We got back a few days ago from a much needed vacation. While our original destination was meant to be New Orleans, changes in plans coupled with a desire to avoid an airplane turned it into a road trip to Memphis. Being an insanely massive Johnny Cash fan, I’ve always wanted to see Sun Studios, Memphis, and where it all started. The drive down from Chicago was nice but so very flat. After about 8 hours we made it to our spectacular hotel, the River Inn. We had a few drinks at the hotel bar and actually met the owner. I love hotel bars because they often aren’t crowded and you can get some great local tips. The next day we did some site seeing and we ate a ton of great food. Some of the incredible places we visited:
The highlight for me of the vacation, this was some place I’d always wanted to see. The main entrance was really small (much like the entire building) but had a pretty awesome old time soda / ice cream bar. It also serves as the gift shop so you can pick up all your souvenirs (pint glass). They also had quite a collection of original records but they were a tad pricey and I didn’t find any Johnny Cash. The tour started upstairs in a museum type room that had a collection of memorabilia. They had quite a few neat Elvis pieces. The tour guide was really knowledgeable and very funny. After running through the studio history, we went down stairs to the actual recording room. It was so incredible because as she confirmed the room was almost identical from the 50s. The same floor that Dylan kissed because Elvis and Cash recorded there. The same acoustic tiles that have heard all those songs. I’m not one for the idea of magic places, but that was about a close as I think I’ll probably ever come to experiencing one. We got to listen to a few rad recordings, I bought the Million Dollar Quartet cd probably the first cd I’ve bought in ages.
The Gibson Guitar Factory
Anyone who says America doesn’t make anything these days should visit this place. Incredible detail goes into the making of each guitar. The amount of work is pretty breathtaking. There was one ‘machine’ and that was operated by someone with an engineering degree. To see each guitar in the various stages of production just reinforced how truly cool and unique every guitar they produce actually is.
Museum of Rock & Soul
I’m really glad we visited we decided to visit here. I did want to visit the Stax Museum but this ended up being much easier for us. It’s a pretty new museum and an affiliate of the Smithsonian. They had a nice opening movie and gave you an audio tour guide. It was a great way to set up the exhibits as you had interesting stories and then jukebox type options for listening to music. The exhibits were well put together and extremely informative. Hearing the stories behind an item can be very powerful and the exhibits about MLK and the struggle for civil rights along side the progression of the music demonstrated one thing to me. While the world existed in an entirely unbalanced, terrible manner there were these groups of musicians that never saw race as issue. They were only interested in making music, that’s just how powerful music can be. A force or driver for social change.
I love the history of this place, but it’s much more now about having a super awesome party. If you want you can certainly find it here. We went to BB Kings and it was really cool. They had a very good blues rock band playing and drinks were reasonably priced. There are countless other bars fitting probably any theme you could think of, we even went to an absinthe bar. You can find a collection of shops selling memorabilia and other things. Overall, it’s a really fun place.
If you love music (really of any kind) Memphis is a really awesome place to visit. The biggest surprise for me though was how much of a foodie town it has become. I think most people think barbecue but there is so much more than that to experience. I was originally going to cover some of the places we went to here, but I think it actually warrants a separate post.