We rolled into Memphis on a clear day and could feel the vibe immediately. Our home in Memphis is the Tom Sawyer RV Park, located right alongside the Mississippi River in West Memphis, AR. Our waterfront site gave us a front row seat to watch a never-ending parade of barges. Throughout the day and night we listened to the hum of the barges as they passed.
Luckily the water level seemed low—at least compared to the sign we saw in the park that indicated the water level had risen at least twenty feet in May of 2011.
Memphis is the home of the blues and there are numerous attractions celebrating music. We purchased a “Backstage Pass” which gave us entry into the key musical sites. First we visited Stax Museum of American Soul Music where Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Isaac Hayes among others cut their hits. It was fun to see the wall of records and Isaac Hayes’ 24-karat trimmed Cadillac Eldorado.
The other big studio tour not to miss in Memphis is Sun Studios. Known as the “birthplace of rock and roll” Sun is the location where Elvis was discovered and where Johnny Cash recorded his famous songs including, “I Walk the Line.”
BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison all recorded in the studio that we were able to wander around. Steve even tried to sing (not really) into the original microphone used by the hitmakers. After visiting Sun Studios we we felt like we had a pretty good introduction to Memphis music.
You can’t come to Memphis and not visit Beale Street. This legendary lane is where all the music goes down. We kind of compared it to Boubon Street in New Orleans. However, during a pandemic, there’s not much going on!
We were able to see a little live blues music at BB King’s Blues Club and wander the street without the usual crowds.
Memphis is a significant location in the civil rights movement, and we were eager to learn more about the historic events that have shaped our world today. The National Civil Rights Museum traces the history of civil rights from 17th century to present day, though the story is certainly not over. Events of the last year seem to be mirroring much of what we learned at this incredible museum.
The museum is located in and around the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. As part of the museum tour we were able to see rooms 306 and 307, where King and his colleagues were staying. The rooms were set just as they were at the time of the assassination. You can’t help but have a deeper, more meaningful view of history when you visit places like this.
A visit to Memphis would not be complete without a visit to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.
The highlight is certainly the audio-guided tour of Elvis’ eclectic home. We saw it all including the jungle room, the racquetball room, and the meditation garden which holds the remains of Elvis and his family members. The best part, at least for us, was the lack of crowds due to the pandemic. Most of the time we were alone as we took our time wandering the grounds.
A tour to Graceland includes more than just the mansion. They now have a large entertainment complex across the street which features his cars, boats, motorcycles, and airplanes. It also displays his gold records, adorned jumpsuits, and tons of other Elvis memorabilia. I must admit, if you aren’t a big Elvis fan, it’s a LOT of Elvis. But we enjoyed it!
Yes, Memphis BBQ is as good as they say and we made sure to do our research! Central BBQ is one we can highly recommend. We’re now headed east to Nashville, the home of country music and you can be sure we’ll continue our research!