Walking in Memphis
Asingle shot, which resonated around the world, changed everything in an instant. The time 6.01pm! The date April 4th 1968, Memphis Tennessee! Until that exact time and date everyone at Stax Records in Memphis…black, white, yellow or green, had worked at making some of the best music the world had heard, without one iota of regard to what each others’ skin colour was.
Younger readers may know Isaac Hayes as Chef from South Park but in the late 60’s and early 70’s Hayes was one of the most prominent music writers in the US. His partnership with Dave Porter produced the legendary Soul Man for duet Sam & Dave, and it is regarded as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years (Source: Grammy Hall of Fame)
Along with Hayes, names like Booker T & the M.G.s, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and the legendary Otis Redding all recorded at Stax Records.
There is a free (hourly) shuttle that runs all day between Sun Studios, Graceland and the Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum. This is a great (inexpensive) way to get around and see three of the big attractions this city has to offer.
But, if it’s the personal style of tour you like then I highly recommend Mr. Tad Pierson …American Dream Safari.
Not only will Tad be able to get you in to places like Royal Studios (it seems like he knows everyone in Memphis) but for this Kansas born and bred “young” man he will show all there is to do in Memphis and more. It is his passion …it is his dream. Did I mention you will be transported around Memphis in his 1955 Pink Cadillac?
And then there is Graceland …home to “you know who” and a destination in itself. I grew up with my parents loving him and his music (okay, mum more than dad – but you get the picture), so it was with much anticipation that I jumped the bus out to Graceland (about 15 minutes or so out of town) and held my breath as the shuttle rolled past the gates and in to the drop off area.
Like many who see Graceland for the first time I was a little taken back by the size (or lack of). Much like the Sphinx in Cairo it is smaller than you expect …but great things come in small packages and Graceland certainly punches above its weight.
Since you have come this far make sure you book in for the Platinum Tour (US$ 37) – this encompasses everything. The Mansion Tour, the Airplanes, The Car Museum, a tribute to his Hawai’i days and much, much more!
The Mansion Tour ends with a very solemn walk past his grave (Yes, he really is gone), which is located in the gardens …where he lays next to his mother, father and grandmother …along with a plaque dedicated to his twin brother. If you really want to experience a little bit more of Elvis-mania then stay at Heartbreak Hotel …which is NOT down Lonely Street, but just across the road from Graceland.
A place much better than Lonely Street is the world famous Beale Street! Balance your tourism genes with a good night (or three) at BB King’s on Beale Street, or any of the plethora of bars and restaurants. The food was great wherever I went – great southern style, and the friendliest of people.
If it’s a little more “traditional” faire you’re after try Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Not exactly silver service (the opposite is closer) but the food is 100% superb …right down to the plastic chairs, beans and back street location. Colonel Sanders eat your heart out!!!
And to make sure you are always close to the action, stay at The Peabody Hotel – literally a three minute walk to BB King’s. Enjoy a relaxing drink in their lobby bar while you fight for your spot to watch the famous Peabody Ducks. Twice a day, every day, these ducks are “marched” from their home on the roof of the hotel to the fountain in the lobby and back again to the “Ooos” and “Aaahs” of many a camera happy tourist. A point of difference? Absolutely – but for the best view head to the mezzanine floor, facing the fountain.
For your final place of interest you can go back to where it all started …the Lorraine Motel, which now forms part of the National Civil Rights Museum. The location of that resonating shot fired from the gun of one James Earl Ray.
It’s a place that reflects the story of a people, of their hopes and dreams, of challenges and change…a place that will forever go down in history.
Walking in Memphis is easy enough to do …most things are quite close to town and easy enough to get to…it’s whose shoes you are walking in that will reflect how you fall in love with this city just like I did.
Got what I got the hard way And I’ll make it better each and every daySo honey, don’t you fret ‘Cause you ain’t seen nothing yet I’m a soul man, I’m a soul man, play it SteveI’m a soul man, I’m a soul man
Tad Pierson and his “baby”
Graceland I’m going to Graceland Memphis Tennessee I’m going to Graceland Poorboys and Pilgrims with families And we are going to Graceland And my traveling companions Are ghosts and empty sockets I’m looking at ghosts and empties But I’ve reason to believe We all will be received In Graceland