Sights and Sounds of Memphis
This is my second day in Memphis and I am enjoying my visit to the fullest. The people here are mostly friendly and accommodating. I am staying right in the downtown area and it seems to be a very safe neighborhood both day and night.
When I first arrived in my hotel room I went to set up the laptop on the desk. However, there was an open bible sitting on the middle of the desk, and since the desk was sort of small, I took the bible and closed it and put it inside the desk drawer for safe keeping. Every day when I get back to my room the bible has been moved from the desk drawer back to the top of the desk. I don’t know how to take this. Does the chamber maid think I am some sort of sinner who needs a daily dose of the bible.
The weather here has been sunny and very spring-like. In fact it is beautiful! The daytime highs have been 70-74F, which is not too hot for doing touristy type things, which is mainly what I have been doing. Since I have been here I have toured around most of downtown, including visiting some blues bars on Beale Street. I have also visited three places which all can be considered to be either unique and/or historical places on the face of the earth: Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and the Sun Studio.
Graceland is unique as it is the one and only home of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
Getting to Graceland is not hard. All you really have to do is go in the correct direction and then the signs will direct you to “Elvis Presley Boulevard” where Graceland is located. Graceland is on one side of the Boulevard and a Welcome Centre is on the other side of the street. When you visit Graceland, you go to the Welcome Centre and purchase tickets and then they shuttle you (in a bus) across to the other side of the boulevard in groups of 10-20.
Once you get to Graceland you get to tour around the mansion and the property as much as you want. There is a guided tour which is offered through a headset which you have to pay extra. Actually, without the headset I likely would not have known what I was looking at, so getting the headset was a great idea. The guided tour culminates at Elvis’s gravesite, which is where you will see Elvis fans lamented by his graveside.
Some of the highlights of the tour had to be Elvis’s autos and private jets. Also, seeing the “Jungle Room” was great and also having a look at Elvis’s “Rec Room” in the basement was kind of cool, especially the three TVs that were playing 60’s television while the tour went by.
Elvis’ Rec Room – A colourful place to relax after a long night of gyrating on stage.
Overall the tour was good, but it was expensive and the entire place is really just a huge tourist trap. However, if you are in Memphis it is a must see attraction, despite the crowds, the 28 dollar cost per ticket and even the 16 bucks to park it is still worth it to see as it is a very interesting place to visit.
National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is built on a historical location.
The Museum is built on the same site, the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In fact the front facade of the Lorraine Motel is still in place, but that is pretty much all there is remaining of the motel. Right behind the facade is the museum.
The museum takes you on a journey of African American oppression starting from the days of slavery but quickly moving to events that sparked the civil rights movement. Events such as Rosa Parks defiantly refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama are told with great detail. In fact they even have an old Montgomery transit bus in the museum that you can board and see a mockup of Rosa Parks sitting in the seat with a defiant look on her face.
One of the interesting facets of the museum is in the displays they show “mannequins” enacting scenes from the Civil Rights movement, but the people in these displays are neither black nor white, they are simply gray. I thought that was cool.
The first part of the museum tour ends with you getting to stand next to the actual room where MLK lived his last hours on earth, just inside the second floor hotel balcony where he was when he was murdered. There is a second part of the museum across the street, and this part encompasses the rooming house where James Earl Ray took the tragic shot. In fact they have a mockup of the bathroom right inside the window where he allegedly shot MLK. Also inside this museum are displays dealing with the events that lead up to the tragic event and details of the investigation including a display that shows evidence that was used in the case against James Earl Ray.
The spot where Martin Luther King Jr. is preserved as the front of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Overall the museum is very well done, I recommend it highly. I learned a lot.
The Sun Studio is historical as the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Not only is it the birthplace, they let you stand right on the spot where Elvis first recorded “That’s All Right (Mama)“.
This is by far the best place I have visited here in Memphis. The Sun Studio is located just a few blocks east of the downtown area right on Union Street. You walk in off the street into a little cafe and souvenir stand where you can buy a 10 dollar ticket for their hourly tour.
The tour is given by one of the staff. The tour guide was very bright and talented and was aided by audio pieces that played when she pushed a button on a remote. The tour really only takes you to two rooms. First you visit a memorabilia room that describes the early history of the studio and how Sam Philips set up the operation to record Blues artists from the local area. Afterwards, the tour goes right into the studio where you learn about some of the different artists that recorded in the studio: Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
Watch this video and learn about how Elvis recorded his first Rock and Roll hit… X Marks the spot.
The tour was about 45 minutes in length and well worth the price of admission. The staff is friendly, cheery and helpful. It was a wonderful experience and if you are even in Memphis don’t miss it.
Tomorrow I am headed back on the road and travelling back to Winnipeg. From Memphis to Winnipeg I am planning a two day trip with 10-12 hours on the road each day. Wish me luck, I will be home soon!