America At The Crossroads: The GUITAR And A Changing Nation
3050 Central Ave.
Memphis, TN 38111
The guitar is one of the most enduring icons in American history. And the story of “The Crossroads” is one of America’s most enduring myths. The musician who sells their soul on a lonely country road for fame and wealth is a legend that is uniquely American. Crossroads also define times of immense and wrenching change. The American nation has come upon many of its own crossroads.
We find ourselves at one right now—after a pandemic, civil unrest, political infighting, global unease, and even anarchy. Guitars are a symbol of the nation’s diverse culture, ethnography, and geography. Its most famous and skilled practitioners have been spread across race, gender, religion, and ethnicity.
For decades, the guitar was the one instrument that many rural people and those freed from slavery could afford to buy—sold for a few dollars in the Sears Catalog. Later, the sound of the guitar defined the first-ever generation of American “teenagers”—a term that came into popular use as the first electric guitars were being manufactured. The guitar was the sound of protest in the 1960s and 1970s, the sound of anger and alienation in the 1980s and 1990s, and the preferred pastime of the Covid pandemic—when more guitars were sold than ever before.
“America At The Crossroads: The GUITAR And A Changing Nation” displays 40 instruments that serve as touchpoints to connect visitors directly with significant moments in America’s evolution—from the earliest Spanish invasion to the nation’s modern status as a global superpower. The artifacts are supplemented with video, photographs, and illustrations that depict important events, artists, and instruments of the last century. It is an exciting and engaging experience that gives visitors the chance to interact with the guitar not only from the perspective of its history, but also through the music it has created and those it has inspired.
Exhibit opening in conjunction with the America at The Crossroads: The GUITAR and a Changing Nation exhibit.
From the Blues clubs on Beale Street to Midtown punk dive bars, music from Memphis has become a global phenomenon. And no instrument has been as important to the sound of this city as the guitar.
Grind City Picks: The Music That Made Memphis invites you to learn about the evolution of notable music genres in Memphis through an impressive display of instruments from famous artists, band merchandise, and photographs. This exhibit explores how Memphis’s history and culture are shaped by the iconic instruments, riffs, and guitarists that put Memphis on the map. Grind City Picks will also feature talented local luthiers who have attracted international artists eager for a taste of the Memphis sound and craftsmanship. This exhibit serves as a testament to the power of music and how the guitar has been integral to the city’s national and international fame.