“Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me”


In this music documentary, directors Drew DeNicola  and Olivia Mori chart the rise, the fall, and rise again of the band Big Star. Memphis is known mostly for its blues, soul, and early rock n’ roll but it was also home to one of the most influential bands of the seventies.  The filmmakers take you behind the scenes as Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Chris Bell, and Andy Hummel struggled to get their music to a larger audience in the midst of failed record deals and a public not ready for their distinctive powerpop sound.  Success finally came to them but it was bittersweet.

“Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me” Trailer

Magnolia Pictures


photo by Bradley Loos, Flickr




Find Out Who’s Playing in Memphis

Mavis Staples
photo by Max Blau, Flickr

If you are coming to visit Memphis and want to know if your favorite musician will be in town at the same time, these are useful sites to explore. Songkick, Bandsintown, and Pollstar allow you look ahead at artists’ gigs in a certain city. (Your own, too, for that matter–not just Memphis.) They cover big-name touring acts playing at festivals and arenas, as well as regional musicians with club dates. Sign up to follow your personalized list of artists–local or legendary–and get e-mail alerts in time to buy tickets to their upcoming concerts.






http://www.pollstar.com/resultsCity.aspx?ID=37224&SearchBy=memphis, TN







Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival to Celebrate Its 11th Year

photo by TenYearsGone, Flickr

Come and hear Delta Blues in a real juke joint. Only about an hour’s drive from Memphis, Clarksdale, Mississippi’s 11th annual Juke Joint Festival is “half blues festival, half small-town fair and all about the Delta.” The three-day event includes 100 blues acts, Southern cooking, tours of local historic sites, and student dancing by the Dancing Divas of the Delta. Come for the music but don’t miss the pig races!

Racing Pigs!photo by tripe, Flickr

For more information to join the party:
Juke Joint Festival
P.O. Box 1030
Clarksdale, MS 38614

Memphis Magazine Readers Vote for Best Places to Eat

photo by Average Betty, Flickr

Readers of Memphis Magazine sounded off about their favorite restaurants, including comfort food, patio dining, the top food trucks, and the best places to satisfy your sweet tooth. The list is aimed at locals but hungry visitors will find some real gems, too, in a city with a diverse dining scene.


John Németh on Tour With The Bo-Keys and Percy Wiggins

photo by proaguy1, Flickr
photo by proaguy1, Flickr

Blues vocalist and harp player John Németh is playing clubs on his current North American tour to promote his latest album, “Memphis Grease.” Originally from Boise, Idaho, Nemeth moved to San Francisco in 2004 for the blues and relocated a year ago to Memphis for the soul.

John is backed up by the Bo-Keys, a crackerjack studio band he took on the road with legendary soul singer Percy Wiggins. It’s a great way to hear Memphis blues and soul in your home town!

John Németh

The Bo-Keys featuring Percy Wiggins

Memphis by Rail

photo by Jim Ownby, Flickr
photo by Jim Ownby, Flickr

If you have a little extra time on your vacation or simply enjoy the relaxed pace of a rail trip, consider taking the Amtrak to Memphis. The most direct route follows the Mississippi River down from Chicago in the north, or up from New Orleans in the south. The Amtrak map makes it look as if Memphis is equal distance between the two, but it’s actually a few hours closer to New Orleans on the route called The City of New Orleans.

Amtrak also offers an interpretive program in conjunction with the National Park Service called Trails and Rails. Guides and guest artists on board the train help give you a better appreciation for the natural surroundings along your trip.

Trails and Rails

“Happy in Memphis”

Students from the Harding Academy in Memphis produced this video, editing upbeat images to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It features many postcard locations around Memphis. A real mood lifter that makes you want to dance!

Harding Academy

Pharrell Williams

What to Do

The National Civil Rights Museum


Located at the historic Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, this fabulous museum follows the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Not to be missed.

The National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 521-9699

Sun Studio


The birthplace of rock n’ roll. See where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their first hits.


The guides love to show you around and talk all about music history. The first rock n’ roll record, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston, was recorded here in March, 1951.
Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249

Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
Welcome to the birthplace of soul music. This completely cool museum walks you through the history of Stax Records and their roster of stars like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, and many more.

Don’t miss the wall of hit records and Isaac Hayes’ gold-trimmed
1972 Cadillac Eldorado.
Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
926 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106
Phone: (901) 942-7685


Sure it’s tacky and overpriced but you have to go to see how Elvis lived.  This is his Jungle Room with its Polynesian influence and green shag carpet on the floor and the ceiling. A hunka hunka!


