again STLBlues was on the road, departing on another
music seeking adventure.
Leaving a dark, rainy St. Louis day, we had Memphis
on our minds! Somewhere in Arkansas we drove out
from underneath the rain, and into blue skies
musical adventure consisted of several goals,
To explore Beale Street, with a visit to W.C.
Handy Park, a good place to sample live street
music of Memphis - something we always enjoy
doing - and to visit the Rock and Soul Museum.
To do a bit of research on the influence of
blues music on Elvis as he grew up in the small
town of Tupelo MS, and later as the Presley
family moved to Memphis in 1948, settling near
Beale Street, a legendary home of the Blues.
checking into the hotel, our first stop was
a visit with good friends Jim Mills and his
gracious wife Lisa. Jim & Lisa grew up in
Arkansas, but now call Memphis their home. A
recording artist, as well as a songwriter, Jim
entertained us with a private living room concert,
a real treat! Here's a song by Jim, appropriate
for a Memphis review!
A lifelong friend of Jim's is Jerry Phillips.
You may have heard of his dad Sam Phillips,
owner of Sun Studios - where Rock and Roll history
was made on July 5, 1954 when Elvis Presley,
Scotty Moore and Bill Black spontaneously performed
bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup's
"That's All Right" in romping, uptempo
style. A few days later, Dewey Phillips - one
of the most popular and influential disc jockeys
in the area - played the record around 14 times
in just one evening, and told his listeners
it was sure to be a hit. Thousands of phone
calls soon flooded Sun Studios. The results
stunned everybody, and to the surprise of Sam
Phillips, the black audience loved his music
as much as the white audience. The rest is musical
So naturally a Saturday morning stop at Graceland
was mandatory. As this writers wife is a lifelong
Elvis fan, we chose the Platinum tour, which
added the car and airplane museums to the tour.
Very nostalgic and fun-filled tour, I was impressed
by his display of gold records and all his show
outfits. I wonder how my wife would like me
in a gold suit, with my hair dyed midnight black,
mutton chop sideburns, sitting in our renovated
jungle room.....maybe not. Special thanks goes
to Bobby and the staff at Graceland for thier
kindness. Here's our
Graceland Gallery, we hope you enjoy! Editors
tip - those of you who want to visit Graceland,
go early in the day, before all the tour buses
evening was reserved for Beale Street, where
Preston Shannon - a familiar name on the Beale
Blues circuit - was playing at BB's. Strolling
the length of Beale will bring you down towards
W.C. Handy park, where live music can be found
just about every weekend!
In the 1970's Beale was all vacant building.
Thanks to a public & private partnership,
in 1983 clubs started to emerge in these once
vacant buildings, transforming Beale Street
into Tennessee's leading tourist attraction.
Beale Street is one of the best urban revival
stories you'll likely find....more
the Handy park, we caught a live cover of Johnny
B. Goode., a Chuck Berry classic!
Our visit to the Rock
& Soul Museum took place Sunday morning
on our way out of Memphis. When you begin the
tour, you're given a portable CD player that
gives you a 'walking tour'. The first stop is
a short film with Carl
Perkins and others narrating a history of
music in Memphis, and how in the '50s and '60s
powerful sounds of R&B, Rock and Roll and
Soul emanated from Memphis. The movie has interviews
Lee Riley, B.
B. King, Rufus
Phillips and others, as they spoke about
their Memphis experience. Rufus Thomas was one
of the original DJs for WDIA radio, and was
a.k.a. "The Worlds Oldest Teenager".
Some of the history of Sun
Records and Stax
Records were discussed, and names like Johnny
Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and East St. Louisian
Peebles are all part of this history. The
origin of blues music, as you know, began in
the Delta. Cotton was a hard life, and in the
1920s, the family would gather in the evening
around the table radio, possibly an old Silvertone
that was powered by batteries or a hand spring,
since electricity was rare out in the country.
There they would listen to artists such as Bessie
Smith, or Mamie
Smith, whose 1920 recording of 'Crazy Blues'
opened the blues up for future generations.
There was so much to see, it's hard to sum it
all up. A connection to St. Louis was on display,
as among the many many artifacts was Ike
Turners piano, on which he recorded his
big hit 'Rocket 88' at Sam Phillips Sun Studio.
Quite a whirlwind visit, we hope this synopsis
accomplishes several things, mainly to motivate
you to grab your honey, jump in the car, and
head towards Memphis - a Home of the Blues!