The city of Memphis should offer a warning to visitors passing through that if you don’t like music, you might as well just keep traveling on through. It’s no secret that his city, set along the Mississippi River, has a strong relationship with music. Memphis is known for churning out some of the greatest players in blues, soul, gospel, bluegrass, country, and of course, rock ‘n’ roll.
With several music-themed museums and tours, you’ll never run out of things to do in Memphis – especially when these soulful, song-filled spots are added to your itinerary.
The Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum
For one of the most comprehensive looks at Memphis and its connection to music, music fans can begin their journey through the city and its music scene at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Nestled downtown, the museum chronicles the entire Memphis music story. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, the museum spans Memphis music from the 1930s to the onset of its many record labels like Sun, Stax, and Hi Records, to the 1970s at the height of Memphis’ musical prime. The digital audio tour of the museum features over 100 songs and 7 galleries with over 30 instruments and 40 costumes. A visit to this historical museum provides visitors with a well-rounded look not only at music but at its powerful link to the city of Memphis, a city that was featured in the lyrics of more recorded songs than any other in the world.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Southeast of Downtown Memphis, you’ll find the former home of Stax Records. Now known as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the former recording studio details the history of soul music in Memphis through a 17,000-square-foot museum. Stax Records produced music by artists like Otis Redding, William Belts, Carla Thomas, and Isaac Hayes. Today, it honors its former artists’ music with detailed exhibits, including a replica of Studio A where Stax artists cut records, a reassembled 1906 Mississippi Delta church where soul music was derived, and an Express Yourself dance floor where you can cut a rug. The walls of the museum line with albums and singles released by Stax records from 1957 to 1975.
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Sun Studio Tour
Fans of good old fashioned rock ’n’ roll should head to 706 Union Avenue in Memphis. Just one mile from Beale Street, Sun Studio claims to be the hallowed ground where rock ’n’ roll was born. The label churned out many music legends such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and B.B. King. Still an operating recording studio by night, by day you can tour Sun Studio and comb through its plethora of memorabilia. Tours are guided and last 45 minutes. Arguably the highlight of the tour for music lovers is the chance to snap your photo in the very spot where Elvis first recorded his music.
One of the key players in the Memphis music scene was Elvis Presley. Music aficionados can gain an appreciation for the king of rock ‘n’ roll at his former mansion, Graceland. The massive 14-acre estate details his life and career. You can walk the gardens Elvis walked, peek in the plane he used, or explore the entertainment complex, home to loads of costumes, artifacts, and personal items that belonged to the man himself.
The Blues Hall of Fame
If you’re a big blues fan, you’ll definitely want to add flights to Memphis to the top of your bucket list just to get a tour of this awesome space. The Blues Hall of Fame is located at 421 S. Main Street, close to the National Civil Rights Museum. This space provides a complete look at blues culture and includes details of over 400 artists that were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Across 10 galleries with interactive exhibits, you can find a wealth of awards, instruments, and costumes from Otis Spann’s piano to Charlie Musselwhite’s harmonica. There are also three master databases where visitors can hear music, watch videos, and read the stories of the Blues Hall of Fame’s inductees. The museum also boasts rotating exhibits that change every 4 months.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame includes a laundry list of inductees that shaped modern music right in the heart of the city, from Roy Orbison to Aretha Franklin. As a tribute to the city’s famed musicians, you can tour the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum to learn more about the inductees, many of which are considered the greatest musicians of all time. The museum features memorabilia, unique video performances, and plenty of interactive exhibits to keep you busy right in Downtown Memphis.
Have you explored the music scene in Memphis? Share your favorite spots for sound with us in the comments below!