• Jenny

A Local Guide to Memphis Music

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

A Mural on Main Street that Celebrates the Best of Memphis!

Memphis may be most well known for Graceland, Beale Street, and BBQ; but that just barely scratches the surface. If you dig deeper, you’ll discover so much more! A closer look at the city sitting high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River reveals a city rich in history, art, music and culture that will steal your heart. The best way to experience a city is by immersing yourself in what makes its heart beat. In Memphis, the heart and soul of our city is in its music, and it is one of few cities to have such royal musical blood. From the King of Blues on Beale Street to the King of Rock n’ Roll at Graceland, music is in the air and on the streets!

Sun Studios

Sam Phillips first opened the historic Sun Studios in 1950

Sun Studios building on Union Avenue

Visit historic Sun Studios and take a stroll down memory lane to the time when Rock n’ Roll was born. So many famous musicians have recorded at this iconic studio, there are too many to count! B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few. See the famous musical artifacts on display, listen to the recording sessions that put Memphis on the musical world map, and stand on the hollowed ground where some of the greatest music in history was recorded.

Stax Records

Speaking of historic music studios, Memphis boasts the legendary Stax Records studio as well! Now operating as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a stop here will transport you back in time to the beginning of Soulsville USA, where artists the likes of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and Rufus Thomas recorded the music that created the “Memphis Sound”.

Talk about music royalty! But the real beauty of Stax Records was that despite the racial division of the city, and country at the time, it recognized and celebrated musical talent for what it was, regardless of skin color, age or gender. And that legacy continues today with the creation of the Soulsville Foundation and the Stax Music Academy across the street, a public charter school that offers opportunities for Memphis’s next generation of musicians to find their talent and follow their dreams.


Time stands still at the Graceland Mansion

Let’s get back to that Music Royalty. Millions of visitors make the pilgrimage to Memphis every year to visit the former home of the King of Rock n’ Roll. Graceland sits like a shining beacon to all those who loved his music, movies, passion, and genius.

Elvis's grave, next to both of his parents

The mansion, still preserved in all of its over the top, flamboyant glory, is a must-see for any music fan who comes to Memphis. As you walk through the house, you get the feeling that time stood still after he died. It’s part of the charm, and I think it plays a big role in why people love it so much.

Graceland is a big business, and it’s a tourist attraction. It will be crowded, especially if you come during the week of Elvis’s death, or birth for that matter. But it’s also an extremely cool and moving experience, and you can’t help but feel a sense of sadness at the loss of his beautiful soul.

Beale Street

Beale Street. Home of the Blues. Made famous by legends such as B.B. King, W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters. Take your pick of famous blues halls and music rooms: B.B. King’s Blues Club, Alfred's on Beale, or the Rum Boogie Cafe.

Musical Street Art on Beale
The Legendary B.B. King's Blues Club

The W.C. Handy Blues Hall at Rum Boogie Cafe

There’s even an International Blues Challenge held here every year that brings artists from all corners of the world! The Blues is truly a universal language. It isn’t just music, it’s a feeling. No matter which blues club you choose, take your time and stay awhile. Pull up a chair, listen to the words, feel the sweet singing of the guitar, and let the music of Memphis permeate your soul.

Local Music

You don’t have to search very hard to find local music in Memphis. Scattered in cafes, bars, and stages across the city, there’s always live music to be found here! Overton Square is an awesome place for enjoying delicious food and listening to talented local artists. One of my favorite spots here is Lafayette’s Music Room, where there's always music and a party. They have the best patio on the square, and with two levels of seating inside, there's not a bad seat in the house!

You've got to love a good piano bar, and Overton square has one of my favorites. In the alley that runs between Babalu and the parking garage, the Zebra Lounge is the perfect place for piano music with a flair. It's quirky, and a little cheesy, but that's what makes it so fun! Whether there are five people there, or a packed house of 50, I guarantee you'll have a great time and leave with a smile on your face.