Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Nashville, most of my new friends from the hostel, the music and the Honky-tonk bars. I’d enjoyed my five nights here, but I had a cross-country drive to continue on and potentially spending 5 weeks in Nashville certainly had its appeal. It was time to hit the road.
Two English backpackers from the hostel wanted to check out Memphis as my next destination, so shared the ride with me. Nashville to Memphis was about a 6 hour drive, so apart from some banter with my passengers the ride was uneventful. We checked into a cheap hotel in the centre of town and walked to the Mississippi River to watch the sunset. It was the first time I’d seen the Mississippi (then again, this trip was a lot of firsts) and the river was wide and expansive; it was a purple sunset and there was a of bird life making for a spectacular sunset. We walked along the river and headed for the famed Beale Street to see what the go was.
Beale Street was comparatively quiet compared to the mayhem that was Nashville for the previous five nights. It was almost a relief to be in a city that was less crowded as the week had taken a lot out of me. Beale Street is similar to Broadway in Nashville, a lot of bars and restaurants all lined up in a row on either side. The noticeable differences being fewer people but also instead of Honky-tonks and country we had to enter the world of Blues music. At the top of Beale Street was the BB King Blues bar and directly opposite the Blues Cafe. The Blues was (and still is) is music I prefer to Country or Jazz, so it was cool to be in the city that claims this music as its own. We first stopped at the Blues Cafe had ourselves a huge American sized steak, potatoes and gravy, and pitchers of beer (so much for a quiet night). The bar staff were all rather huge burley looking men; I found out later that the staff were all ex-cons (referred to as convicts in the Land Down Under).
After the really tasty meal, when then headed over to BB King’s bar and listened to live music, it was Delta Blues (awesome). The bar was kind of quiet and after about an hour we decided on doing a pub crawl from the top to the bottom of Beale street, it’s actually not a long street so the crawl didn’t involve much walking. There were more bars playing live Blues, and we found a bar where locals liked to sign Dollar Bill and then attach them to the wall. I found out that this is a form of donating money to charities, apparently. Whether that was true, I signed a few bills and posted them on the wall; I was now part of Memphis. We drank at a few more bars and then wandered back to the hotel.
The following morning I said goodbye to my English mates who were taking a bus back to Nashville and had a look around the city, namely two of its most famous attractions, Elvis Presley’s Graceland and Sun Studios. There was also Museum of Civil Rights, but unfortunately I didn’t have time for all three as I would head off the following morning. The hotel had arranged a tour for me (the only way to go to Graceland is by a tour, don’t just turn up) so at about nine in the morning a courtesy bus came by and picked me up. Now Im not an Elvis fan but as I was in the area and my surname is King, I figured I should go to the home of the King. Upon arrival, they gave me a book of tickets to enter and view all the attractions including the various museums, Elvis’s private jet and of course merchandise. It was encouraged to take my time when looking around as once Id visited a museum and used a ticket, if I wanted to enter that museum again Id have to buy another ticket. Elvis was very good at making money.
After checking out Elvis’s car collection, Elvis jump suits, the jet, eating an Elvis hot dog and of course purchasing an Elvis Trucker’s cap it was my turn to go on the tour of the Graceland Mansion itself. It was probably four hours after I arrived but I didn’t mind as there was a lot of interesting things to see (and buy). There were many customers taking Graceland a lot more seriously than I was. Now the mansion was large but not ridiculously huge. Mind you I was not really wasn’t sure what to expect. The guide walked us through some rooms. Not all were available for viewing. They preserved the house with its retro 70s furniture and being a fan of retro was very much impressed in how tastefully designed the rooms were. So it wasn’t just all sequins and jumpsuits, though there was more of that.
The last room we entered was adorned with Elvis’s gold records are on display, it was a seemingly endless wall of gold, gold everywhere. It was really impressive (Elvis really is the King) and after spending about 10 minutes in there was escorted outside; the sun was not so bright as Elvis’s Gold record room. After exiting the tour entered the Meditation Garden where Elvis’s grave is located, as everything else in Graceland it was a spectacle, adorned in fresh flowers and lovingly looked after by the staff and people laying wreaths at the feet of the King. The tour then finished at Graceland, and it was back on the bus for my next destination.
Sun Studios, a plain-looking building that was on the way back to the hotel, identified by a sign out front emblazoned with yellow and black. Sun Studios is the “Birth Place of Rock n Roll”, now this was bloody cool. I love rock, I mean who doesn’t…. this was the home of the “Million Dollar Quartet”, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash (I learnt that on the tour) and where they recorded and became famous. It’s also where other artists such as U2, BB King and Def Leppard, amongst other famous artists, it’s a mecca for music. The tour was awesome, there was so much history and lots of instruments on display particularly to do with the Quartet, we were also allowed in the studio where our guide gave us informed details about the musicians, the tour guide was as entertaining the tour itself. After the tour finished, I purchased some merch and then walked back to town.
My second evening in Memphis was more sedate than my first, Id worked out I had been on the beers for 6 nights and was feeling a little tired. Memphis again was kinda quiet. It was midweek, I suppose. I listened to music, talked with a few people and headed back to the hotel. I enjoyed my time in Memphis, ; I got the distinct feeling that the city was kind of poor and possibly a little dangerous, the central city area was not that large and I was discouraged to go walking away from downtown at night by myself. I went to a few of the amazing attractions and from what I understand there is a lot more to see. I hope to get back there one day, will see, hope you enjoyed the read and as always feedback welcome.