Last spring we took a short trip to Memphis, TN. We decided on Memphis because it is a drivable destination from northwest Ohio, getting us a little bit closer to warmth. My husband, Mike is a big rock and roll fan, so Memphis made more sense to us than Nashville. Plus, by staying in the states I could still be available to my spring travelers.
Once we made the decision to go, Elvis was all we could think about. Mike went to the library and picked up a few books on Elvis. He read them, and told me the highlights. We watched Elvis YouTube videos, Elvis’s 68 Special, a few Elvis movies, and bought an Elvis “best of” CD. I hummed Paul Simon’s “I’m Going to Graceland” nonstop. It was kind of strange how much we were consumed. Especially since we had barely even talked about Elvis prior to planning the trip.
It brought memories of childhood back to us. I was 8 years old when Elvis died. We were living in North Carolina at the time. I remember sitting on my bed thinking about him and what it meant that he was gone. I haven’t thought much about him at all in the years since. Maybe 8 is too young to care about celebrities. I was busy dealing with multiplication tables.
Even with all that hype before our trip, I thought I would think the whole Graceland thing was hokey once we were there. We loved it. We loved all of Memphis. It seemed to be an aging city struggling to revitalize but there is a ton of history here, rock and roll and otherwise. More than we expected.
Beale Street is an absolute must. We loved the vibe, the constant music and walking the street with our Big A$$ Beers. We went to Beale Street every day while in Memphis. BB King’s restaurant was ok. The food was great, the cover charge was high and service was, “eh.” We enjoyed Flynn’s on Beale more. We felt really welcome there and enjoyed listening to the music of Chris Gales, a super nice guy.
We toured Sun Studios, another must. It’s a really strange feeling to stand in the same exact spot that Elvis and many other greats have recorded. The actual studio has been kept largely unchanged.
We watched the march of the Peabody ducks which happens twice a day, every day at the Peabody Hotel. Why they do it is sort of a ‘just because’. Lots of people turn out for it. It’s more waiting than actually seeing. It’s strange. I’m not sure I would say don’t do it, but I’m also not sure it’s worth the hype. It is sort of “if you’re in Memphis, you HAVE to see the Peabody ducks.” Well. Okay…
We visited the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This was really eerie to see. There is a wonderful memorial and museum there now. We happened to visit on a Tuesday which is the day the museum is closed however there are many stations outside the museum with interactive information.
We toured the Gibson guitar factory. This was pretty cool. My husband is a bass guitar player. I’m lucky we made it out of there without a new guitar. I almost bought a ukulele though. I’m still sorry I didn’t.
We took a river boat ride on the Mississippi. When we talked about doing this, I had visions of a tour down the swampy bayou. That was not the case. You go 30 minutes against the strong current and then an hour and 30 minutes trying not to get swept away with the current going back. We never left sight of the Memphis skyline. The guide was a great story teller. It is 2 hours of history and funny stories in between 2 bridges of the Memphis waterfront.
Best of everything was Graceland. It really was. It’s a well oiled machine of tourism, and worth it. We had to wait quite a while for our tour of Elvis’ home to begin but there are shops to see, food to eat and videos to watch and time seemed to pass quickly. You do not have to get into the cue line until your tour number is called. Once you do, boarding the shuttles that drive you across the street moves swiftly. You are equipped with an iPad and headset. John Stamos is the narrator. The iPad magically knows which room of the home you are in and plays just the right music at just the right time. You see home videos, interactive photos, hear Pricilla and Lisa Marie tell stories and listen to lots of Elvis. It is quite something to be standing in the rooms or see all of the jumpsuits and then hear his voice.
I can’t tell you how many times we listened to Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” or Paul Simon’s “Graceland” while we were in Memphis. I think it was probably in the hundreds. It added another layer to our fun, and hearing the songs still makes us smile. I haven’t gotten off the Elvis high either. It’s strange to me the impact of that silly 4 day vacation. Elvis lives.
I’d love to chat more, look me up!