What happens in Memphis . . . .

Posted: April 7, 2011 in Where the music's playing . . . .

If you get to Memphis . . . . you must find time for some essential visits.

Check out the Sun Recording Studios, Graceland, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Music Museum, the Gibson Guitar Factory, the Stax Soul Music, the Peabody Hotel (for the parade of the Peabody Ducks), the Mississippi Queen (for the guided river cruise), the Hard Rock Café (for the requisite tee shirt and meal(s)), a visit to Swarb’s (the oldest shop in Memphis, where ‘if we ain’t got it, you don’t need it’), the Beale Street classic motorcycle convention on Wednesday evenings and BB King’s Blues Club.

On our recent visit (Mrs TC & me), we did them all and had a great evening at BB King’s Blues Club, where we caught the end of a great set by 16 year old blues guitarist/singer, Will Tucker. A (forty-ish) American man sitting next to us asked ‘how do you keep so slim?’ and then proceeded to order a large plate of ribs, fries and veg, PLUS another large plate that was cover by an enormous steak. So, now we know . . . even if it’s still a mystery to him.

One day we started with a little light breakfast and decided to set off on our great adventure – to embark on a walking expedition to the Stax Soul Music Museum and then onto the Hi Records Royal Sound Recording Studios in South Memphis. The warm morning breeze provided encouragement for our purposeful stroll through the back streets of Memphis and the opportunity to observe the gentle shift of scene from city sophistication to suburban shabbiness and then industrial dereliction. We paused regularly to consultant local inhabitants along the way who marvelled at our adventurous nature and fortitude in embarking on such an expedition. We meandered along roadsides that may not have witnessed human footfall for many years and occasionally encountered some signs of previous habitation.

Just as we had foregone the prospect of further human contact, we burst, with great acclaim, upon an oasis of civilization, featuring a Walgreens Store. A ripple of relief ran throughout this dynamic duo, especially upon discovering their toilet facilities and some additional geographical reference points (which when translated) signalled that our first conquest was within reach.

Our arrival at the Stax Soul Music Museum was celebrated with a photo opportunity, followed by a truly fascinating tour and detailed review of the historic artefacts and exhibits. Nothing was left without examination, including the available refreshments and the toilet facilities. Thus restored, revived and replenished, we sought directions from the locals for our final conquest, the Hi Records Royal Sound Recording Studios. “Down the road apiece and take a left”, said the genial fellow on the Stax Museum reception desk.

So, with a song on our lips, joy in our hearts and a spring in our step we set forth on our next adventure. A casual perusal of the roadside environs and buildings suggested the vicinity had a great potential for designation as a ‘regeneration area’, but would have to smarten itself up a bit to be eligible. We noted well the hastily arranged exhibitions of charred furniture in the front yard of several roadside properties and avant garde use of chipboard panels as alternatives to glazed windows and the re-assuring notices of interest, generously provided by the drug squad from the local constabulary.

Initially, we observed with detached interest the approach of a bright red fire appliance with blue lights flashing, perhaps assuming it to have been overseeing another of those hastily arranged exhibitions of charred furniture in a front yard somewhere nearby. That was until it lurched across the road towards us, against the flow of oncoming traffic, and squealed to a halt beside us. The driver enquired after our well-being and our intended destination. He was evidently filled with awe and wonderment as the story of our adventures of the day unfolded. He observed, with considerable insight, that we were not from ‘around these parts’, and he marvelled with his assembled crew members at our fortitude and resolve at travelling so far from home and to sample such rough terrain and inhospitable surroundings. Doubtless, recognizing the enterprising spirit and courageous nature of such ‘foreign’ explorers, he suggested (in fairly direct terms) that this was an area where such ‘courage’ was more likely to be regarded by sane folks as reckless foolhardiness. His suggestion that we return to our car and get out of ‘the hood’ a.s.a.p. may have seemed perfectly sensible, until he appreciated that we had travelled entirely on foot and getting a cab was equally remote as a possible solution.

So, with the panache and enterprise that so characterizes public servants across continents, he insisted that we join himself and his crew in the Fire Appliance to regale them with tales of our adventures as they transported us back downtown and dropped us by our hotel. It was not the conclusion of our expedition that we had expected and we never got to see the Hi Records Royal Sound Recording Studios, but at least we got to ride through Memphis in a Fire Appliance . . . . and you won’t find that on the tourist brochures !!!

In search of less adventure, we spent the rest of the day on a Mississippi river trip, which was relaxing and informative by comparison, but a bit of an anticlimax to our morning. We remained curious to see if, when the sun goes down and the tide goes out, the people gather round and they all begin to shout “Hey, hey Uncle Dud, it’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud . . . . . but they didn’t!

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