Well, I didn’t make it to Graceland, but there was lots more to see. I’ll just have to go back. There’s a certain aura about Memphis – music history so rich you really feel it in the air. Across the street from my first stopoff (Stax Museum) was an old church where Rev. Herbert Brewster used to pen songs for the legendary Mahalia Jackson. He wrote them on the cardboard inserts for laundered shirts, that parishioners delivered to him every Sunday…

Stax had actually dismantled and reassembled a 100 year old church house in the museum. The well-worn wood floorboards (an under-recognized instrument of the day) and low wood ceiling really brought you back to the time.
My sincere thanks to Tim Sampson for taking so much time to walk me through the historical landmark and museum. They’re doing great things, including the recent launch of the Stax Music Academy – a music magnet school for underprivileged kids. Stax Records was ground zero for the Memphis R&B movement. An integrated music collective thick with talent. From the great Isaac Hayes (check out his nice ride below)…
… to Booker T and the MGs. It was my great pleasure to lay my eyes upon the actual B3 used in the original recording of Green Onions… This may not mean much to most people, but to the few organists who will read this, feast your eyes…
Seems like just about everyone was from here, or found their way here at some point: BB King, Ray Charles, Elvis, Al Green, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Bar-Kays, Otis Redding… Memphis was the grittier cousin of motown. The combination of country, gospel and blues are all apparent – they all really share the same roots.
It was the assasination of MLK at the local Lorraine Hotel (the one non-segregated hotel in town) that triggered the demise of the scene.
Moved on to Shangri La records and loaded up on local disks – then hit the BBQ Shop for an evening of great conversation and dry ribs. Fun bunch showed up, including two young founders of local Makeshift Records. Through Makeshift, artists barter their trade skills (painting, carpentry, etc) for studio time. Great idea.
Topped off the evening with a fun open mic at Mo’s Memphis Originals (always great to see amateurs just giving it a shot – very friendly and supportive crowd), and some rock from the Tearjerkers at HiTone Cafe.
<img alt="Tearjerkers.jpg" src="; width="350" height
Between the two I visited Sun Records, home of Elvis Presley and countless other greats. Still an active recording studio. I stood for quite a while outside in the warm night, just soaking in the history. Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun, had a reputation as a true champion of musicians. I felt a certain sense of awe as I wandered around the old back alley… made all the more surreal by the neon and passing cars… Won't soon forget that.


The Pandora Team

43 thoughts on “Memphis

  1. (Hope this isn’t the wrong place for this.)
    Just wanted to say that Pandora is wonderful. I love the “why was this song played” feature. I love that we can make several stations. I love that in Firefox, it only takes up one tiny tab, as opposed to launching a player that takes up more space on my taskbar (yes, I have a claustrophobically small monitor). I love pretty much everything about Pandora.
    An artist to add, though: Migala! ( is their official site.)

  2. Hey I was wondering, Could you add a list of all the songs that each user has listened to? that way if we don’t buy it from itunes then we could look for them in cd stores and such!
    -just a thought

    You should be a millionaire (if you wanted to be) cause this beats itunes, sirius and any other technology out there. thanks for all the great music and if you ever want to come to Vermont I know of some great places in town to hear great music (we don’t just produce jam bands like Phish, but we will take credit for that one anyway).
    If you are looking for more music to include I recommend “The Year’s Best”, a local VT favorite.

  4. I love pandora! Might I suggest a setting (aggressive to conservative) for new music rotation. I end up hearing a lot of the bands I started off with.
    Also I would recommend not auto-launching (or a specified setting) of the favorites when a new band is placed there. THANKS SO MUCH!

  5. Hey Tim. Pandora rocks! Okay, so now you have been ALL over the south east, except the Birmingham, AL and Atlanta, GA area! What’s up with that? They are only 2.25 hours apart and there some good music to be heard around here. Too bad that you missed “Boulder Grass” out at Horse Pens 40 (outside of Birmingham). Do you see Bonaroo in your future? Also, did you make it to Chelsea’s Cafe when you were in Baton Rouge, LA? It is just down the street from The Chimes.

