If there are any adults in the western world who haven’t heard of Memphis, I’d love to know where they’ve been hiding. Famous the world over for its music and, in particular, its connection with Elvis Presley, Memphis attracts tourists hoping to soak up some of that southern atmosphere.
A musical heritage
Situated alongside the Mississippi River, the largest city in Tennessee has everything you would expect from such a vast urban spread, with many museums, galleries and beautiful public parks and gardens. However, it also has something unique to this location, which is a wealth of musical tradition, demonstrated by the presence of the Gibson Guitar Factory, the Memphis Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum and Beale Street. This street has been both a magnet and a springboard for jazz and blues musicians since the 1920s, with luminaries of the genres such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Louis Armstrong playing extensively there. Such was the influence of this area, that the music perfected by the musicians of Beale Street became known as Memphis Blues. Tourists can enjoy the Beale Street Music Festival, which celebrates a variety of musical styles and is the first of many events during the festival named ‘Memphis in May’.
Photo by: s.v.e.n
The Elvis connection
Of course, one of the main attractions for tourists coming to Memphis is Graceland, the palatial home of the late, great King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Elvis owned Graceland from 1957 until his death, in 1977, and is the final resting place of both Elvis and his parents. Visitors enjoying a tour of the mansion can see all the rooms used by the Presley family, which are preserved in the condition in which they would have been before Elvis’ death. As well as being his home, Graceland houses his collection of jets, cars – including the famous pink Cadillac – and his private drive-in cinema, in which you can watch a film about his life.
For the avid Elvis fan, or even those who simply enjoy rock and roll music, no visit to Memphis would be complete without a trip to Sun Studio, where Elvis recorded his first demo and the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins – who wrote Blue Suede Shoes – held an unplanned jam session in 1956. The studio runs tours every day, lasting a little under an hour, in which visitors can see the places where the legendary singers recorded the songs that became classics.
The beauty of Memphis
There’s a lot more to do in the official ‘Home of the Blues’. It is, of course, a very beautiful part of the world, situated on the bank of the world-famous Mississippi River, which is a tourist attraction in its own right. There are several places of interest along the river, including the Mississippi River Park, at Mud Island, where visitors can enjoy a scenic walk along the bank or go rafting before dropping into the Mississippi River Museum to see the replica steam-boat, which is reminiscent of the crafts that played such a large part in the history of the Mississippi River.
City of many attractions
One of the best things about Memphis is the variety of activities and attractions available, including the Memphis Zoo, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens Art Museum and the Victorian Village, which features a whole area of beautifully preserved Victorian buildings. There are many fine places to eat, such as B.B. King’s Blues Club, in which you can try a delicious southern signature dish of gumbo or an almost legendary chilli, whilst listening to live music.
Like most places in the US, Memphis sprawls over quite a wide area, so it’s not the kind of city you should try to see on foot. Luckily, it’s very easy to arrange car hire in America via the internet, so you’ll know that everything will be ready for you when you get there and you won’t waste any of your holiday. When you drive into town, you’ll be sure to get a big Memphis welcome that will make you wish you could stay in the bosom of the Mississippi for ever.