Walking in Memphis

“Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain”

—Marc Cohen, Walking in Memphis

Toward the end of our Mississippi River cruise we stopped in Clarksdale, Mississippi while on our way to Memphis, Tennessee. While in Clarksdale, we saw one helluva show put on by Steve Azar and The King’s Men. A YouTube video of Steve and the Band playing “One Mississippi” follows below. Definitely worth a watch. You see a very different Mississippi than the one normally portrayed in the media.

Clarksdale, Mississippi — Dec 1, 2023. Steve Azar playing Guitar onstage in Clarksdale Mississippi
Jason Young, Percussion

After Clarksdale we found ourselves in Memphis, Tennessee. Of course, we had to go and pay a visit to Beale St, minus our Blue Suede shoes. One place we visited that was particularly fascinating was the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum. The Museum traced the history of Rock, Soul and Pop with an emphasis on the social changes that occurred simultaneously with the development of Rock.

Man Walking On Beale Street

One of the more important players was the American producer, Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records and Sun Studio in Memphis. Sun Studio is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.

In his studios in Memphis, Phillips produced a raft of names that would become famous in Rock ’n’ Roll history. Those names included Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf. By producing as many artists as he did who sang what was then called “race music” Phillips took a big risk. But it paid off, and he became one of the foremost proponents of modern pop. He wryly observed that parental angst over apparent teenage infatuation with Elvis Presley et al. gave Rock ’n’ Roll a big boost.

Memphis, Tennessee — December, 3, 2023. Photo of a B.B. King storefront on Beale street in Memphis on a quiet morning.

In recognition of his influence, Sam Phillips was part of the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was the first non-performer inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; he was also inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the inaugural class of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

We also spent some time at the Metal Museum which included a metal workshop, art pieces made with metal works and a metal sculpture garden. Across the street from the Metal Museum, we visited Chickasaw Heritage Park, once the fortress of Chief Chisca. The park features two ceremonial mounds built in the 1500s. And that sums up much of our stay in Memphis until we boarded the plane for home.

A vertical format photo of trees in a park in Memphis in late afternoon.