  6. Wow! I just signed up for Pandora today, and my first click on the blog landed the headline “Memphis”, my hometown. Good karma. Always nice to read someone’s view of what we sometimes take for granted. Memphis is just steeped in music, which I believe is one of the best ways to continue to connect between black, white, old, young, male, female, on and on. Rock on, Pandora.

  7. I am not sure of your itnerary, but I recommend – no – I dare you – to visit south florida, it would be interesting to see your take of the flood of latin american influence in that area, dominican, cuban, puerto rican, colombian, and their combinations to hip-hop, rap, & r&b.

  8. I just discovered Pandora. I love it!
    Chattanooga, TN is a great music town. There a lot of local bands that play and they have a pretty good turn out. You would probably have to promote like crazy to get a decent turn out though.

  9. I just sign up for Pandora. It is great! However, Pandora does not seem to have Classical music. I searched for “Student Prince” or “Merry Widow” but nothing came out. Do you plan to add Classical music?
    C Lin

  10. This is a fantastic approach to finding the music I love. I have recommended it to most all of my friends. I do have one suggestion. It appears that the lyric content is not one of the characteristics considered. I would like to see more lyrically consistent music. For example In my gospel channel I only want to hear songs that have lyrics consistent with that type music, not just the consistent melodic structure.

  11. I guess I’m too late! I’m a new Pandora listener. I live in Bowling Green, KY – about 50 miles North of Nashville. Our town is absolutely bursting at the seams with talented local musicians. My boyfriend is a DJ at a local radio station and he does a local music show once a week so I’m very involved with the local music scene. I could introduce you around next time you’re in the area and you could hear all the local music you can stand!

  12. Memphis is a great place for the laid-back soulster or the heady bohiemillectual who likes to suffer a drunken, heavy, sweet, damp meditation on why poverty, decay and ignorance can not extinguish beauty, joy or genius. The best way to experience Memphis is to quit your job, move here on the hottest day of summer, and stay for 3 yrs before deciding to stay or leave.
    My most holy, almost overlooked Memphis experience happened at Barristers (no closed) when a friend of mine (Tony) drug me to Jeff Buckley’s free, weekly Wed. performance. I had never heard of Buckley – and wasn’t really impressed the first song or so – but then I quit scanning the room for familiar faces, closed my eyes and got absorbed by the sonic undulations emanating from Buckley’s guitar and the siren of his voice.
    The first time (and the last time) I heard Jr. Kimbrough live and the first time I had heard Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” on the radio were the only other times such a moment totally possessed me. Jr. Kimbrough performed at the Center For Southern Folklore – he seemed very frail, played about 25 – 30 minutes – abruptly stopped playing, letting the guitar rest in his lap and waited for someone to help him off the make shift stage. Coltrane blew my mind intellectually in a way that moved me to emotion. Kimbrough blew my mind with what seemed like auditory heroine hypnotic sound smack… Did I mention that Othar Turner’s Fife band rolled through and tore the club up right before Kimbrough went on?
    In Memphis, not everyone is hollarin’ goat, but if you hear’em hollarin’ you might want to stop and listen – there is no telling what sound might redeem your soul from a life of auditory safety and mediocrity.
    Some great contemporary Memphis sounds: Lucero; Any of the North Mississippi Hill country blues guys – R.L Burnside, J.R. Kimbrough Robert Belfour et cetera; the many incarnations of American Death Ray – your sure bet is to stop by Shangrila and ask somebody there where to go. And believe it our not – I love much of the Memphis Hip Hop scene – 8 ball, Project Pat, MJG, Three Six Mafia – Yo Ghotti (sp?) – all those up and comers hustle-n-flowing around the Parkways!
    Hi Tone and Young Avenue Deli features some good Memphis roots-rock-punk-country-bluegrass – soulful cracker music… As far as where to see Memphis Rap performers live – I’m too boojshie and white to really know – I settle for bumping up the base while driving my hatchback listening to Hot 107.1, driving southeast down Lamar on my way to work dreaming that I am driving through a vein in the guitar picking arm of J.R. Kimbrough.

