Memphis has a rich history that has been shaped by music, the Mississippi River and the Civil Rights Movement. Most pop music from 1950 on can trace its roots back to folk songs sung in the cotton fields in and around the city. Odds are at least one of your all-time favorite songs was born in this town. The city is overflowing with recording studios, honky-tonks, riverboats and other historic locations, but if you’re looking for places to visit, there is no better place to start than with the King.
Graceland: The one-time home and final resting place of Elvis Presley Graceland is located about 10 miles from downtown Memphis. But never fear, Sun Studio offers a free tour bus every hour on the hour that will take you directly there.
Beale Street: The undisputed musical heart of the city. This festive street is closed off to traffic and is packed with bars, food and novelty shops. Don’t miss out on Schwabs, a dry goods store that is the only remaining original business on Beale Street. Family owned, their motto is “If you can’t find it at A. Schwab, you’re probably better off without it!”
Sun Studio: Opened in 1950 by Sam Phillips this recording studio is, without a doubt, the first studio to record a Rock and Roll song. Early recording artists include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. Sun is still in operation and musicians come from all over the world to record there in hopes of capturing its mojo.
Stax Records: Formed in 1957 and is hailed as the birthplace of Soul music. Recording artists like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett (no relation to Stacey Picket-Cunitz), Sam & Dave, and Isaac Hayes brought this label to the forefront of the music industry in the 60’s and 70’s with hit after hit. Stax also boasts the first ethnically integrated bands and hosted a music festival in 1972 in Los Angeles as an African-American response to Woodstock called Wattstax.
Graceland Too: If you have a car and you’re not faint of heart, trek on out to Graceland Too in Holly Springs, Mississippi. More a private obsession than a museum, it is located in the owner’s house, open 24 hours a day, and boasts the largest collection of Elvis memorabilia in the world.
Gibson Guitar Factory: Ever wondered where Dave Grohl’s guitar came from? The Gibson Guitar Factory offers daily tours of their manufacturing floor where you get to see how the instruments are assembled that make rockin’ possible.
Rock and Soul Museum: Combines all the musical history of Memphis under one roof linking the folk music of the cotton fields to the pop music of today.
Mississippi Riverboat Tours: If you’re not in a Rush, today’s Tom Sawyer would enjoy a Memphis riverboat cruise. The Mississippi was THE thoroughfare for trade in the United States for well over a hundred years and has served as inspiration for countless songs and novels.
The National Civil Rights Museum: Located at the Lorraine Motel, the museum chronicles key episodes of the American civil rights movement and delivers a learning experience in tolerance, human rights and the struggle for equality.
And if you’re still looking for things to do here is a link for TripAdvisor that lists 79 things to do in Memphis