Come celebrate the 60th anniversary of rock 'n' roll by taking a trip to where it all started: in Memphis, Tennessee. From Graceland and Sun Studio to where Elvis recorded his first record, to museums that recorded and covered the holy ground of rock and its twin sister soul, there's no better way to catch the revolutionary vibe that rocked the world of music forever than to start where it was born.
Begin your rock 'n' roll tour by visiting the all time mother lode – Graceland. This was the home of Elvis Presley for over 20 years and is still owned by the family. Today it is a National Historic Landmark with 14 acres that includes the mansion, the Hall of Gold, "sincerely Elvis" museum, a vintage automobile collection, Elvis's airplanes, and his grave. In fact, Graceland is the most famous rock 'n' roll residence in the world — the second most-visited house in the United States, after the White House.
Graceland looks just like it did when Elvis Presley called it home, with many original furnishings still in place, just like when Elvis and his family lived there. Check out the Jungle Room and shag carpeting, a favorite place where Elvis loved to hang out. Come August 16 of every year when fans from around the world gather at Elvis' grave in Graceland to honour his legend and legacy with a candlelight vigil. Some even think he still lives.
Sun Studio (www.sunstudio.com)
Many historians consider the first professional recording of Elvis Presley at Sun Studio as the birth of the rock 'n' roll musical movement.
It was a hot, sultry day on July 5, 1954 when a little-known artist by the name of Elvis walked into Sun Studio in Memphis. Only 18 years old with no formal training, this was his fifth recording at the studio. With him were guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black. The session wasn't working out too well until the trio started messing around during a break with an upbeat version of "That's All Right" — a song with traditional blues lyrics.
Producer Sam Philips was so enthralled with the spontaneous uptempo song that he asked the trio to record it. As a result, Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips first played the song on July 8, 1954 on WHBQ radio. "That's All Right" was officially released on July 19, 1954, where the single quickly rose to No. 4 on the Memphis charts.
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum (www.memphisrocknsoul.org)
Conveniently located at the corner of "The Blues Highway" and world-famous Beale Street, the museum covers what they call "the holy ground of American music" from the 1930s to the 1970s. The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum's exhibition about the birth of rock and soul music, created by the Smithsonian Institution, tells the story of how musicians with a common love of music were able to traverse racial and socio-economic barriers — forever changing the face of music.
Be sure to take the digital audio tour as it is a treasure trove of rock and soul detail. With over 300 minutes of information and over 100 songs, you can tour the museum at your own pace.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music (www.staxmuseum.com)
Built on the original site of the world famous Stax Records, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music pays tribute to music's soul icons with more than 17,000 feet and 2,000 interactive exhibits, films, and memorabilia. Musical pioneers include Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, The Jackson Five, Ann Peebles, Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Ray Charles.
Beale Street (www.bealestreet.com)
A National Historic Landmark, Beale Street is the heart of Memphis' music and entertainment district, with three blocks devoted to a melting pot of American music. From delta blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B and gospel, this is one cool place to listen to some really hot music. All night long if you like.
Where to Stay:The Peabody Memphis (www.peabodymemphis.com)
The Peabody, a Forbes Four Star and AAA Four-Diamond historic hotel, is just about as convenient as you can get. Its downtown location is only blocks from Beale Sreet, the Memphis Rock 'N' Soul Museum, Gibson Guitar Factory, and Sun Studio. Don't miss the Peabody Duck march to and from the Grand Lobby. It's a long-standing tradition dating back to 1933 and is quite the crowd pleaser. Daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
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