BBQ and Blues are the two things that often first come to mind when you hear someone mention “Memphis”, and after spending a weekend there this past April, I can attest that they do both things well. VERY well. I’d like to pass on some recommendations of places to explore during a quick weekend visit.
We initially planned this trip around the Band of Horses/Kings of Leon concert that was taking place at the FedEx Forum. The FedEx Forum is located right in the heart of all the action, literally steps away from Beale Street. It would definitely be worth taking a look at their schedule to see what upcoming concerts they have on their roster. There are a ton of national acts that make their way into Memphis for a show, and we were told that many of those bands venture to the blues clubs on Beale Street to do impromptu shows after their actual concert. While we were not lucky enough to see either band perform twice in one night, there is good chance you may catch someone “dropping by” to unexpectedly play a set.
Since my fiancé is a guitar buff, there was no way we were going to leave with taking a tour of Gibson’s Memphis guitar factory, located about a block off Beale Street. Lasting about 45 minutes, it consists of a behind-the-scenes tour of the actual factory. A knowledgeable guide will fill you on the step-by-step process of binding, neck-fitting, painting, buffing, and tuning that creates these incredible musical instruments. As they said on the tour, “After seeing how much painstaking work goes into each creation, you’ll never want to see anyone smash an electric guitar again!” We were fortunate enough to witness some of Gibson’s skilled Luthiers (the guitar-makers!) at work….I could’ve watched for hours.
We decided to make a musical weekend out of it and also tour the historic Sun Studio as well. Sun Studio is a recording studio often referred to as the birthplace of rock-and-roll. It was originally called “Memphis Recording Service” and blues legend B.B. King, and rock-and-roll greats Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis spent many a long nights recording there. After re-locating in 1959, Sun Studio re-opened at its original 706 Union Avenue location in 1987 and was converted back into a functioning recording studio, and has hosted such acts as U2 and John Mellencamp in recent years. With an impressive collection of rock-and-roll memorabilia on site, it’s a great tour to take. And seriously, when I was standing in that 20’ x 30’ room, I was truly in awe thinking about how much musical talent had stood in that exact same spot.
Following the musical theme of the weekend, we thought a trip to B.B. Kings Blues Club was in order for dinner one evening. Located on Beale Street, you hear the music from blocks away and it didn’t disappoint. Not only are their BBQ ribs delicious (don’t forget the cornbread!), but the talent onstage can’t be beat. The evening we were there, The Will Tucker Band was performing. At fifteen years old, yes – you read that right – 15 years old (!) he was one of the best live blues performers I’ve ever seen. His rendition of Johnny B. Goode brought the house down – and he can be found there every Friday and Saturday night.
Before we headed home on Sunday, we wanted to fill up with a fantastic breakfast. We asked around and the locals directed us to the Blue Plate Café. Not only was the breakfast amazing, they brought out biscuits and gravy like normal restaurants bring out bread, which made the Blue Plate Café my fiancé’s new favorite restaurant!
All in all, Memphis was a fantastic weekend getaway. A quick flight, great concert, TONS of musical history, and I left with both my stomach and my musical appetite satisfyingly full!
- Sarah from Delta Vacations