Tag Archives: Sun Studio

Happy Birthday, Elvis

 

 

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Born January 8, 1935, Elvis would have been 80 today. Most of us can’t picture him in some sad Tupelo retirement home; we think of him immortalized at the peak of his swaggering youth and his amazing talent. (That voice!)  If you are in Memphis this week, there are many events celebrating The King of Rock n’ Roll’s birthday.

photo by Natalie Curtiss, Flickr
photo by Natalie Curtiss, Flickr

Graceland is party central for most of the festivities including music tours, guest speakers, a gospel concert, and a double feature screening of Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas.

Graceland
3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: (901) 332-3322
http://www.graceland.com/

 

photo by Mike Freeman, Flickr
photo by Mike Freeman, Flickr

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, including his bedroom.

photo by Roadtripper
photo by Roadtripper

Lauderdale Courts
252 North Lauderdale
Memphis, TN 38105
Phone: 901-523-8662
https://www.facebook.com/LauderdaleCourts

 

photo by Richard Stables, Flickr
photo by Richard Stables, Flickr

Humes High School, where Elvis Presley attended from 1948 to 1953, 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.

photo by edward.tuten, Flickr
photo by edward.tuten, Flickr

In April of 1953, a few months before graduation, 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. His classmates say this stand-out performance was true beginning of his rise to stardom.

Humes High School
659 North Manassas Street
Memphis, TN 38107
Phone: (901) 416-3226

 

photo by Railroad Jack, Flickr
photo by Railroad Jack, Flickr

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.

Lansky
149 Union Avenue (at the Peabody Hotel)
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 529-9070
http://www.lanskybros.com/

 

photo by Thomas Hawk, Flickr
photo by Thomas Hawk, Flickr

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 enjoyed.

photo by C-Monster, Flickr
photo by C-Monster, Flickr

The Arcade Restaurant
540 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 526-5757
http://arcaderestaurant.com/

 

photo by Mikkel Elbech, Flickr
photo by Mikkel Elbech, Flickr

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.

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Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249
http://www.sunstudio.com/

 

Road Trip to Tupelo!

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If you are on an Elvis pilgrimage, your trip should include a visit to his birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi. Hop in your pink Cadillac with the top down and travel in style.

photo by Ronnie Harris, Flickr
photo by Ronnie Harris, Flickr

Located about a hundred miles from Memphis, this little Southern town in northeast Mississippi is where Elvis spent his formative years, learning to play guitar and listening to a melting pot of American music–country, blues, and gospel.  There are several events around town to commemorate his birthday.

Tupelo Visitors Bureau
399 East Main Street
Tupelo, MS 38804
Phone: (662) 841-6521
E-mail: visittupelo@tupelo.net
http://tupelo.net/things/elvis_in_tupelo/default.aspx

 

photo by Stan, Flickr
photo by Stan, Flickr

You can visit Presley’s boyhood home, a two-room shotgun shack built for $180 by his father Vernon where the family lived for about three years. It’s still standing in the original spot! Also featured is a church Elvis attended and sang in, The Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, and a statue portraying Presley at thirteen.

Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum
306 Elvis Presley Drive
Tupelo, MS 38804
Phone: (662) 841-1245
http://www.elvispresleybirthplace.com/

 

graceland-poster-smaller-518x800This year, The Tupelo Community Theatre presents the one-act play “Graceland” by playwright Ellen Byron. The story takes place in June, 1982 as two women, Rootie and Bev, vie to be the first in line the day Graceland is opened to the public. As they wait for the gates to open, the two fans share their life stories and how much Elvis means to them.

Tupelo Community Theatre
201 North Broadway Street
Tupelo, MS 38804
Phone: (662) 844-1935
http://www.tct.ms/

 

Elvis at Graceland

Elvis may have left the building forever but you can still experience what it was like to attend one of his concerts thanks to tribute artist David Lee. Lee is ranked in the top 10 in the world and he captures the spirit of The King on stage.


David Lee
E-mail: info@DavidLeeRocks.com
http://www.thedavidleeshow.com/

 

photo by Joe Spake, Flickr
photo by Joe Spake, Flickr

If you can’t be there in person, Sirius Radio’s All-Elvis channel is covering the events live.

Sirius Radio – All-Elvis
http://www.siriusxm.com/elvisradio

photo by Joe Spake, Flickr
photo by Joe Spake, Flickr

 

 

Sun Studio on Registry of National Historic Places

photo by Mikkel Elbech, Flickr
photo by Mikkel Elbech, Flickr

Ten years ago on July 23, 2003, The U.S. Registry of National Historic Places declared Sun Studios a historic landmark.  Sam Phillips, a former radio disc jockey, established his Sun Record Company in Memphis in 1952. He had a keen ear for talent, discovering many important post-War musicians singing blues, gospel, country, and a new sound that merged them all together called rock n’ roll.

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Thanks to NPR, you can take an audio tour of the studio where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, and Howlin’ Wolf cut their first records. Find out how Sam Phillips’ trademark slapback echo was created. There’s no fancy, modern multi-tracking here–just a bunch of guys getting together in a studio, playing their hearts out to get the magic down on tape.

http://www.npr.org/2014/07/22/334040612/inside-the-sun-records-sound-a-marvel-even-today

In 1955, Johnny Cash recorded one of his best-known records, “Folsom Prison Blues,” at Sun Studio.

He was originally inspired to write the song while stationed at a U.S. Air Force base in West Germany when he saw the 1951 movie “Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison.” In an interview, Cash said how he wrote line “But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”: “I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.”

 

Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249
http://www.sunstudio.com/

U.S. Registry of National Historic Places
http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=-1610892873&ResourceType=Building

First Rock n’ Roll Song

photo by birch from Memphis photostream
photo by birch from Memphis photostream

As part of their Behind the Beat series, KPLU’s All-Blues host John Kessler and production manager Nick Morrison produce radio features on the history of jazz and blues music. This week’s topic is about the record considered to be the first rock n’ roll song, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats.

KPLU – Behind the Beat
http://www.kplu.org/post/we-agree-was-first-ever-recorded-rock-and-roll-song

Twenty-one-year-old Jackie Brenston was Ike Turner’s saxophonist when he stepped up to sing the vocals on “Rocket 88,” recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis in March, 1951. Guitarist Willie Kizart’s distorted amp gave the tune a distinctive fuzzy sound that set the tone for rock music to follow.

Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249
http://www.sunstudio.com/

What to Do

The National Civil Rights Museum

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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
www.civilrightsmuseum.org/

Sun Studio

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

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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
http://www.sunstudio.com/

Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
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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
http://www.staxmuseum.com/

Graceland
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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!

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

Main Street Trolley

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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
http://www.matatransit.com/services/trolleys/

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
http://mrtm.org/

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
http://www2.gibson.com/Products.aspx

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
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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
http://www.slavehavenundergroundrailroadmuseum.org/slavehaven.html

The Cotton Museum
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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
http://www.memphiscottonmuseum.org/

The Memphis Riverboat Tour
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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.
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Memphis Riverboat Tour
251 South Riverside Drive, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2628
http://www.memphisriverboats.net/

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
http://thewitherscollection.com/

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
http://memphisrocknsoul.org/

The Center for Southern Folklore
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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
http://www.southernfolklore.com/