Rockabilly Rides at I Love Memphis Mural / Leah Gafni

Dig this itinerary, rockabilly fans

Rockabilly Rides at Crosstown Concourse / Leah Gafni

June, 2019

Roll your cuffs and shine that pompadour for a rockabilly-themed romp around Memphis. Along the way, we’ll catch live music in that retro style, hit legendary attractions like Sun Studio and Graceland, and celebrate “chrome culture” with classic car tours, Bike Night on Beale Street and more.

Rock out to live, retro music

You can hear live music every night of the week in Memphis, but for rockabilly-twinged tunes, listen for John Paul Keith, Brad Birkedahl and Brandon Cunning. Performing originals and covers, these artists channel Memphis’ rockabilly era—and look the part, too. Beale Street bars and clubs are a good place to find them.   

You can also time your visit with the 7th annual Ameripolitan Music Awards (Feb. 24, 2020). The Ameripolitans celebrate contemporary artists creating rockabilly, honky tonk and other roots music, so you know the awards show’s going to be a kick. Bonus: The Guest House at Graceland is hosting, amplifying that mid-century swagger.
 

Hit legendary music attractions—and hidden gems nearby

Speaking of Graceland, you’re going to want to tour the mansion Elvis purchased in 1957. Add access to Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex just across the street for an eyeful of the King’s car collection—including his pink Cadillac—inside the Presley Motors Automobile Museum.
Elvis—and rockabilly pioneers Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others—launched their careers from Sun Studio at the edge of downtown Memphis. Tour the studio, then explore the surrounding neighborhood. Known a century ago as Auto Row, the neighborhood is now called “The Edge” and nods to its revved-up history inside The Edge Motor Museum. New in 2019, the museum showcases beefy cars symbolic of America’s post-war era.

Celebrate “chrome culture” on Beale

Whether Harleys or hot rods are your speed, Beale Street has a theme night for you. Bike Night on Beale (most Wednesday nights from April through September) packs one of America’s most iconic streets with thousands of bikes and enthusiasts. Park your ride or just come and gawk.
During Hot Rods on Beale (fourth Tuesdays monthly from April through October), local car clubs park eye-popping models up and down the street. Parking is by permit only, but all are welcome to enjoy the free event.

While you’re on Beale Street, stop into Lansky Bros. The clothing boutique known for dressing Elvis and other Sun Records stars continues to sell bold, retro-inspired fashions today.

Velvetina at Bike Night / Alex Shansky
Ameriplolitan Awards / Alex Shansky
Sun Studio
The Beauty Shop, Ameripolitan Awards, Bike Night or visit Sun Studio where rockabilly was born

Chances are, you’ll drive through the Cooper-Young Historic District. Don’t miss the new Johnny Cash statue outside the church where Cash played his first paid gig, and if you’re hungry or thirsty, pop into the Beauty Shop. The local-favorite for eclectic food and drinks preserves elements of its former life—as a salon where Priscilla Presley had her bouffants done.

STEP BACK IN TIME ON SOUTH MAIN

In Memphis’ South Main Historic Arts District, preserved buildings—especially from the early- to mid-20th century—give a frozen-in-time feel. The Arcade, Memphis’ oldest café, is as beloved for its hearty breakfasts and Southern-style lunch specials as it is for its retro décor. After filling up, stock up—on souvenirs—at DittyTV’s Vibe & Dime shop. Since the DittyTV network broadcasts Americana and roots music, expect a well-curated inventory of acoustic guitars, classic vinyl, music-themed apparel and accessories, and vintage concert posters. And if the rockabilly spirit so moves you, browse South Main’s Bumpus Harley-Davidson outpost.