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|MEMPHIS ENERGY IS FELT IN THE STREETS AND THE STUDIO'S
June 19, 2017 - By Nancy Leonard For The Oklahoman / Elvis Express Radio
Memphis is the home of the blues and birthplace of rock n' roll. On the banks of the Mississippi River, the city is defined by legendary music, visionary leaders and dramatic events
that shaped history.
Visitors can discover the stories of music greats, walk in the steps of cultural icons and experience exciting adventures in this remarkable southern destination.
Begin your visit downtown at the Memphis Rock n' Soul Museum that preserves and tells the story of Memphis music and is the only museum in the world the Smithsonian Institution
researched, developed and turned over to a city. Gateway to the Memphis music experience, the museum traces the genre of rock 'n soul music from its rural beginnings to the
cities. There is an excellent film featuring Memphis music legends, personal items from their careers and interesting exhibits that highlight the changing times.
Nearby is the Memphis Music Hall of Fame that recognizes men and women who have influenced the Memphis music industry. Memorabilia from 60 inductees are displayed and
include such items as Jerry Lee Lewis's 1983 customized Cadillac, an Isaac Hayes piano, and a Justin Timberlake tuxedo from his 20/20 Experience World Tour.
In the same building, Lansky Brothers, clothier to celebrities Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, and others, has reopened in its original location. Bernard Lansky was asked
by Johnny Cash to make a black suit like the one Prince Albert was wearing on the can. Lansky did and Cash's signature look became the man in black.
Neighboring Beale Street was the black commercial district where musicians of both races came together to play their distinctive styles of music. Today, Beale Street is alive with
sights and sounds that stimulate the senses. Neon lights shine brightly on crowd-filled streets, street performers entertain visitors and blues and jazz musicians play in busy
restaurants and clubs.
Blues City Cafe offers excellent down-South Delta cooking and guitarist Earl the Pearl Banks is often playing on stage. Across the street is B.B. King's Blues Club with lively music
and enthusiastic audiences. Be a part of the scene so rich in history by taking a leisurely stroll down Beale Street at night.
In the 1950s, the music industry was revolutionized in Memphis recording studios. Sun, Stax and Royal were led by men and women from humble beginnings who were influenced by
music from their childhood. They were eager to find young talent with new and distinctive sounds.
Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records in 1952, grew up working in the cotton fields alongside slaves listening to their blues and gospel songs that told of hardship, loss and hope.
When Sam moved to Memphis and became a radio announcer and engineer, the music of his past was instrumental in his desire to bring blacks and whites together to make music.
When Elvis Presley walked through the door at Sun Records, he was met by Marion Keisker, Sam's assistant, who first recorded Elvis for $4. When Sam heard Elvis's distinctive
sound, he arranged for him to record “That's All Right.” The song was first played on the air by Dewey Phillips, pioneering DJ at Sun Records, and a legendary career was
launched. Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf and other music giants got their start at Sun Records.
The STAX Museum of American Soul Music showcases music legends that began their careers at STAX Records formerly Satellite Records. Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton,
were the owners and promoters behind the careers of such greats as Otis Redding, Isaac Hays, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Ike and Tina Turner and many others. An outstanding
film, memorabilia, interactive exhibits, and over 2000 cultural artifacts about American soul music are featured in the museum. This year is the 50th anniversary of Stax Records, a
label that started with black and white musicians making music for themselves, having fun. What evolved from friendship was authentic pure soul music that was historic.
Royal Studios is one of the oldest continuously working music studios in the world. Established in 1956 by Willie Mitchell, a prime mover of Memphis soul music, it is best known for
recording on the Hi Record Label and Hi Rhythm Section producing Al Green's greatest hits on Royal's legendary Mic 9. Today the studio is managed by Willie's son, Lawrence
“Boo,” who speaks of the magic of creativity that is felt at Royal. Many popular artists still produce at Royal Studios.
• A trip to Memphis would not be complete without a visit to Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion and Elvis Presley's Memphis, a newly opened $45 million entertainment
complex across the street. The impressive facility features personal memorabilia from Elvis' childhood to his automobiles, motorcycles, military service, movie career and music
legacy. Especially interesting is the exhibit "Icons: The Influence of Elvis Presley" that has quotes from music greats. In the words of John Lennon, “Before Elvis there was nothing.”
The new 200,000-square-foot property also has a theater, two restaurants, retail shops, and Lisa Marie and Hound Dog 2 airplanes. For a total experience, Elvis fans can stay
nearby at the new Guest House at Graceland, a Four Diamond Hotel, complete with a theater playing Elvis movies nightly.
• The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is a powerful, moving experience whose exhibits start in the 1600s with slavery and chronicle defining moments in the
struggle for racial equality and justice throughout the years. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership, vision and message of non violence resonates throughout the museum with actual
audio and visual images deepening the impact. Across the street is the Legacy Building, a former boardinghouse where James Earl Ray's fatal shot was allegedly fired and is now
a museum with items from the investigation and an American Civil Rights Timeline.
Annually on April 4 at 6:01 p.m., a commemoration ceremony takes place from the balcony of Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
To recognize the 50th anniversary of King's death in 2018, MLK 50 was launched this year with goals of honoring and reflecting on the past, evaluating the present and proposing
solutions for the future. The yearlong celebration is a partnership with the City of Memphis, BRIDGES and others to create a dynamic experience that inspires equality and justice
for future generations. To become involved in this effort, go to mlk50.civilrightsmuseum.org.
Other things to do in Memphis
• Memphis is famous for its delicious smoked meats and Central BBQ in three locations is always a favorite. Casual and fun, there is usually a line, but the savory fare is worth the
wait. For a change of taste, chef Kelly English has two dining options in midtown, The Second Line and Restaurant Iris, both serving Cajun Creole classics.
• Bass Pro Pyramid, also in downtown, has something for everyone at this unique destination shopping experience. The world's largest Bass Pro features a wilderness lodge,
cypress swamp, 28 floor freestanding glass elevator, and much more. Two restaurants, Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill and the scenic Lookout at the Pyramid are outstanding.
• Families will enjoy the Memphis Zoo, a top tourist attraction, where two giant pandas, Le Le and Ya Ya, make their home. One of only four zoos in the country that have the
endangered bear, the pandas are popular with visitors. With the recently opened Zambezi River Hippo Camp and over 400 species of animals the Memphis Zoo has many
interesting exhibits to explore.
There is an energy in Memphis that is felt in the studios and in the streets. It comes from a knowledge that the innovative music and defining events that happened here have
influenced our world. The city honors the past, celebrates the future and welcomes you to discover its special place in our cultural heritage.