DAY 6 – 25th MARCH 2011
Today I shared something with Cher. I am neither a gypsy, tramp or thief – though the furry taste on my tongue this morning might have meant any of those. No, today was all about Walking in Memphis. And with my height, I was hardly ten feet of the Beale.
Midtown Memphis doesn’t lend itself to a sense of history, and compared to New Orleans, it doesn’t put on quite the same show.
However, this is the road that leads to a little bit of history. Well actually, a whole load of music history. The place where Elvis and Johnny Cash were first discovered.
It’s an unassuming building – and for $12 you get a pretty unassuming tour. Upstairs contains a load of memorabilia, including pictures, instruments and recording equipment from downthe years – and downstairs is the main studio itself. The tour guide tells the well trodden story of Elvis, Johnny Cash and the other unknowns who passed through the doors, including a young Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. The visitors are suitably impressed, and raid the gift shop that has every imaginable thing with the logo on it.
But not everyone seems to appreciate the story…
Black culture, of course, is not defined by Martin Luther King, and on the way back to the hotel I spot another piece of history, in the form of an old radio station’s building.
A nearby plaque explains the history. WDIA was the country’s first station to have an all black format. This pre-dated the civil rights movement of the sixties, and must have been an incredibly important part of Memphis at the time.
The station still broadcasts today – though it’s no longer in a downtown location or I might have been forced to pay a visit in person. And it continues to serve an important purpose in modern black culture, with an R&B music format.
Now, I didn’t expect to find that when I was Walking in Memphis.