Musical Memphis

My husband and I spent a long weekend in Memphis to explore the history/roots of rock 'n' roll, as well as the country we live in and call "home".

Musical Memphis

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mre16 on August 4, 2005

If you're musically oriented (like my husband, who works in the music industry, collects music and musical instruments), Memphis is a must-visit. Touted as the birthplace of rock-n-roll, Memphis still bubbles over with its musical heritage. Either music or scrumptious aromas waft out of every storefront along Beale Street, which is permanently blocked off to allow tourists to explore without having to dodge the traffic. Music buffs will enjoy the Gibson Factory Tour, The Rock and Soul Museum, Graceland, Sun Studios, and the endless choices of live bands playing every night at every juke joint on Beale Street.

There are additional attractions for the not-so-musically inclined (like me) who may enjoy the National Civil Rights Museum, A. Schwabs Drygoods Store, and great shopping.${QuickSuggestions} DO NOT try to save money by staying on the fringes of the action. Our hotel was 12 blocks away from Beale Street (where we found ourselves more times than not), and it just wasn't worth the hassle worrying about what time the trolley was leaving or how we were otherwise going to get back to our hotel. Spend the extra dough and stay within a block or two of the action (unless you don't mind spending $30 on a cab ride).

DO take the trolley if you need transportation. It's inexpensive and picturesque.${BestWay} Take the trolley as much as you need to. The hours are limited, but it's the most economical means of transportation and runs almost to the edge of town. One of the most important stops for the tourist is at the top of Beale Street. What more could you ask for? Just watch your time, because it does stop running around midnight or sooner, and I wouldn't recommend walking to your hotel if it's more than a block or two from bustling Beale Street.

Wyndham Garden Hotel

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by mre16 on August 4, 2005

When I was making our travel arrangements, I reasoned with myself that we should spend less on the hotel and spend the money elsewhere. Hindsight tells me that that theory is stupid and to stay in the heart of the action to save money on transportation. This hotel has NO amenities, no continental breakfast, no fridge in the room, no shuttle to downtown, no gift shops, and the desk clerks can't be bothered. When I asked for transportation options, they referred me to MATA (public bus) and handed me a phone number to call myself. Since I was a stranger to town, I couldn't even decipher the MATA phone message - USELESS. In addition, Tulane used this hotel as their home during an away game, so we walked into the lobby one night and almost were swallowed up by about 50 300-pound teenagers getting pumped up for their game the following day. In addition, the furnishings are sterile and sparse.
Wyndham Garden Hotel - Memphis
300 N 2nd Street
Memphis, Tennessee, 38105
(901) 525-1800

The Rendezvous

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mre16 on August 5, 2005

Be warned that Memphis' Famous Rendezvous Restaurant has a challenging entrance. It's listed as 52nd South Second Street, but when you're on Second Street, all you can see is Erika's German Restaurant. If you take a second look, you might see the barely noticeable stained-glass window above a door that has "Rendezvous" etched in the glass. We had to walk up to the door to see a paper that directed us to the main entrance in the alley around the corner. We had to walk through an alley and past several dumpsters to get to the "front" entrance. The hostess asked, "How many?" and pointed to the general area where she wanted us to sit, all the while never giving her stool seat a chance to cool. An elderly, heavyset African-American gentleman saw us approaching and yelled, "Two? Two? Come on down here, Two. Take a seat right there, Two." He turned out to be our waiter, but the entire meal, he was shouting at us from behind a half-wall. He rarely moved from his spot.

He gave us about 3 minutes to glance over the menu before he demanded, "Are you folks going to eat something or not?" We ordered pork barbecue sandwiches, which were OUTSTANDING! Definitely the BEST in Memphis! (If you love their barbecue, don't miss purchasing a couple of bottles on your way out.) Before we left, my husband asked our waiter if he could take a photo, and the waiter quipped, "Hell, yeah," and grinned widely for the camera - the only time we'd seen him smile since we sat down. My husband later commented that he'd never been treated so badly before and had to pay for it. Something about Rendezvous works, because the food is outstanding and the service wasn't as bad as it was comical. We made our way to the door, laughing all the way.

Behind 52 South Second Street (downstairs) Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous Alley
Memphis, Tennessee, 38103
(901) 523-2746

Rock and Soul Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mre16 on August 4, 2005

The Rock and Soul Museum has appeal for everyone. Not being specifically musically inclined, I was drawn to the roots of rock and soul, in particular the plight of the sharecropper and the emigration of 7 million sharecroppers and farmers to the cities in search of a better life. Apparently, BB King worked as a sharecropper, making about $15 a week. He migrated to Memphis one weekend, opened up a guitar case, and started playing music. At the end of the day, he'd made $400 and never went back. I loved the recordings of the cotton pickers singing gospel hymns - such sorrowful laments over their lives and hardships. It was so mystical and sad. I loved this tour because it was self-guided, with individual headphones that you could move at your own pace and skip over the sections when your interest waned. Open daily, $9 adults.
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
191 Beale Street
Memphis, Tennessee, 38103
(901) 205-2533

National Civil Rights Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mre16 on August 4, 2005

The National Civil Rights Museum is riveting for all Americans of all races and cultures. The museum is set in the exact location of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lorraine Hotel. The museum goes into great depths explaining the plight of black Americans during this tumultous time in our history, culminating in the assination of Dr. King. You CANNOT truly see Memphis until you visit this poignant display. You could easily spend 4+ hours in this museum perusing the events leading up to the death of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the aftermath and investigation. In addition, the tour ends with an intensive exploration of many (if not all) civil rights milestones that lead up to the assassination of Dr. King.
National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
450 Mulberry Street
Memphis, Tennessee, 38103
(901) 521-9699

Blues Hall Juke Joint

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mre16 on August 5, 2005

We meandered into Blues Hall, drawn in by the sign that read, "No Cover Ever," and we stayed for the rest of the night, captivated by the atmosphere and the band.

The inside immediately reminded me of somewhere you might see in New Orleans. The walls are exposed brick with artifacts, flags, and old photographs of Southerners dressed in their Sunday finest--possibly taken over 100 years ago. The staff was courteous and as attentive as they could be to the standing room-only crowd.

The band we were captivated by was talented, playful with the crowd, and fun to be around. I believe they called themselves the MOJO Blues Band. The crowd ranged in ages from the barely legal to empty nesters. We could hardly peel ourselves off our bar stools when it was time to go - it was that enjoyable.

Mr. Handy's Blues Hall
Adjoining the Rum Boogie Cafe
Memphis, Tennessee, 38103


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mre16 on August 10, 2005

What visit to Memphis would be complete without a visit to Graceland? Graceland is highly underrated compared to today's "Cribs" and other reality shows giving you insight into the way Hollywood stars live today. I myself was shocked by the size of Elvis' home. Once you put yourself into the mindset that this mansion was decorated and lived in during the 1970s, it's still hard to grasp that such a pinnacle of our time lived in these surroundings. It's flashy, yes, but it's by no means over-the-top. Easily you could see a family of four residing in the same house today (with some major decorating modifications, of course).

The grounds are impeccably maintained, and I enjoyed the audio tour, as it lets you go at your own pace. The foundation that manages Elvis’ estate has done a great job of organizing tours and displaying his movie artifacts and costumes for all of his fans to enjoy. This is a definite must-see if you happen upon Graceland!

3734 Elvis Presley Blvd.
Memphis, Tennessee, 38116
(901) 322-3322

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