  13. I was hoping to open your eyes to a great little band from Tennessee that I recently had the opportunity to see, and will be seeing again on July 14, 2006. They already seem to have at least a decent following for the kind of venue I saw them at. A little place in Jackson, TN has a battle of the bands going on, and easily the best local band I have ever heard, InfantDecibel, took to the stage and rocked the joint for 45 minutes. Last week I met Mike the lead singer at the same bar scopin his competition. Great guy, down to earth, and he and his bandmates lok to have a very promising future in the music industry. Keep an eye out for them, I promise you won’t be dissapointed. I am also going to visiting the HiTone in Mepmphis for the first time tomorrow to see Cracker for about the bazillionth time. Hope its as great a venue as it sounds.

  14. I live in Sevierville, tn.home of Dolly Parton. We have a bunch of shows in town because this is a tourist attraction. We have over 8 million tourists a year here, big in dinner shows with musical celebrities. Louise Mandrell and “Alabama” both have their own shows here, so they live here year-round. For more info, go to Dolly’s park called Dollywood on the internet.
    Might be a great place to advertise your business. Take care…Joe

  15. Tim: coming to you from just outside Memphis in Germantown and not an original “Memphian”….besides Graceland, you’ve GOT to stop and see Sun Records (original home of Elvis, Johnny Cash and many, many more) Sun preceded Stax and they’ve got an adorable, retro (intact) place that’ll take you back. Memphis has so many hidden music gems, we just don’t hang out the billboards and make it easy…more of an Easter Egg hunt with rich ore.
    I’m new to your site and simply love it. I’ve turned on a dozen people in a week. If I can help with your next trip to Memphis, let me know. Ray Fleming is the head of the Memphis Music Commission and I can put you guys together.
    Scott Messmore

  16. Finally, something that can help my husband and I find more music that both of us enjoy. This stuff is amazing!!!
    I agree with a previous post that Chattanooga, TN would be a great place to visit. Something that you could participate in very easily is The Riverbend Festival. It’s awesome every year there are 7 days of concerts on 6 stages downtown, with fireworks on the last night.
    I’ve been going since I moved here when I was 13 yrs old. We’ve had everything from Kid Rock to Chakka Khan at Riverbend. I just think that it would be awesome to have Pandora visit Chattanooga, TN.
    Either way, have fun on your trip!!!

  17. I love to hear the stories real music lovers tell about Memphis. The sense of awe you felt is how I feel every day about living in Memphis. So glad that our fine city was good to you during your trip.

  18. If you go to Memphis, please also go down to Helena, Arkansas and over to Clarksdale or some other spot in Mississippi. Each state in the Delta — Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee — played a pivotal part in the blues and in rock.

  19. I would love to have access to my stations on my phone. it would be a gret way to have my music on the go and a great way for me to tell others about the site.

  20. Please think about a stop in Knoxville! Visit with AC Productions (Ashley Capps). Visit the University of Tennessee. See Knoxville, the real home of country music. Visit WDVX. Stop by a show at the Tennessee Theater (the jewel of the Southeast.) PANDORA is the best! Thanks for what you do.

  21. i’d like to second the vote for Helena, AR and the King Biscuit Blues Festival every October. It doesn’t get much better than that.
    Every time i travel overseas, people always ask me about Elvis when they find out i’m from Memphis. It’s happened on three continents so far. It’s a lovely thing to have my city known for its music, in all of its flavors. i worked at the Rock & Soul museum downtown the summer after i graduated from high school, and it was an eye-opener for me to see just how steeped we are in our musical history without realizing it. Everyone has their Elvis or BB King story, and it’s my favorite part of our city.
    You should have gone to Corky’s barbecue. Next time?

