ELVIS’S CAREER took a turn on Beale Street.
The Memphis road is called the home of the blues. It now includes 25 bars and restaurants. The street was a big influence in Elvis’s early trajectory, as it’s where he immersed himself in the music of such artists as B.B. King and Big Mama Thornton.
You can engage with Elvis history, and much of the musical history of the country, on Beale Street. Get started at the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum (memphisrocknsoul.org), which tells how musical styles born from 1930s sharecroppers were forged in the explosion of Sun, Stax, and Hi Records. Then tour nearby Sun Studio (sunstudio.com) where musical legends Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis were discovered. It’s known worldwide as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.
If you want to continue to follow in the footsteps of the King, then check out Lansky Brothers (lanskybros.com). This family-owned clothier helped influence Presley’s signature couture during his teen years, and still sells his iconic Hush Puppies, made famous through his rockabilly classic “Blue Suede Shoes.” Pop over to the Arcade diner (arcaderestaurant.com), where Elvis ordered his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Naturally, they memorialized his usual booth. Nearby, Overton Park Shell (overtonparkshell.org) is the open-air amphitheater where he had his first paid gig, opening for Slim Whitman. The venue now hosts soul, funk, rock, folk, and country talent. And the ultimate Elvis temple, Graceland (graceland.com), is just a few miles away.
But Memphis isn’t just music. Head to the National Civil Rights Museum (civilrightsmuseum.org) housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the Memphis Botanic Garden (membg.org) with 30 specialty areas, the powerful Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum (slavehavenmuseum.org), and the Metal Museum (metalmuseum.org), one of the few in the world devoted to fine ornamental metalwork.