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The Mississippi Blues Trail

First stop: Memphis

Created date

September 29th, 2017
Memphis nightlife.

Memphis nightlife.

There’s a story that Bob Dylan once interrupted a tour of the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn., went over to the very spot where Elvis grabbed his $1 guitar and played his heart out to land a record contract, and kissed the ground. You might not feel quite as moved as Dylan did when you visit the studio, but it’s one of the few historic sites that probably influenced your own personal history. Think of it this way: Without Elvis, there may never have been rock ‘n’ roll.

On Beale Street

From the blues to rock ‘n’ roll to soul, live music has always been the main attraction of Memphis. Once you hit Beale Street, your foot will be tapping no matter which of the many music venues you enter. And while there’s even more music in the evening—such as at Blues City Café (bluescitycafe.com), the perfect combination of great food and music—there’s plenty of blues being played during the day as well. You can even sit outside and enjoy some tasty ribs while listening to a band playing at Silky O’Sullivan’s (silkyosullivans.com).

Graceland

If you’re a true Elvis fan, then Memphis is your personal mecca because of Graceland, Elvis’s beloved home (graceland.com). The house itself isn’t all that grand by today’s standards, but if you imagine the King in the various rooms, you’ll be more impressed. You can only tour the downstairs because the family sometimes stays on the upper floor. But the full collection of Elvis memorabilia across the road, especially the many glitzy outfits he wore, will leave any Elvis fan in awe. The whole tour is well thought out, with an audio guide to fill in the details, but don’t count on dashing through as there are usually long lines to get into the mansion.

Peabody duck march

And where should you stay in Memphis? Of course there are plenty of hotels and motels but none that compare to The Peabody on Union Avenue (peabodymemphis.com). This old-fashioned grand hotel is most famous for…its ducks. Twice a day, the lobby is packed with guests and other visitors waiting around for the small troupe of ducks to parade to or from the interior fountain (where they swim around all day, by the way) along a short red carpet to an elevator that takes them to their roof digs (which you can also visit). Although you might not pay attention to ducks at home, when you’re a tourist there are experiences you just can’t miss, and the Peabody duck march is one of those.

Southern cooking

If you want southern-style cooking, and especially barbecue (in Memphis it’s pork only), there’s no shortage of locations, many of which offer music as a favorite side dish. Memphis is home to more than a hundred barbecue restaurants but also burger joints, authentic Italian and Mexican cuisine, and fine dining venues. 

But if you decide to give your stomach a rest and want to ingest something a little healthier, try Lyfe Kitchen (lyfechiscabar.com), a large restaurant on Main Street that not only serves tasty dishes minus the fat and the grease but also fabulous mixed drinks, like the Smoky Rita, Cucumber Collins, and Chisca Cosmo.

Civil rights connection

Memphis has its serious and tragic side as well. The Lorraine Motel on Mulberry Street, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, a day after giving his famous speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,”
has been transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum (civilrightsmuseum.org). Inside you’ll learn about the history of slavery and the civil rights movement, the Civil War, the Jim Crow era, and the King assassination itself. 

Throughout history, both struggle and prosperity have impacted Memphis, but always with music as this proud city’s constant companion.

 

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