There are few places synonymous with an individual. But say the name Elvis and Memphis isn’t too far behind.
The King of Rock 'n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, left an indelible mark on Memphis, Tenn. And nearly 36 years since his death, he continues to excite locals and visitors alike here. Since his teen years growing up in Memphis to the start of his musical career, Elvis was inspired by this city, on the banks of the Mississippi River, and was proud to call Memphis home.
For a sneak preview into the personal life of Elvis, take a tour of his 14-acre, 23-room estate, Graceland. Elvis purchased Graceland in 1957. Since 1982, when Graceland opened as a museum, visitors have been making the pilgrimage to Memphis to see one of the most visited private homes in America. Each year, Graceland, which welcomes more than 600,000 visitors, remains one of the most popular single attractions in the country.
In addition to several rooms inside the large, white-columned Graceland mansion, Elvis’ racquetball building, firing range, hall of gold room displaying gold and platinum awards, unique collection of cars, custom jets and meditation garden where Elvis, his parents and his grandmother are buried, can be seen on the property during a tour. Also in the garden is a memorial gravestone for Elvis’ twin brother, Jesse.
Visitors can explore Graceland with an audio-guided tour featuring commentary by Elvis himself and his daughter, Lisa Marie. Graceland, located on Elvis Presley Boulevard, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
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More Music in Memphis and Beyond
Learn how Elvis and others, including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and B.B. King, launched their singing careers at Sun Studio in Memphis, originally called Memphis Recording Service, and often referred to as the Birthplace of Rock 'n’ Roll. Also, view memorabilia from these music legends and others, including Howlin’ Wolf, Roy Orbison, Ike Turner and Rufus Thomas, who recorded here. During a guided tour, visitors can listen to the outtakes from famous recording sessions (some have never been released) and even touch the microphone Elvis used for his first recording. He came to Sun in 1953 to make a record as a gift for his mother.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis (on the site of the original Stax Records) displays more than 2,000 artifacts, photographs and exhibits related to soul music – it’s the only soul music museum in the world – and showcases the contributions of soul pioneers including James Brown, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, The Jackson Five, Ike and Tina Turner and numerous others.
At the Memphis Rock 'n’ Soul Museum developed by the Smithsonian Institution, music from the 1930s to the 1970s is the focus in addition to instruments and other displays that highlight the history and legacy of musicians working in Memphis and the Delta – what some call the holy ground of American music. The Gibson Beale Street Showcase includes the Gibson Guitar Factory, the Gibson Lounge and the Rock 'n’ Soul Museum.
A stroll on the historic cobblestones of Beale Street is a must-see experience during your stay in Memphis. With names like W.C. Handy, known as the Father of the Blues, and of course, B.B. King, it’s no surprise that the landmark Beale Street is called the Home of the Blues, comprised of more than 30 nightclubs, restaurants and shops along a three-block radius. Outdoor concerts are a mainstay here, and the Beale Street Music Festival attracts thousands annually in May. Traditional blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock 'n’ roll and bluegrass can be heard live from the nightclubs, many of them open until the wee hours of the morning.
Continue a music heritage tour in nearby Jackson, located halfway between Memphis’ Beale Street and Nashville’s Broadway, where the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame celebrates the legendary artists whose musical style blended rock 'n’ roll with hillbilly to create rockabilly. Rockabilly, a style indicative of artists such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Carl Perkins, was born when country music connected to the blues in Jackson.
Head to Brownsville to tour the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center and the West Tennessee Music Museum which spotlight Carl Perkins, Tina Turkey, Elvis Presley and others. Also on the site, tour blues pioneer Sleepy John Estes’ home and the newest museum addition, Flagg Grove School, where Tina Turner attended school as a child. The school is currently under restoration.