The ghosts of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King and W.C. Handy seem to loom large in the city dubbed both the Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll and the Home of the Blues. All around Beale Street, guests can experience Memphis’ musical impact at several museums and attractions.
Groups touring this music mecca can walk in the footsteps of the King, strum a Gibson guitar and record their own Sun Studios hit. Exhibits at Memphis’ music museums bring the personalities and careers of the city’s music legends to life.
Whether or not guests arrive as fans ready to rock, they will leave Memphis tapping their toes to a beat that never left the Tennessee Delta town.
Before Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber, there was the King. Elvis Presley arrived in Memphis a shy Mississippi boy who would soon become an American pop culture icon.
A visit to Graceland, Elvis’ legendary home, provides a glimpse into the interior life of this incredible musician. Groups can see Elvis’ flair for decorating while walking through his living room, pool room and famous Jungle Room. An audio guide of the mansion tells stories from Elvis’ home life. The tour ends at the graves of Elvis and his family members.
Groups that have explored these hallowed halls before should consider returning after the spring of 2017, when a new entertainment complex will open across the street from the iconic mansion. Elvis: Past, Present and Future will showcase the career and legacy of Elvis with interactive and immersive exhibits.
“The $45 million entertainment complex across the street is the largest investment made to Graceland since it opened,” said Colleen Palmertree, national sales manager for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are so many additions, groups can spend a half a day or a whole day just at Graceland.”
The new facility will include a 20,000-square-foot museum called Elvis: The Entertainer. Other highlights will include the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, a live music venue, two restaurants and a 450-room resort.
Gibson Guitar Factory Tour
After modest beginnings crafting mandolins in 1894, the Gibson Guitar Factory eventually began selling guitars preferred by stars such as King, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and John Lennon. Tours walk groups through the skilled process involved in constructing each Gibson guitar: binding, neck fitting, painting, buffing and tuning.
The 45-minute tour also reveals the influential history of the company, which produces some of the most popular brands of electric guitars in the world. The company’s famous Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Lucille models became the go-to’s for serious musicians like Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow and Bob Dylan.
After learning about how the Gibson guitar’s sound has affected the world of music for more than 100 years, groups will often end their tour listening to a musician play one of the guitars inside the factory.
“You get to witness the skilled craftsmanship that goes into making a Gibson guitar,” said Palmertree. “They also have a gift shop where you can test the Gibson guitars out yourself.”