Eat Travel Rock

Kelly Rizzo

A Memphis Awakening

Have I mentioned I love The South?  I love everything about it.  The people, the food, the music, the family values, the music.  Yes, I said music twice.  That's because there are two types of music you hear when traversing though the southland.  The kind that is readily accessible when you enter any type of live music venue, bar, club, or concert.  And the other kind, the kind that is soul changing... the kind that just fills your inner being with the sounds of the history, people, and mood of this deep region.  Memphis embodies all of this.  The city exudes the best of the best when it comes to everything that makes The South great...especially the music.  

Memphis is known as the home of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock and Roll.  This could not fit my not-so-secret agenda any more perfectly.  I LOVE the Blues.  From B.B. King to Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters to Ray Charles, some of the greatest musicians of all time were Blues artists.  Let's not forget, of course, that "The Blues had a baby and they named it Rock and Roll".  Memphis was the genesis of the greatest musical genre of all time.  It's where the Big Bang occurred and where the heavens breathed life into what would become one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon humanity.  Hyperbole?  A bit.  But follow me just for a second.  Every beloved Rock artist in existence was, in one way or another,  influenced by the original Rock n Roll artists who humbly started out in Memphis, and of course those artists were influenced by the Blues musicians of the day.  It's a circle...a circle of musical life.  

Citizen Cope at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music

While I was in town last week, I was privileged enough to experience the brilliance of a Memphis artist up close and personal.  Not just a "local" artist but the great and soulful Citizen Cope, who proudly calls Memphis his hometown.  The setting was the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, it couldn't have been more perfect.  No more than 40 people gathered into what was an old recording studio to watch and listen to the deep sounds of Citizen Cope's acoustic set.  What made the event even more interesting, was that the intimate concert was being broadcast LIVE to an audience in Chicago's Grant Park.  It was surreal watching my hometown on the big screens simultaneously enjoying the music that I was witnessing first hand in Memphis.  Cope played about 7 songs, all of which were raw, bone chilling, and pure.  I had known a bit of his work prior to the show, but it is very safe to say, I am now a true fan.  

Me with Citizen Cope

This wasn't my first time to Memphis.  I had been before and visited Graceland (A MUST in every way), and ate BBQ, and partied on Beale Street... ok and I maybe did all that this visit too.  HOWEVER, there was one activity this time around, that is safe to say, was life changing for me.  I've always wanted to check out Sun Studio.  It is the Mecca and the birthplace of Rock and Roll.  It's where the great Sam Phillips, himself, discovered the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and many more.  I giddily took the full tour of the studio.  

Sun Studio, Memphis, TN

Sun Studio Exterior

I saw where Elvis entered the door for the very first time.  I stood on the exact spot where he belted out his first hit single in 1954, "That's Alright".  I gazed through the window of the sound booth where Johnny Cash recorded "Walk The Line", and leaned along the same wall where the impromptu jam session later known as The Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash)  took place.  

The front office and waiting room where Elvis and other were first greeted into Sun Studio. 

Million Dollar Quartet- Left to Right- Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash

I had chills the whole time, and the entire experience was surreal.  Per my recollection, the only other time I had such chills was maybe at the Colosseum in Rome, when I realized I was standing in the same spot where the Roman emperors and gladiators made history.  Yes, I just compared Elvis to an emperor... am I wrong, wink wink?

This is the original broadcast booth where "Daddy-O" Dewey Phillips hosted his groundbreaking radio show from 1953-1959.  This is also where he played Elvis' "That's Alright" for the very first time.

Of course, no stay in Memphis would be complete without experiencing true Southern Hospitality in a classic and time honored hotel.  I was a guest at the Peabody Hotel and it was fabulous in EVERY way.  The decor, the service, the location,  It was absolutely gorgeous... oh and did you know they're famous for their ducks?!  You heard me. They have ducks that waddle through the lobby daily and swim in the grand fountain in the atrium.  It's quite adorable and a sight to see for sure.  

Stay tuned for my blog next week on the Memphis food scene AND an amazing event that will bring some of the best of Memphis TO CHICAGO!  More info coming soon!