When you think of Memphis, what do you think of? Likely Elvis comes to mind, the birthplace of rock-and-roll according to most, and a sense of some things southern, especially given the fact that Memphis is only a stone’s throw from the Mississippi border.
History tells us a lot. Rewind the clock to the 1500′s when the Spanish first settled in the area and then visualize Confederacy supporters during the Civil War. It was considered a strategic location at the time because of its prime location along the Mississippi River, but its location also contributed to the city’s first failure.
The city didn’t enjoy the sanitary conditions that it does today and much of the area was prone to flooding, which led to the breeding of mosquitoes. Then, yellow fever. This was long long before a wealthy black businessman named Robert Church, Sr., began buying up land around town, primarily on Beale Street. For those not familiar with the Memphis Scene, it is where the blues, soul and rock music performed in its music heyday and still today.
He built Church Park and Auditorium as a place specifically for blacks and helped
Lafayette’s Music Room is a historical venue in Memphis Tennessee but apparently had gone “dark” for years. Today, it stands strong in Memphis Midtown’s revitalized Overton Square, a fun and funky area that boasts a number of great shops, restaurants and bars. It is also home to some of the best live music in town, seven nights a week.
The original Lafayette’s was a small but influential venue rooted in in the most happening corridor of Memphis, and the venue played host to many stars before they were famous such as Billy Joel and KISS. This is where we were introduced to the ever so electric and intoxicating energy and sound of Barbara Blue, a bit of a music legend in Memphis.
While she mostly plays at a regular venue on Beale Street, she managed to get everyone in Lafayette’s clicking their heals and clapping their hands all night long. Man, what a sound. Man, what an energy!
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Barbara has had the blues since the day she was born. She’s had her own band since 1989 and with them and solo, she is progressing right up blues alley.
Blues and jazz lovers will likely know about Clarksdale Mississippi, the home of the Delta Blues and where some of the best blues musicians started and have played over the years. It’s a funky little American town and if you are interested in American History, the South and southern culture and blues music, Clarksdale is a must for your Southern State list. There are two notable places I’d recommend for lodging and they couldn’t be different from each other.
Right in the center of town, you’ll find Five and Dime Lofts
on Yazoo Street, together with its sister restaurant next door on the ground floor – Yazoo Pass. The entire building is owned by a guy they refer to as Bubba in town. You probably don’t expect a guy named Bubba to have an Irish surname, but Bubba O’Keefe is somewhat legendary in Clarksdale. You can learn more about the background of the Five and Dime Lofts in this short, but interesting video
that will take you to the past when it was once an old Woolworth building in its heyday.
Bubba has been referred to as a visionary homeboy and in one article on him, he…
Nashville’s renowned Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
recently unveiled a $100-million expansion, doubling its size to 350,000 square feet of dynamic state-of-the-art galleries, archival storage, education classrooms, retail stores, and special event space boasting stunning downtown views.
The ambitious 210,000-square-foot expansion at their 222 5th
Avenue North location was completed in April 2014, and includes an 800-seat CMA Theater and the Taylor Swift Education Center, which features three classrooms and an interactive, hands-on immersion into contemporary country music. Also on-site is the ACM Gallery and the Fred and Dinah Gretsch Family Gallery, the legendary letterpress operation of Hatch Show Print.
We were there to see the updated version of this incredible museum in roughly 6-8 months after its completion…..and so, all if twas new – the additions, the energy, the vibe….all of it.
While there were so many costume, shoe and other relic pieces of the time, the prize, at least for me, went to the gold Baby Grand that belonged to Elvis Presley (I understand….a gift from his wife?).
The clothing on display was retro and so worth a very long stroll and then back again….
While parking the car one night to see Damien Horne at Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville (see my Honky Tonk
write up, which includes the Damien Horne show) on the other side of town, I ran into a few guys who were on their way to an anniversary party and within fifteen minutes of chatting with them, we found ourselves invited.
The anniversary party was no ordinary anniversary party however, but the 45th anniversary party of Gruhn Guitars,
who happens to own the URL www.guitars.com — yes really. Something told me within being within Gruhn Guitars walls for no more than two minutes that the guy behind Gruhn might just know a thing or two about guitars.
Floor after floor was filled to the brim with acoustic and electric guitars. You’ll learn a lot and be blown away by the volume of guitars at Gruhn Guitars but you’ll also have a lot of fun.
Hell, I even got an opportunity to hang out with renowned country singer Ranger Bob, who we saw play at the Grand Ole Opry earlier in the week.
Located at the original site of Stax Records on 926 East McLemore Avenue in Memphis, the Stax Museum pays tribute to some of the best soul music artists who ever lived. The greats who performed there include Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Booker T and the MGs. The museum includes more than 2,000 exhibits, which while it may include guitars and original recorded records on display, it also has a number of quirky objects such as this Duck Dunn pipe.
The story of Stax Records is one of a cultural phenomenon that changed the culture of music forever – locally, nationally, and internationally. The success of Stax was perhaps, as Steve Cropper has said, “an accident. Many factors were involved with the success of Stax.”
What began as a tiny record store in an old movie theater at the corner of McLemore Avenue and College Street in Memphis, Tennessee, grew to become one of the most important music recording studios in the world. When the modest Capitol Theater in the heart of Soulsville USA was transformed into Stax Records in 1959, it began launching the careers of unknowns who would become icons, cranking out a massive catalog of smash soul…
On the other side of town from the infamous Beale Street in Memphis lies Sun Studio on 706 Union Avenue, the same studio where Elvis regularly hung his hat and recorded tunes at the beginning of his career.
It has been said that “if music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio its most holy shrine.” As a tourist spot, it’s incredibly unpretentious — in fact, it looks as it has remained untouched for the most part since the 1950′s, and that’s just inside.
Of course, as you walk through the studio, it’s not just the recording studio itself that is awe-inspiring and authentic but they have a number of historical guitars, microphones and original records on display to marvel at….and it’s not just Elvis of course.
There were original recordings by Johnny Cash (see my Johnny Cash Museum
write-up including a special video interview and tons of photos), Elvis and others. It was of course Elvis who changed what Memphis meant to the world and…
I typically don’t gravitate to the top tourist attractions when I land at a destination – largely, it’s not the tourist attraction per se that attracts me to the place, but there may be something about it or the people from a place I’m interested in finding out more about.
You can’t go to Memphis Tennessee and not take in at least something connecting to Elvis Presley, especially if you love Rock-and-Roll and the blues. I of course, am a fan of both and have always loved Elvis songs. That said, I heard mixed things about Graceland so was somewhat hesitant about visiting, however I had to see it – after all, how did Priscilla decorate the house after all? I had to know and had to see, kitch 1960′s, 1970′s and all.
Truth be told, it was a bit like people described – the size of the place is daunting since Graceland has become much much more than the home Elvis once lived in. After parking in a large lot, you then have to hop a shuttle bus to the beginning of the guided tour, which walks you through the main house itself. Luckily it was off-season so while…
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