If you are a blues fan, all roads lead to Memphis this week. Hundreds of blues musicians come from all over the U.S. and the world to take part in this annual five-day event, held January 20th to January 24th this year. Performers for the challenge are chosen by local blues societies to compete in three categories: Best Band, Best Solo/Duet, and Best Self-Produced CD–all for cash, prizes, and industry recognition.
Last year, over 250 acts competed in semi-finals in the clubs on Beale Street so expect an explosion of the blues this year, too.
Since the IBC is a showcase for new talent, many of today’s top blues artists competed in the past, including Tommy Castro, Eden Brent, Albert Castiglia, Susan Tedeschi, Delta Moon, Diunna Greenleaf, Zac Harmon, Larry Garner, Super Chikan, and more. Here is a list of this year’s participants, many of whom will be the stars of tomorrow:
For Elvis Presley fans, this is a high holiday from August 9th to 17th, with all sorts of Elvis-themed events, including tribute artist contests, costume pub crawls, an all-Elvis parade, and even an Elvis Mafia reunion. There are lots of chances to put on that bell-bottomed jumpsuit and feel like The King.
This year, there’s a new event called Elvis A Capella that features the country’s top a cappella groups with their vocals-only versions of Presley’s biggest hits. The fun starts Friday, August 8th and runs for a week, capping off with The Ultimate Elvis finals Thursday, August 14th, 7 p.m., at the Orpheum Theatre.
One of the don’t-miss events is the Images of the King Tribute Artist Contest which attracts the best from around the world like Shawn Klush, Dean Z, and Cody Slaughter. Resemblance to the original is uncanny. (Which, of course, is the point.)
A new short film about Elvis’ days at Humes High School will premiere during Elvis Week. It’s called “Nobody” and takes us back to when Presley was just a talented shy kid at the back of the room, before fame and fandom. The lead cast members and writer-director William Bryan will be there to answer questions after the screening.
In April of 1953, a few months before he graduated from high school, Elvis Presley performed in the annual talent show held at Ellis Auditorium in downtown Memphis. He was listed number sixteen of 22 acts (as ‘Elvis Prestly’) and stunned everyone in the audience with his rendition of Teresa Brewer’s ‘Till I Waltz Again with You.`(He never recorded it.) He received more applause than anyone else that night and won first prize, returning for an encore. Elvis and his classmates say this stand-out performance was true beginning of his rise to stardom.
Humes High School is still standing and operating as a school. The building was constructed in 1924, and was placed on the list of National Register of Historic Places in 2004 due to its connection to Elvis.
Humes High School
659 North Manassas Street
Memphis, TN 38107
Phone: (901) 416-3226
Elvis was always a snappy dresser so if you want to see where he bought all those fabulous clothes when he was young, visit Lansky`s. This is where he first came up with his distinctive pink and black combo.
The Lansky Brothers, Bernard and Guy, had an eye for cutting-edge fashion and they outfitted Elvis for his high school prom and later for his appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Show and Ed Sullivan.
Whether you have an interest in fifties fashion or you are a tribute artist who wants to have the right look, the book “Clothier to the King” covers the bold and iconic clothes Elvis bought from Lansky.
After moving from Tupelo, MS and living in a series of boarding rooms and apartments, in September, 1949, Vernon Presley moved his family to the Lauderdale Courts, a 433-unit public housing project on the north end of downtown Memphis. (They lived in apartment 328.) Elvis would practice his guitar in the basement laundry room and he played in a band with four other boys from Lauderdale Courts. It is still maintained in period detail with fixtures and furnishing from 1951 and you can tour the historic landmark. Elvis may have left the building but you can still visit his bedroom!
Located in what has become the trendy South Main Historic District, the Arcade Restaurant was one of Elvis Presley’s top hangouts. His favorite booth is near the back of the restaurant. Built in 1925 by the Zepatos family, it is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Memphis. You can still order the fried peanut butter ‘n banana sandwich just like Elvis liked.
No trip to Memphis is complete without a tour of Sun Studio. A young truck driver from Tupelo, MS walked into Sun on the evening of July 5th, 1954 to record three songs and one of them, “That’s All Right,” changed music history. He and his band mates, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, recorded the less-inspiring “Harbor Lights” and “I Love You Because” before launching into Mississippi bluesman Arthur Crudup’s 1954 song. Producer Sam Phillips knew a hit when he heard one and released the single 14 days later (with the B-side “Blue Moon of Kentucky”) and it went on to launch Elvis Presley’s recording career.
It’s not much more than a three-minute photo op but everyone has to have their picture taken with the Elvis Statue. An original statue was erected in 1980 but over-zealous fans tore off bits and pieces of the guitar strings and the jacket fringes. That statue is now located in the lobby of the Tennessee Welcome Center on Riverside Drive. The one currently standing at Beale and South Main was erected in 1997. Sculptor Andrea Lugar depicts Elvis as he would have been on Beale Street in 1955, exposed to a melting pot of music styles.
Elvis Statue Beale Street at South Main
Across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe
Keep up with all the festivities with the handy Elvis Week app, for iPhone or Android.
Thousands of devoted fans from all around the world take part in the annual candlelight vigil at the gates of Graceland. It’s a solemn march to mark the anniversary of Elvis’ passing on August 16, 1977. It began as an informal gathering the year after his death and has grown in popularity over time to become a highlight of Elvis Week.
The procession passes into the Meditation Garden to his grave site where his parents, Gladys and Vernon Presley, also lie buried. Along the way, people make respectful shrines, leaving flowers, teddy bears, wreaths, and heartfelt notes to celebrate Elvis Presley’s life and legacy.
For the third year, The Orpheum Theatre is offering its Classic Summer Movie Series. Originally built in 1928, saved from the wrecking ball and restored to its former glory in 1984, The Orpheum is a historic movie house located downtown at Beale Street. It’s a great chance to see all-ages films like “Casablanca,” “The Princess Bride,” or “Jaws” the way they were intended–on the big screen. If you like musicals and can belt it out with the best of them, sing along with “Grease,” “Mama Mia” or “The Wizard of Oz.” To enhance your movie experience, they are offering fun events in the lobby like trivia nights, costume contests, special guests, and pre-show concerts with the impressive Wurlitzer pipe organ. You can’t beat that!
Called “The South’s Finest Theatre,” The Orpheum presents concerts and Broadway touring productions, and is home to Ballet Memphis and Opera Memphis. This video covers their $5 million renovation to restore the theatre to its original elegance with its brocade draperies, gilded moldings, and enormous crystal chandeliers.