Memphis Trivia

American Queen Steamboat

Take an overnight cruise in the Mississippi River upon the American Queen Steamboat. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Interested in learning more about Memphis or just want to settle a bet? See our big list of fascinating facts and Memphis trivia below. 

  • "Memphis” is mentioned in more than 1,000 song lyrics and titles, according to Billboard Magazine – more than any other city in the world.
  • Memphis is the Pork Barbecue Capital of the World.
  • Memphis is home to FedEx, the world's largest overnight package delivery company.
  • Memphis is home to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded in 1962, by entertainer Danny Thomas. St. Jude is one of the world's premier centers for research and treatment of catastrophic diseases in children.
  • Memphis was the largest spot cotton market in the world, with nearly half of the U.S. cotton crop going through Memphis.
  • In 1879, Memphis lost its city charter due to a yellow fever epidemic. Robert R. Church, the South’s first African American millionaire, was the first citizen to buy a $1,000 bond to help restore the city’s charter. 
  • The largest maritime disaster in the history of the United States happened on the Mississippi River near Memphis. The Sultana, a side-wheel steamboat carrying Union soldiers, exploded killing an estimated 1,800 of the 2,427 passengers. The tragedy was widely overshadowed in the press because the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln occurred the day before. 
  • Memphis has one of the top urban park systems in the nation, Shelby Farms Park, covering 7,000 acres.
  • Some other Memphis celebrities include Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates, Cybill Shepherd, Michael Jeter, Tim McCarver. Other current or former area residents include: Dixie Carter, Rick Dees, Wink Martindale, Peter Taylor, Morgan Freeman, George Hamilton, Aretha Franklin, Pat Kerr Tigrett, Dana Buchman, Shelby Foote and Justin Timberlake.
  • Holiday Inn, the world’s first modern-day hotel chain, was founded in Memphis by Kemmons Wilson in 1952. 
  • Piggly Wiggly, the first self-service grocery store opened in Memphis in 1916.
  • Music producer Sam Phillips released the first rock ‘n’ roll record, “Rocket 88,” in 1951. 
  • Memphian “Machine Gun Kelly” was the nation’s first “Public Enemy Number One” and the first one captured by the FBI – in Memphis, in 1934.
  • Stax Records was named after the brother and sister founders, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. Each took the first two letters of their last name to spell “Stax.”  
  • Memphis is the site for some major motion picture films: Great Balls of Fire, Silence of the Lambs, The Firm, The Client, A Family Thing, The People VS Larry Flynt, Cookie's Fortune, Cast Away, 21 Grams, 40 Shades of Blue, Walk the Line, Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan.
  • Volney, the lion who roared at the beginning of all the old MGM movies, lived at the Memphis Zoo until his death in 1944.
  • The four artists known as the Million Dollar Quartet are Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.
  • At the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, you can currently see the Oscar that was awarded to Isaac Hayes for “Theme from Shaft.”
  • WDIA, the first African American-formatted radio station, first reached listeners in Memphis and throughout the Mississippi Delta in 1954. 
  • Tom Lee Park, located on the bank of the Mississippi River (and site of the annual Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival) is named after the hero that saved 32 people from drowning when the steamship Norman sunk in the Mississippi River.
  • On July 5, 1954, an unknown Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right” at Sun Studio, sparking the rock ‘n’ roll era and launching his career.
  • The Levitt Shell in Overton Park, home to the city’s mega popular free concert series, is the venue where Elvis Presley gave his first professional rock ‘n’ roll performance.
  • A. Schwab, a famous dry goods store is the only original remaining business on Beale Street.
  • The original Duckmaster at The Peabody Hotel was Edward Pembroke a former animal trainer in the circus, who marched the ducks for more than 50 years.
  • The Peabody Ducks do not have individual names. However, the very first team of ducks were Peabody, Gayoso, and Chisca - named for the three hotels owned by the Memphis Hotel Company in 1933. 
  • Duck is not served anywhere at The Peabody, and has not been seen on the hotel's menus since its 1981 reopening, quite possibly making  the hotel’s restaurant, Chez Philippe, the only French restaurant in the world that does not serve duck. 
  • Sun Studio, is still an active recording studio today. The studio offers tours during the day and rents out the studio to bands in the evening.
  • Justin Timberlake was born in Millington, TN, a suburb of Memphis. He attended E. E. Jeter Elementary school in Millington. Today, he established a golf course, Mirimichi, which is located in his former neighborhood.
  • Memphis is home to Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios, where Al Green, one of the most popular and successful recording artists in Memphis music history, recorded.
  • Drake recorded his music video, “Worst Behavior” at Royal Studios in 2013. 
  • Rock legend, Boz Scaggs, recorded his new album Memphis at legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, Tenn.
  • The Metal Museum in Memphis is the only institution in the United States devoted exclusively to the art and craft of fine metalwork.
  • The annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest hosts visitors from all 50 states and numerous countries.
  • The American Queen, the largest paddlewheel steamboat on the Mississippi River, calls Memphis its home port.
  • The Green Beetle, located in South Main, is the oldest tavern in Memphis. Legend has it that former Memphian, Machine Gun Kelly, had a shoot-out here and bullets are still lodged in the walls.
  • The Chisca Hotel was the broadcasting home of WHBQ’s world famous radio program, “Red, Hot, and Blue” hosted by Dewey Phillips. The first ever radio broadcast of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right” occurred at Hotel Chisca in 1954.
  • Central Station, located in South Main, is the train station where Elvis Presley returned to Memphis after his army stint in Germany. Today, Central Station has been converted into apartment lofts and houses the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum.
  • Earnestine & Hazel’s, located in South Main, is a gritty juke joint that used to be a brothel. Esquire Magazine named it the second coolest bar in America.
  • The Arcade Restaurant, located in South Main, is the oldest restaurant in Memphis, which opened in 1919. Because of its authentic décor, it’s served as the backdrop in more than 40 films.
  • The Memphis Redbirds, which play in downtown’s AutoZone Park, are the AAA baseball affiliate to the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • In 2013, ESPN the Magazine named the Memphis Grizzlies the No. 1 sports franchise.
  • The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the site of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, recently completed at $27 million renovation. It is ranked as the third Most Iconic American Attraction by USA Today.
  • The Memphis Music Hall of Fame, founded in 2012, honors many of the greatest musicians of all time who created the city’s musical legacy. Inductees include Elvis Presley, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and B.B. King. The Memphis Hall of Fame will open inside the Hard Rock Café’s new location inside the former Lansky Bros. building in early 2015.
  • Memphis will soon be home to the world’s only Blues Hall of Fame, opening May 2015.