When you think about Memphis, what usually comes to mind? For many, it’s all about the music. Many of the big names in music came out of Memphis, such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and BB King. Now, the city stands as a memory of these artists, with museums, tours, and even restaurants paying homage to their contributions to the musical world. When you visit Memphis, there is a variety of activities you can partake in that will expand your knowledge on these artists, musical history, and more. Any fan of music will find something in Memphis that will speak to them and bring them closer to their favorite styles of music.
Kick off your visit with a tour of one of the studios or factories that have played a big role in founding rock ‘n’ roll. A tour of Sun Studio will give you the chance to stand among greatness. Presley, Cash, Lewis, Orbison, and King – these are just a few of the names that stand out in music history. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and BB King all began their musical careers in Sun Studio, making the studio the only one of its kind to be named a National Historic Landmark. Other popular artists have also made the studio a temporary home of theirs, including Ringo Starr, Def Leppard, Tom Petty, U2, and Matchbox 20. A tour of this recording studio takes visitors on a journey through musical history, back to the days when Elvis was recording “That’s All Right.”
Need a little more history of music? Well, a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory is there to fill that need. Elvis, Slash, Pete Townsend and more have all made these guitars legendary throughout the years. The tour of the factory takes you through the history of Gibson Guitars, including the opportunity to see every stage of production of the instruments. Binding, neck-fitting, painting, buffing, and tuning are all important parts of creating a guitar, and this tour allows you to see how the high standards of quality Gibson is known for come to be. You will also have the opportunity to hear stories of the different popular musicians who have made Gibson Guitars famous.
The walk down the musical memory lane doesn’t stop with these two tours, however. A visit to one of Memphis’ museums only adds to your experience. The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is an interactive storytelling experience of the musical pioneers who have used their music to shake the world. This museum was created by the Smithsonian Institution to shed light on the complicated and incredible history of some of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music’s most talented and noteworthy musicians. Seven galleries are designed to take you through the years of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country, and gospel music in an incredible and interactive experience.
Then make a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, where musical culture was changed forever. Stax originally started as a small record store located in an old movie theater. Throughout the years, however, it transformed into one of the most important recording studios in the world. Stax Records became the launching pad of some of music’s most well-known icons in 1959, starting with Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Albert King, Booker T. and the MG’s, and dozens of others. Now, the museum pays tribute to these and other artists, with over two thousand interactive exhibits, films, artifacts, and galleries. Stax is the only soul music museum in the world, highlighting the contributions of Ike & Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson Five, Ray Charles, and more.
A trip to Memphis is not complete without a visit to Graceland. Elvis Presley’s Graceland Experience takes you on a journey through the home of the rock ‘n’ roll artist from his humble upbringing and start of his musical career, to his rise to stardom. Videos, photographs, personal mementos, memorabilia from movies, stage costumes, and more are all included in a tour through Elvis’ home. An audio-guided tour is available, complete with informative details on his family members and commentary from the star himself. Walk through the famous “Jungle Den,” the racquetball building, the original business office, and the trophy building, before finishing the tour at Elvis’ final resting place. Or, take a self-guided tour through the mansion to see his two custom airplanes, the automobile museum, and more. Elvis Presley called Memphis home, so any music-lover cannot make a trip to the city without visiting the home of “The King.”
A day of sightseeing always brings up an appetite, and once your stomach starts grumbling, don’t let the music stop. Two restaurants in Memphis are dedicated to delivering you delicious food, as they keep up the musical theme of the city. The Hard Rock Cafe is filled with instruments, personal items, and more from some of the most famous musical artists, including Elvis and Janis Joplin. The restaurant will fill your stomach with food as incredible as the music. Or, the Blues City Cafe has some of the most talked-about BBQ ribs and other southern favorites. A local rock band plays as you eat regularly in the Band Box, providing excellent music as an opening act to the food.
For comfort and convenience, stay at the Peabody Memphis, located less than a mile from the Gibson Guitar Factory, the Hard Rock Cafe, the Blues City Cafe, and Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Or, if you just can’t get enough of “The King,” stay in Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, just across the street from Graceland and decorated in the tastes of Elvis, including animal print carpets, velvet purple couches, and red leather. Comfort Inn Downtown Memphis and the Clarion Hotel Airport/Graceland Area are two other lodging options within close proximity to some of the hottest Memphis musical attractions.
Music and Memphis go hand-in-hand. When you make a trip down to the city, be sure to stroll down memory lane and be taken back to the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll music. You will find a greater respect and admiration for your favorite genres of music, as well as the artists who brought rock and blues so close to your heart.