Blues singer in Memphis

Memphis: Where Music Legends Made History

If B.B King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Otis Redding ever walked into a bar together, it happened in Memphis.

From the sultry sound of soul music to the rebellious rhythms of rock ‘n’ roll, Memphis inspired a unique sound that still lives in its juke joints, night clubs, bars and streets today.  

Beale Street Blues

In 1909 a trumpet player from Clarksdale, Mississippi, rode into Memphis, stopped at a club on Beale Street and began playing his signature style of song. W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues” took off like wildfire and influenced the likes of Bobby Blue Bland, Muddy Waters and eventually Riley “Blues Boy” King, known simply as the world-famous “B.B. King.”
In 1977, through an act of Congress, Beale Street was named the official Home of the Blues. Sure enough, the blues still lives in over two dozen nightclubs, juke joints and restaurants like B.B. King’s Blues Club in the pedestrian-friendly Downtown district. But the rhythm of the blues doesn’t stop there. In nearby W.C. Handy Park, live musicians honor the unique sound that helped make Memphis famous. The Blues Hall of Fame celebrates the influence. And don’t forget the American Dream Safari Blues Tour – an immersive three-hour private tour for the Memphis music enthusiast.

Memphis Soul

Soul music started across rural parts of Tennessee as a way for singers to express their sorrow, worry, happiness and love. It was eventually brought to Memphis in the 1950s where it was captured on records and released throughout the US. Stax Records recruited and signed talented black musicians during an era where integration was uncommon in entertainment. They say that there must have been something in the air in South Memphis, now known as Soulsville U.S.A. Acts like Booker T & the MG’s, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes grew up in the neighborhood and Stax made them household names as the Memphis Soul phenomenon took root. Hi Records followed the lead of Stax and went on to create musical legends like Willie Mitchell and Al Green.

Today, it’s impossible to visit Memphis without having a soulful experience. The rich legacy of the grandfathers of soul lives all over the city. Find their faces all over the walls while you enjoy delicious soul food at the Four Way Grill in South Memphis. Learn about how the expressive genre helped capture the black experience during the civil rights era during your visit to the National Civil Rights Museum. Don't leave without visiting the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum in Downtown Memphis for an opportunity to celebrate the greats and hear some of the rising stars of soul music.

Rock 'n' Roll

Rock ‘n’ roll is the country’s most beautiful mistake. The genre was created by Sam Phillips, a self-taught producer, who set out to capture the energetic authenticity of Beale Street in musical form. Experts point to the distinctive “slapback” echo and the way Sam blended gospel melodies with the blues, jazz, country and rockability to create the unique “Sun sound” made famous by Sun Records in the 1950s. Along his journey, Sam encountered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and other talented young performers who were just as eager to “get some freedom in music” and create a whole new genre to introduce to the world. Phillips is credited by many for recording the first-ever rock ‘n’ roll record: Rocket 88, by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats – a band led by none other than 19-year-old Ike Turner.

A journey through rock ‘n’ roll history can last all day in Memphis, so start with a hearty breakfast at The Arcade Restaurant, the oldest diner in Memphis and where Elvis Presley was a regular. A quick six-block trek down the road will land you at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, a quaint museum to honor the local musical innovation that influenced the world. In Midtown, the original Sun Studio remains open to record modern-day hits along with offering an impressive guided tour of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Finally, there’s no such thing as a rock ‘n’ roll visit that doesn’t include the world’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll residence. A visit to Graceland includes a tour of Elvis Presley’s mansion and an immersive experience through Elvis Presley’s Memphis – a 200,000 square-foot complex that celebrates his life and legacy with numerous exhibits, a museum and restaurants featuring his favorite foods. After a full day, cross the street and relax at the Guest House at Graceland, an upscale resort that blends Southern hospitality and rock ‘n’ roll to create an unforgettable home away from home.

Legends In The Making

Even though decades have passed since the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and the migration of soul and the blues, one thing remains clear: the coveted Memphis sound can’t be duplicated. That’s why countless rising musicians flock to Memphis for a chance at superstardom in the city that launched the careers of so many musical icons who inspired the sound we hear today. 

Southern Heritage Festival
Our authentic Memphis sound lives on with these talented bands that are taking the world by storm.