From Beale St to Oblivion

Slightly more obscure reference to an album by a band called Clutch.

Memphis has been rad. At least from the perspective of a music nerd, this place has an incredibly rich history and the past 24 hours I’ve spent here have been great. Got in here about 9:30pm and took a brief stroll up Beale St, Memphis’ equivalent of New Orleans’ Bourbon St; touristy and bars loaded bands playing the local musical specialty (in Memphis’ case, the blues).

Today I got up early to head to Sun Studios to catch their free bus to Graceland, but in the process got suckered into doing a tour of the Sun Studios… and I gotta say it was actually a pretty cool experience. It’s a tiny building and honestly there’s not that much to see, but our guide was full of stories, and it was good to get a bit of a history behind Elvis’ rise to stardom and an insight into the importance of the museum. Words are always boring though (except for the captions, so read them), so I leave you with photos to explain the experience.

One of the claims to the 'birthplace of rock n roll' fame... A blown speaker that was 'repaired' and still used during recording despite the distorted sound. Apparently this was the actual inspiration for the distortion effect.

After a tragic accident in which he lost both arms, no-one had the heart to tell Walter the single note he kept playing was not actually a song.

The actual studio room. Everyone from Elvis to Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and even U2 recorded here.

Total goober. Those tips the tour guide was totally expecting would have you believe that was an actual microphone used by Elvis. All the oldies in the room got a little giddy when that was implied.

Graceland was all kinds of weird. I can’t count the number of times I stopped to think about all the things I’d heard about Elvis in the past, and that they were actually true. Things like how Graceland represented everything quintessentially gawdy 70’s, or that he watched 3 television sets at once.

Living room, complete with 15-foot couch on the right side (not fully in shot)

As you may be aware, the King died whilst on the throne. Legend has it, the taco bell he had the night before was doing a real number on him (a number 2, ay! Geddit?!), and the old ticker just couldn’t handle the stress.Well the throne was to be found upstairs.

This is the toilet from my hotel room, for illustrative purposes. But I'm sure the toilet he died on didn't look too different from this.

The legendary 3 sets of TVs

The 'Jungle Room'. Shagpile carpets, also lining the ceiling (not shown) and some walls.

Hall of gold records

This room was originally a racquetball court Elvis had built... Graceland turned it into another gold record/plaque storage facility... I guess it's more interesting to look at than a big white room.

Elvis' grave. Buried next to his grandmother and parents.

One of Elvis' private jets, the Lisa Marie

The gates of Graceland. This and the fence are covered in graffiti, similar to Abbey Rd studios.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking across the city to 1372 Overton Park. This is what it looks like:

Ok, this is the literal 1372 Overton Park Ave. Again, geeky music nerd thing for me to do, apparently it is the place the singer of Lucero is/was living.

And then I spent about 45 mins getting lost searching for the actual Overton PARK, where there is a band shell which is apparently the place of Elvis’ first ever live performance.

And so concluded a day of indulging in music geekery. Spent the night doing not much aside from swimming and chowing down on some seafood gumbo (it’s a Southern specialty, kinda like a stew with rice). It was really good.


Written on August 20, 2010