  22. I will be in Gatlinburg for New Years. I am from CA, just moved here in July. I think TN is very slow but I have done more fishing in the past 6mos than I have in 20yrs. Gota love it. If you are into nature there is plenty here.

  23. memphis not all dat its okay i liv herre so i kno but its kinda kool & it it hav it times good & bad!! u just gotta enjoy life no matter where u liv at!!!

  24. Tim said:
    T> I’m still planning my itinerary for Tennessee. I’ll be in Nashville, Clarksdale, Memphis and at least one other town the week of April 17th
    Last I heard, Clarksdale is in Mississippi, where it is known as the birthplace and World Capital of the Blues and location of the famous Crossroads intersection of Highway 61 and 49. It is home to the Delta Blues Museum. They also hold a Tennessee Williams (a native of Mississippi in spite of the moniker) festival in October.
    Enjoyed your road trip..thanks
    Wayne Renardson,
    acoustic bassist
    Nashville TN

  25. Please add The Oblivians to Pandora! Jack Oblivian is on here, but access to the rest of their music is vital to my workplace survival.

  26. Tim
    Read ur comments about Grimey’s during ur last trip to Nashville. Great store! During ur next visit here chec out the Great Escape including their website
    Safe trip dude
    Barry Berger

  27. tenessee’s music boom hasn’t remaned in only the areas that you have been. Chattanoga has lots of Really Good local artest,some of them have gone Big Time even.
    guss where the Grass Roots played there first live preformance? Chattanoga.

  28. MEMPHIS BABY!!! I moved from Phoenix Az, just to be near Memphis and learn some blues. and your station plays some great BLUES!!! Thank you so much for your efforts, they make my day, everyday!

  29. Hi Tim!
    First, thanks for Pandora! It’s the absolute GREATEST thing since sliced bread, and that comes from the heart!
    Here’s a little history about Tennessee and the original ‘country’ music for you. KNOXVILLE (K Town) is the origin of true hillbilly country music. People living here in the Smokey Mountains area developed their style of music from the Celtic tradition of bag pipes. If you listen carefully to the ol’ time country music ‘fiddle’ you’ll notice its sound mimics bagpipes. The violin replaced the bagpipe. This area was settled by mostly English, Scottish, and Irish in the early 1700’s, and they were almost totally cut off from the rest of the country because of the Appalichian Mountain chain for most of the 18th and 19th centuries so the people developed their own style or genre of music from home made muscial instruments like the violin and dulcimer, ets. Also, I’m sure you’re aware artists like Chet Atkins, Roy Acuff, Mary Costas, Dinah Shore, and more were born and raised right here in the Knoxville area. In the beginning the Grand Ol’ Opry drew most of its musicians from the East Tennessee area although now the Opry takes in a lot of Kentucky Blue Grass and Texas Country Western genres. Knoxville is the site of the famous Thunder Road that moonshiners sped along during the days when moonshine was the rage especially during prohibition.
    Sorry to give you so much to read, but I thought it a good idea to tell you about the great contributions to our musical heritage in this country so you will hopefully be sure to visit Knoxville when you next journey to Tennessee.
    Don’t forget to check out the Smokey Mountains and the Biltmore Mansion Mansion in Asheville, NC while you’re here. You’ll find them awe inspiring, and it will definitely change your perceptions about this part of the country. Before you travel here, contact the music department at the University of Tennessee and our symphony so they can make your visit more productive and enjoyable.
    A devout listener.

  30. As a proud Southern girl, I can say with pride that Memphis has such a rich musical history no matter the genre, you can find it!!
    I am also a Paramedic in Memphis, so I know the ins and outs…where to go and where to run from….seriously need a toue guide…just ask!

  31. there was a resturant downstairs the cooks would always introduce me to sam and freinds. he was one of the greats here in memphis my family owned a ambulance company here im always drawn back here and think of memphis as home.

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