With a population of over half-a-million, Memphis is the largest city in the southern state of Tennessee. Due to its rich musical heritage, the city is seen as somewhat of a mecca for music lovers across the world, attracting well hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Memphis began to gain worldwide recognition as a musical hotspot in the 1950s and 60s with the success of Sun Studio recording studio where artists such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash got their big break. As soon as you arrive in Memphis it is clear to see that this is a city steeped in musical history, so let us give you a guide to some of the best musical attractions on offer.
Take a stroll down what is arguably Memphis’ most famous street and have your pick of over 25 top quality music venues. As well as being popular amongst tourists, Beale Street is also where many locals go for their slice of the music action, and you don’t really get a bigger seal of approval than that. We recommend Alfred’s for two of the things Memphis does best - food and live music.
Of course it’s impossible to talk about Memphis without mentioning arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll star of all time, Elvis Presley. Though born in Mississippi, The King is synonymous with Memphis as this is where he made it big and where he decided to call home. In 1957 Elvis bought the legendary Graceland, a 23-room mansion located on the south side of Memphis. Graceland is open to the public, who as well as taking a tour of the mansion can view additional exhibits including The King’s vast collection of automobiles and airplanes.
Elvis wasn’t the only artist to come out of Memphis, far from it - the city has been the making of a whole host of huge stars, and the chances are if they made their name in Memphis, then they recorded in Sun Studios. The studio, founded by the legendary Sam Phillips in 1950 has hosted the likes of Johnny Cash, BB King and Roy Orbison. Sun Studio can be found in its original location, Union Avenue, where it remains a recording studio but is also open for tours seven days a week.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Sun Studio is by no means the only success story of the Memphis music scene - Stax Records is another of Memphis’ exports. Founded by Jim Stewart who was inspired by the success of Sun Studio, Stax Records went on to produce some of the most famous records of all time including “Green Onions” by Booker T & the M.G’s. The studio is now a museum dedicated to this history of soul music and contains a collection of superb photographs and clothing, not to mention Isaac Hayes’ 24-carat-gold Cadillac.
One of the rock music’s longest questions is ‘Gibson or Fender?’ With the two brands dominating the market, there’s no definitive answer other than that they’re both very good. Memphis is home to the Gibson Factory where you can take a tour and watch a humble block of wood transform into an iconic Gibson guitar.
With an array of musical attractions all over the city then why not hire a car and go on tour in the fantastic city of Memphis.