Pay the extra fee to see The King’s extensive car and airplane collection. He used to give away Cadillacs like this.
3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: +1 901-332-3322

Main Street Trolley


At a dollar per ride, it’s a fun way to get around downtown and it passes by the Mississippi River for superb views. They rattle and clatter, and aren’t very fast–but everybody loves them. See trolley highlights by Paul Donovan:

Memphis Area Transit Authority
Route and Schedule Information: (901) 274-6282
Trolley: (901) 577-2640

If you are totally into trains, check out the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum, a volunteer-run group dedicated to rail in Memphis.

photo by Katherine of Chicago, Flickr
photo by Katherine of Chicago, Flickr

Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum
Central Station, 545 South Main Street, Suite 121, Memphis, TN

Gibson Guitar Factory

photo by Patrick from Parka Avenue, Flickr
photo by Patrick from Parka Avenue, Flickr

Even if you’re not a guitar geek, take an informative tour of the factory as they turn out hand-crafted Gibson guitars, from Les Pauls to the Firebird X. Security is high so don’t try to snap pictures like this without permission.

photo by Bones77sm, Flickr
photo by Bones77sm, Flickr

This short video from zZounds.com shows how they are made:

Gibson Guitar Factory
145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 544-7998

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
Located at the modest home of the Burkle family who helped slaves escape to freedom to the northern states and Canada. Even though the small museum is often full of school kids on field trips, the guides have inspiring stories for everyone.  The place has hidden trap doors and secret tunnels used to shelter the escapees.

photo by tennesseevacation, Flickr
photo by tennesseevacation, Flickr

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
826 North Second Street, Memphis, TN 38173
Phone: (901) 527-3227

The Cotton Museum
Founded in 2006, this museum relates the history of cotton and its important role in the economy of the Mid-South. Films and displays show you how the commodity became “King Cotton.” The main exhibit is located on the trading floor of the old Memphis Cotton Exchange building.
The Cotton Museum
65 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 531-7826

The Memphis Riverboat Tour
An entertaining steamship ride along the Mississippi, taking you back to a time when riverboats ruled the waterways. The guides have humorous stories that make local history come alive. Plus, you get some impressive views of the city along the way.
Memphis Riverboat Tour
251 South Riverside Drive, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2628

The Withers Collection Museum Gallery

photo by Redfern Photo Archive, Flickr
photo by Redfern Photo Archive, Flickr

Located right on Beale Street, the photo museum features a display of African-American photographer Ernest C. Withers who documented the history and culture of Memphis.

Rosalind Withers is the trustee of her father’s life work and she has a wealth of stories about her dad covering segregation issues, Negro League baseball, and the local blues scene.

photo by Pan African News Wire File Photos
photo by Pan African News Wire File Photos

The Withers Collection Museum Gallery
333 Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 523-2344

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum

photo by Eridony, Flickr
photo by Eridony, Flickr

Near FedEx Forum, this museum covers the highlights of blues, soul, and rock ‘n roll–all forms of music with roots in Memphis. In addition to traditional museum displays, you can now grab an MP3 audio guide and a map to take the Historic Walking Tour of Beale Street.

photo by otacon4130, Flickr
photo by otacon4130, Flickr

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum
191 Beale Street, Suite 100, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 205-2533

The Center for Southern Folklore
This non-profit organization showcases unique gifts, music, and works of art from Southern artists. When you’re done shopping,  stay for coffee and Miss Ella’s peach cobbler. Located downtown at the Peabody Place trolley stop.
The Center for Southern Folklore
123 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655

Memphis Music

Beale Street

photo by mrbrent62, Flickr
photo by mrbrent62, Flickr

Birthplace of the blues. Touristy and bustling with people but there’s still good music there.   Walk around the small strip of bars and restaurants for the neon and party atmosphere alone. When you hear a band you like, pop in for a drink or two. The clubs feature blues, of course, but you may also hear soul, R & B, rock, country, and rockabilly played on Beale.

