Relive Music History In Memphis

Memphis is American music. In no other city in the country can you find the very roots of the rhythms that move us so completely, from the funky sounds of soul to the finger-snapping beat of rock.

Start at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, adjacent to the FedExForum downtown, where you can get a crash course in Memphis music, then peruse artifacts and exhibits showcasing the names, big and small, that put Memphis music on the map. Then head across the street the the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Learn how some of the greatest American music artists of all time got their start in Memphis and how they inspired generations of musicians to come. Find fun, fascinating and educational exhibits featuring never-before-seen memorabilia, rare video performances and interviews, and discover new music coming out of Memphis today.

On a quiet street south of downtown, American soul music was born at Stax, the record label that recorded the songs of neighborhood kids – and what a neighborhood! Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Booker T. and his M.G.’s all found their groove at Stax. Visitors are always amazed at those who have recorded at this one-time movie theatre converted to a studio – Aretha Franklin and Richard Pryor, just to name a few.

Today, the Stax story is told through the sounds and photos of the label’s original recording artists, with a hall of records that dazzles, the tripped-out Caddy that was Isaac Hayes’ ride and special exhibits honoring all the pioneers of American soul music.

Isaac Hayes car at Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Photo Credit: Dan Ball
Elvis in front of Graceland

Closer to downtown, another recording studio – once known as Memphis Recording Service – gained fame as the spot where Elvis Presley walked in with his cheap guitar and walked out a superstar. Sun Studio is where Presley recorded “That’s All Right, Mama” in 1954, starting a new era of American music. Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins also recorded at Sun, and the four combined for a single session that became known as the Million Dollar Quartet. Sun is still an active recording studio.

Finally, the granddaddy of them all – Elvis Presley’s Graceland – is a must-do, even for those who may not be loyal subjects of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. A visit to the mansion gives such an intimate view of Elvis Presley’s life, from his meteoric rise to his deep family connections, that you’ll walk away with both a better understanding of how the shy young man became a superstar as well as how he continues to impact American pop culture decades after his death.