Musician Tour Guide on a Backbeat Tour
Kristin Luna

Memphis Fun Facts

Leading a group through the city? These little Memphis facts and Memphis history trivia can help you spice up your tour. Memphis is...

  • Named for its Egyptian sister on the Nile.
  • Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, made Memphis his home after his family moved to the city from Tupelo, Mississippi in 1948.
  • Memphis was founded in 1819 by John Overton, Andrew Jackson and James Winchester. Prior to its official founding, the Bluffs of Memphis were occupied by a succession of Native Americans, traders and forts. It is situated on the edge of the widest part of the Mississippi River.
  • The name Memphis means Established and Beautiful.
  • Known worldwide as the "Home of the Blues & Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll - not to mention gospel, jazz, R&B, rap and soul. Close to 20 percent of the earliest inductees (24 of the 97) in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame have come from within a 100-mile radius of Memphis.
  • Dream Destinations: 100 of the World's Best Vacations by Life Books ranks Memphis amongst the likes of The Vatican, Montezuma, Costa Rica, and Beijing, China.
  • Home of historic Beale Street, whose musical offerings - as lively today as ever - have helped it to be voted the second most popular entertainment district in America following Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
  • Home to Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, the second most visited private home in the United States next to the White House in Washington, D.C.
  • Sun Studio, birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll, is located at 706 Union Avenue, just outside of downtown Memphis.
  • Memphis is mentioned in more songs than any other city in the world - more than 400 according to Billboard Magazine.
  • Kemmons Wilson opened the first Holiday Inn in 1952 in his hometown of Memphis.
  • Home to 60+ tourist attractions.
  • Tom Lee Park was named after a great citizen who saved 32 people from drowning in the Mississippi River when the steamship Norman sank despite his inability to swim. Tourism in Memphis garners 3.1 billion dollars annually.
  • Home of W.C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues," and Robert Church, the South's first black millionaire. W.C. Handy was told by George Gershwin, "Your work is the grandfather of mine."
  • Home to the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and Major League Baseball's (AAA) Memphis Redbirds.
  • Pork barbecue capital of the world, thanks to Memphis in May's Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and more than 100 barbecue specialty restaurants.
  • "America's Distribution Center." FedEx was founded in Memphis in 1971, and the company built a sorting facility and an administration building on the airfield. FedEx's package-sorting complex, which would later come to be known as the Super Hub, along with the company's around-the-clock operations have combined over the years to make Memphis International Airport (MEM) the number-one busiest cargo airport in the world.
  • Memphis has one of the largest artesian well systems in the world. This aquifer contains more than 100 trillion gallons of water that fell to the earth as long as 2,000 years ago. It first became available to the city in 1887.
  • "Hollywood South," as the city has served as the site of several major film productions, including Mystery Train (1988), Great Balls of Fire! (1989), The Firm (1993), The Client (1994), A Family Thing (1996), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), Road to Graceland (1998), Cast Away (2000), The Queens of Comedy (2001), 21 Grams (2003), Hustle & Flow (2005), Walk the Line (2005), Forty Shades of Blue (2005), Black Snake Moan (2007), In the Valley of Elah (2007), Walk Hard (2007), The Open Road (2008).
  • Tied to celebrities such as actors Kathy Bates, Morgan Freeman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Cybill Shepherd Dixie Carter and George Hamilton, Michael Jeter, broadcaster Tim McCarter, media personality Rick Dees, game show host Wink Martindale, Pulitzer Prize-winner Peter Taylor, singers Justin Timberlake, Three 6 Mafia and Ingram Hill, Aretha Franklin, fashion designers Pat Kerr Tigrett and Dana Buchman and author/historian Shelby Foote.
  • Memphis was named by American Heritage Magazine as the Great American Place for 1998.
  • Memphis' Official City flower is a shrub, the crepe myrtle.
  • Memphis' Official City tree is the dogwood.
  • Memphis is the home of the first Greyhound and Continental Trailways bus lines.
  • 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 and has treated more than 16,000 children from the U.S. and 60 foreign countries. Peter Doherty, Ph.D., chairman of the hospital's immunology department was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1996.
  • The Piggly Wiggly, the world's first self-service grocery store, opened in Memphis in 1916.
  • Memphis is the site of the first Welcome Wagon, founded here in 1928.
  • Cleo Wrap of Memphis is the world's largest manufacturer of Christmas wrapping paper producing two billion feet of gift-wrap each year.
  • Memphis is the hardwood capital of the world.
  • Memphis is the largest spot cotton market in the world, with nearly half of the U.S. cotton crop going through Memphis.
  • Memphis has one of the top urban park systems in the nation covering 7,000 acres.
  • Memphis is the only five-time winner of the nation's cleanest city award.
  • The Memphis Zoo was founded in 1905 when Natch, a black bear mascot for a Memphis baseball team, was kept chained to a tree in Overton Park.
  • The Memphis Musicians Union, founded in 1873, is the oldest musicians' union in the country.
  • Volney, the lion who roared at the beginning of all the old MGM movies, lived at the Memphis Zoo until his death in 1944.

Frequently Asked Questions about Memphis