November 6, 2013

Walking in Memphis...

As I noted in my previous post, Driving to Memphis..., we (Mr. Johnson from Wisconsin and I) recently took a trip to Memphis, Tennessee.

The reason for the trip was - there's no point in denying it - Elvis. Sure we also took in such worthy and worthwhile Memphis sites such as the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and lots of great restaurants where, even though pork is not my first food choice, my mouth still waters over the thought of the most delicious Bar-B-Q I've ever had...but, I'll say it again, the real reason was the King of Rock and Roll. In spite of being a bit reluctant to make public my admiration for Elvis -- (early on I picked up on people's reaction when I mention I'm an Elvis's almost exactly the same expression that people who mention they have eight cats get) -- we enjoyed the trip too much to let it go undocumented.

Funny thing happened as we were leaving Arkansas and crossing the Mississippi River... 
Marc Cohn's song Walking in Memphis came on the radio. We were shocked and a bit spooked by the timing of the airplay of this song until we realized by the second day of our trip that they play Walking in Memphis, in Memphis, with much greater frequency than they do in Wisconsin. Nonetheless, it added greatly to our excitement and anticipation.

We pressed on across Tennessee's (The Volunteer State) state line,
through the city of Memphis, and parked the car near Beale St. As it was nearing 5:00 p.m., we headed straight on over to the Peabody Hotel to see what all the fuss was about their "resident" ducks who march down from the rooftop to the lobby at 11a.m. and then march back up at 5p.m. The crowd was thick and the lights were dim and we really had trouble seeing anything. Later that night when we were to our hotel I checked out the Peabody's website where you can see pics of the whole shootin' match! But for now, we keep walking in Memphis...

Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale...

I'll have to admit that I've really never gotten into rhythm and blues music. I generally just never "got it" which I attributed to it being over my head. But here on Beale St., if someone asked me if I loved the blues, I'd have had to say "ma'am I do tonight!" What I discovered on Beale is that you don't comprehend the blues in your head, (and I don't mean to go all WC Handy on you but...) you feel it in your soul. As you walk up and down Beale St., the mix of music, performers, open air and even the crowd all blend together to make quite an intoxicating and irresistible cocktail! Within five minutes I was a convert...and I've decided that, for me anyway, the blues is somethin' you really gotta experience in the flesh. 

(...but do I really feel the way I feel?)

Outside of the blues on Beale, A. Schwab's dry goods store inside and out is worth checking out if you like the idea of time travel. According to their website, Schwab's was established in 1876 and is the only original business remaining on Beale St...according to me, it's just plain awesome!

I saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue...
We took the Sun Studio Tour (the Birthplace of Rock and Roll!) for $11 each and it was the high point of the trip for me. The tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining and just to be in that studio where so many music greats performed was thrilling, especially when paired with the sound tracks that were cut there. I got goosebumps at least a half dozen times...that alone's gotta be worth eleven bucks!
Million Dollar Quartet: Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and Johnny Cash

Followed him up to the gates of Graceland...
Visiting Graceland was a bit surreal and more than a bit interesting. We were part of the first group to go through and the crowds seemed to be building from there. Most of the people seemed "normal" (you me) but I have to say there was at least one in the Meditation Garden who brought to mind the cat reference I alluded to earlier in this post. Nonetheless the tour and the group were lively and fun. The most surprising observation I came away with from Graceland was really how modest the house and grounds are. There's no denying the furnishings and decor are a bit outlandish by most tastes
TV room in basement
(even by 1970's standards) but really there aren't a lot of extravagant "bells and whistles" about the place, none that I could see anyway...certainly nothing fit for a "King."

There's a pretty little thing waiting for the King...down in the jungle room...
Holy Smokes!
Now...just try and get that song out of your head!

Graceland Ticket Center's trash cans

Oh, and one last thing, since today is November 6, I leave you with a nod to one of Memphis' many curiously named streets. This, from Time Magazine about November 6th St. in downtown Memphis: It commemorates the day in 1934 when Memphis, urged on by its utility-baiting political boss, the late Edward H. ("Mister") Crump, voted against private power and for the Tennessee Valley Authority power system (it was the first major city to enter TVA).

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