The heart and soul of Memphis is in its music, and it is one of few cities to have such royal musical blood. From the King of Blues on Beale Street to the King of Rock n’ Roll at Graceland, music is in the air and on the streets! Anyone who is a music lover absolutely needs to come to Memphis at least once in their lifetime. Here are the four iconic locations you must visit to experience the best musical history in Memphis.
Let’s talk about that Music Royalty. Millions of visitors make the pilgrimage to Memphis every year to visit the former home of the King of Rock n’ Roll. Graceland sits like a shining beacon to all those who loved his music, movies, passion, and genius. The mansion, still preserved in all of its over the top, flamboyant glory, is a must-see for any music fan who comes to Memphis. As you walk through the house, you get the feeling that time stood still after he died. It’s part of the charm, and I think it plays a big role in why people love it so much.
Keep in mind, Graceland is a big business, and it’s a tourist attraction. It will be crowded, especially if you come during the week of Elvis’s death (August 16th), or his birth (January 8th). But it’s also an extremely cool and moving experience, and you can’t help but feel a sense of sadness at the loss of his beautiful soul.
2. Sun Studios
Visit historic Sun Studios and take a stroll down memory lane to the time when Rock n’ Roll was born. Sam Phillips first opened the historic Sun Studios in 1950. Since that time, so many famous musicians have recorded at this iconic studio, there are too many to count! B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis, just to name a few.
See the famous musical artifacts on display, listen to the recording sessions that put Memphis on the musical world map, and stand on the hollowed ground where some of the greatest music in history was recorded. If you want, you can even stand at one of their vintage microphones and strike your best Elivs pose!
3. Stax Records
Speaking of historic music studios, Memphis also boasts the legendary Stax Records. What started out as a recording studio in a back street garage became a multi-million dollar organization. Now operating as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a stop here will transport you back in time to the beginning of Soulsville USA, where artists the likes of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and Rufus Thomas recorded the music that created the “Memphis Sound”.
Talk about music royalty! But the real beauty of Stax Records was that despite the racial division of the city and country at the time, it recognized and celebrated musical talent for what it was, regardless of skin color, age or gender. And that legacy continues today with the creation of the Soulsville Foundation and the Stax Music Academy across the street, a public charter school that offers opportunities for Memphis’s next generation of musicians to find their talent and follow their dreams.
4. Beale Street
Beale Street. Home of the Blues. Made famous by legends such as B.B. King, W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters. Walk down this historic street and take your pick of famous blues halls and music rooms, where legends have played and a new generation of musicians take the stage every night of the week.
There’s even an International Blues Challenge held here every year that brings artists from all corners of the world! The Blues is truly a universal language. It isn’t just music, it’s a feeling. B.B. King’s Blues Club, Alfred's on Beale, or the W.C Handy Blues Hall at the Rum Boogie Cafe; no matter which blues club you choose, take your time and stay awhile. Pull up a chair, listen to the words, feel the sweet singing of the guitar, and let the music of Memphis permeate your soul.
Memphis has a rockin' live music scene too! Check these out for the latest news on Memphis live music and where to find it.
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