at Cracker Barrel.
They spotted a tour bus outside, so they knocked on the door and asked if they could get a photo with Franklin.
The driver told them Franklin was in Walmart. As the two women walked back to the store entrance, they noticed Franklin standing outside with three men.
“She’s lost a lot of weight and looks really good,” Ellis said.
Franklin agreed to pose for a photo. As they said goodbye, “she hugged us and told us she loved us,” Ellis said.
Franklin, 69, has 20 Grammys and is perhaps best known for her 1967 hit “Respect.” In 1987, she became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Franklin has been in the news recently because of her engagement to longtime friend William “Willie” Wilkerson.
On Saturday, the singer was in Atlanta receiving a Trumpet Award honoring her late father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. A Baptist minister who died in 1984, her father was being recognized for his civil rights work.
Franklin is scheduled to be in Washington Jan. 13 to tape the BET Honors show that will pay tribute to Stevie Wonder.
She will be back in North Carolina Feb. 9 for a concert in Durham.