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="http://blog.pandora.com/pandora/archives/images/Tearjerkers.jpg" 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.