Memphis Tennessee

Memphis is situated along the banks of the Mississippi River just across the border of Arkansas and only miles from Mississippi. It is a city of about 650,000 and ranks sixth in The United States asa center for African Americans. About 65% of the people in Memphis are African American and it shapes the culture and history of the city.

Of course Memphis is known for an unfortunate event in our history; the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. I believe every citizen needs to visit Memphis to experience the emotion of the National Civil Rights Museum. It also important in the history of the Blues. See it performed on Beal Street or explore the history at Stax Records or Sun Studio. Also enjoy some amazing food and barbecue. A great place to visit and explore some original American culture.

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Memphis Skyline

Memphis Skyline

Memphis Skyline

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Stax Records–Soulsville USA

A lot of people if asked, might say Detroit is the home of Soul Music. Hitsville U.S.A. is the nickname given to Motown’s first headquarters. It was purchased by Motown founder Berry Gordy in 1959. However two years earlier Stax Records was founded in Memphis Tennessee. It was later dubbed Soulsville USA.

The Motown and Stax sound were the roots of American soul music. They were more similar than different. However, you could say that the Motown sound fueled by the Funk Brothers was smoother. Stax artists like Otis Redding and Carla Thomas had their roots a little more in gospel and their music was more emotional.

Visiting the Stax Record Museum is a must for anyone visiting Memphis. More than Graceland it explains the soul of the region.

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Soulsville USA

Soulsville USA

Soulsville USA

Soulsville USA

Soulsville USA

Soulsville USA

Beal Street

In Austin it is six street, in New Orleans it is Bourbon Street, in Chicago it is Rush Street and in Memphis it is Beal Street. This is where you go if you want to hear live Music and in most places it is blues music that you will hear.

Memphis is a famous Music City. Most people think of Nashville when they think of live music which is fine if you like country music. However, Memphis is the birth place of soul. Stax Records was known as Soulsville USA and Sun Records is where Elvis Presley and many others recorded.

In 1956 B.B, King moved from Mississippi to Memphis and founded his own record label, Blues Boys Kingdom, with headquarters at Beale Street in Memphis. He opened his first Blues Club on Beal Street which is still serving live music and Barbecue.

After his death B.B. King’s body was flown to Memphis. A funeral procession went down Beale Street, with a brass band marching in front of the hearse, playing When the Saints Go Marching In. Thousands lined the streets to pay their last respects. His body was then driven down Route 61 to his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.

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Beal Street Memphis

Beal Street Memphis

Beal Street Memphis

The Memphis Queen

My wife and I met on a River Boat 50 years ago. It was a paddlewheel ship called the The Gateway Party Liner in Pittsburgh. It was a party cruise with Archie Bell and The Drells. So it seemed right that visiting Memphis as tourists we should take a cruise on The Mississippi River.

We boarded The Memphis Queen and cruised down river a little bit to the south. We then turned and headed North and cruised under the bridges crossing the Mississippi learning the history of rivers boats on the Mississippi. We also learned a lot about the history and culture of Memphis in the 90 minute cruise. It was fun and inexpensive.

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The Memphis Queen

The King on Beale Street

Beale Street in Memphis is where you go to hear live music. The street has many famous clubs where legendary blues and rock artists have performed over the years. Two blocks are closed to traffic and as you get close you can smell the barbecue which is arguably the best in the USA.

It is only fitting that as you stroll down the street there is this magnificent statue of The King, Elvis Presley

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The King on Beale Street

The Memphis Trolleys

Memphis was a city I visited a few times for business but only came away with hours of work and memories of good barbecue. For the first time we spent a few days as tourists and we loved the small city. It has a unique culture, great music, and wonderful people. One of the big surprises was the streetcar system.

Coming from Pittsburgh gave us and appreciation and fond memories of streetcars. However, we had nothing like these wooden beauties. The Memphis Area Transit Authority trolley system began running in 1993. Although the trolleys enjoyed a 21-year run of shuffling locals and tourists through the heart of the city, they haven’t operated in Memphis since 2014, when service was suspended after fires broke out on two cars. They just returned to the city last year. Leave your car in the garage, the trolly is fun and inexpensive.

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Memphis Trolly

Memphis Trolly