The Memphis Flyer

Many music clubs are located all around town not just on Beale Street so the best way to find out what’s going on is to pick up the free local entertainment weekly, The Memphis Flyer. http://www.memphisflyer.com/

Blues Music Awards

photo by JoTeri, Flickr
photo by JoTeri, Flickr

Sponsored by The Blues Foundation, the annual Blues Music Awards celebrate the best in blues music. It’s like the Academy Awards for great blues musicians! Leading up to the big night, many of the top artists are in town, playing in clubs and attending the ceremony.
The Blues Foundation
421 South Main, Memphis TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2583

International Blues Challenge

photo by BlairEvanBall, Flickr
photo by BlairEvanBall, Flickr

Hundreds of blues musicians come from all over the country and the world to take part in this annual five-day event, usually held in late January. Performers for the challenge are chosen by local blues societies to come to compete in three categories: Band, Solo/Duet, and Best Self-Produced CD–all for cash, prizes, and industry recognition.
The Blues Foundation
421 South Main, Memphis TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2583

Beale Street Music Festival

photo by ConcertTour, Flickr
photo by ConcertTour, Flickr

Part of the Memphis in May International Festival, this annual three-day event is held at Riverfront Park at the foot of Beale Street. There’s an emphasis on local musicians but the three outdoor stages showcase many national touring artists, too.
Memphis in May International Festival
56 South Front St, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone (901) 525-4611

Memphis Music and Heritage Festival

photo by memphissamiam1, Flickr
photo by memphissamiam1, Flickr

Usually held over the Labor Day weekend, this colorful festival takes place on Main Street in downtown Memphis.  For two days, a wide variety of cultures take to the streets with people enjoying local music of every kind–blues, gospel, rock, folk, country–along with cooking demonstrations and dance shows throughout the day.

Center for Southern Folklore

photo by joespake, Flickr
photo by joespake, Flickr

In addition to showcasing artists’ work, this gallery also hosts music events in the evenings.  There’s only about two dozen tables so it’s an intimate way to see up-and-coming and established artists in a casual setting. If it’s a freebie, be sure to throw a tip in the musician’s bucket or buy their CD.
The Center for Southern Folklore
123 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655

The Full Gospel Tabernacle

photo by ConcertTour
photo by ConcertTour

Born in Arkansas in 1946, singer Al Green was ordained a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in the seventies.  This is where he still preaches and sings gospel when he’s in town.  Here’s a video of Rev. Green performing the classic “A Change is Gonna Come.”

The Full Gospel Tabernacle
787 Hale Road, Memphis, TN
Phone: 901-396 9192

Elvis Week

photo by John Dreyer, Flickr
photo by John Dreyer, Flickr

Elvis tribute artists converge at Graceland for the annual Elvis Week celebration in August. Festivities also include special tours, hip-shakin’ karaoke, movie screenings, and dance parties. Long live The King!

photo by marques.murilo, Flickr
photo by marques.murilo, Flickr

3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: +1 901-332-3322

WDIA Radio

photo by ilovememphis, Flickr
photo by ilovememphis, Flickr

While you’re in town, check out local radio. On the air since 1947, WDIA became the first radio station in America programming music entirely for African-Americans. B.B. King worked here as a disc jockey, and so did Rufus Thomas–two of the many black radio personalities the station hired over the years.

photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos

WDIA AM 1070
12 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3318

Where to Eat

photo by Robby Virus, Flickr
photo by Robby Virus, Flickr

Let’s face it–it’s tough to be a vegetarian and eat out in Memphis. Everywhere you go, there’s barbecued ribs and pulled pork with a side of ‘slaw and beans. Carnivore heaven! As a visitor to the city, these are some of the best to try:

photo by MartinsRide, Flickr
photo by MartinsRide, Flickr

The Rendezvous
52 South 2nd Street
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 523-2746
Down an alley but you will have no problem finding it–there’s a line-up outside and you can smell the place for blocks. This downtown landmark is always busy.

The BBQ Shop
1782 Madison Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
Phone: (901) 272-1277
Fall-off-the-bone ribs served with fabulous coleslaw and beans. Not far from Sun Records. You’ve gotta love the dancing pigs!

Corky’s Ribs and BBQ
5259 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, TN 38119
Phone: (901) 685-9744
Reputed to have the best pulled pork in Memphis. Delicious dry ribs, too, to die for.

A & R Barbecue
24 North Third Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 524-5242
Down home rib goodness–either wet or dry–that’s popular with locals. Located downtown near AutoZone baseball park, and also near Graceland.

The Four Way Restaurant
998 Mississippi Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38126
Phone (901) 507-1519
A Southern home-style restaurant that’s still a neighbourhood favourite for sweet potato pie, fried catfish, fried chicken, and peach cobbler. Near the Stax Museum.


Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
730 S Mendenhall Road
Memphis, TN 38117
Phone: (901) 767-2323
Who knew Southern fried chicken could taste this good at this bustling café. Wow! Near the Civil Rights Museum.

The Little Tea Shop
69 Monroe Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-6000
A busy downtown diner serving casual Southern soul food like fried chicken with turnip greens. Profiled on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Near the Cotton Museum.

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Adventure is the Best Way To Learn

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