Memphis: City Of Mighty Music Museums

We’re back from a whirlwind weekend in Memphis. We had four things on our to do list and were able to do three: Graceland, Sun Studios, and the Stax Museum. We couldn’t get to the Civil Rights Museum but had breakfast nearby at the Arcade on our way out of town. Oh well, what the hell.

I’m a devotee of good diners and the Arcade is as good as it gets. The reason is obvious: it’s been owned and operated by four generations of a Greek American family. My people know from diners. The Arcade is where Elvis got the peanut butter banana sammich idea. The Arcade’s version is now named for him. I didn’t have it this time around.

I didn’t expect Graceland to be a proper museum, but it is. There are many well-curated exhibits about various aspects of the King’s life and times to see before touring the mansion. The sleeper for me was the Elvis car museum. Big cars, fast cars, Elvis’ cars.

All that talk of pretty, pretty Cadillacs with Tennessee plates gave me this earworm:

There’s a room in the career exhibit that’s wall-to-wall Elvis stage suits. I didn’t count them but according to the internets it’s a total of 56. The display was spectacular. This is just part of it:

The house itself is a tad less gaudy than expected. There’s plenty of glitz and glam but it looked like a comfortable place to live. My favorite room was a man cave/tiki bar with hand carved furniture. It was OTT but so was Elvis.

I was moved by our time at Graceland  as I thought of my late friend Michael Homan who considered it his second home. Not really but what’s a bit of exaggeration among friends?

Here’s the obvious song to play our way out of the Graceland segment:

We did the S things on Sunday. The Sun Studio guided tour and the Stax Museum, which we didn’t visit at night. I dig neon, so I appropriated the picture from a Tennessee tourism site. The rest of the pictures in the post were taken by Dr. A except for the next one, which I took.

The Sun Studio complex is small but mighty. Our tour guide was a hilarious musician with a heavy Arkansas accent named Mark. He knew his shit and how to present it. We made sure to tip him because there were so many Euro tourists on the tour. Tipping is not in their lexicon, y’all.

I was only dimly aware that Sun was still a working recording studio. Robert Plant recorded there recently and there was no sign of wreckage. I guess they told him it wasn’t a hotel, so he didn’t do the mud shark thing.

There was, however, this Nancy and Sluggo/Elvis image in the bathroom that made me think of my friend the Parade Route Booksigner:

Michael is a Krazy Kat, y’all.

Rufus Thomas is best known as a Stax artist, but he got his start at Sun with this song that sounds like another famous tune:

The Stax Museum was spectacular. It’s so comprehensively curated that Dr. A didn’t read all the accompanying text as she usually does. It was overwhelming in the best way possible.

We saw Isaac Hayes’ Oscar and his pimped-out Cadillac with plush soul superstar carpet.

A video next to the Caddy featured Isaac saying: “You expect me to have a normal ride?”

There was also this sign:

The Stax Museum is a Smithsonian caliber museum. You *can* see it all but it’s hard to absorb it all on one visit. I plan to return some day. Where else can you see the organ on which Booker T. Jones played this song?

Memphis does a much better job of celebrating its glorious musical past than New Orleans. There were plenty of dumbshit tourist things to do BUT they really rock the cultural tourism stuff. There are exhibits in New Orleans celebrating our musical heritage but there’s nothing to match what we saw in Memphis.

We also went to a small but mighty exhibit downtown at The Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Where else could one see Isaac Hayes’ traveling Mahjong set?

I’ve always associated Mahjong with old Jewish ladies such as my mom’s friend Mrs. Rosenberg. She tried to teach us how to play once but mom preferred bridge. She was a bridge shark; Mahjong was beneath her, but it was Isaac Hayes’ jam. Who knew?

I have a funny story about our visit to a legendary BBQ eatery BUT I’ll save that for a Sunday story time post. I’m not a travel writer or a food critic, after all.

The last word goes to The Band with two more Memphis songs:


One thought on “Memphis: City Of Mighty Music Museums

  1. It’s a shame that New Orleans does not honor its musical legacy like Memphis.

Leave a Reply