Our recent travel blogs have covered the mecca for all Elvis fans - Graceland, as well as the famous Sun Studios and Stax Recording Studios where Elvis recorded many of his songs. We even tasted some of his favourite dishes in his best-loved restaurants. However, when planning our itinerary for Memphis, we knew that we wanted to see many more of the significant sites connected to the King, some of which may escape Elvis fans visiting Memphis. So here are seven Elvis attractions in Memphis which often get overlooked, but should be part of your itinerary.
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Goner Records is an independent record label and store in the fashionable Cooper-Young District, but the main attraction for Elvis fans is the "Elvis Impersonator Shrine." Just inside the door to the store, and on right, is an eclectic display of impersonator memorabilia. At one time, you could put 25 cents in the machine, and the shrine would light up and illuminate pictures of various impersonators and play covered Elvis songs. It seems that the machine has not worked for some time, but it is a fun five minute visit if you happen to be taking in the cool vibes of Cooper-Young.
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum tells the complete story of the musical history of Memphis – the musical pioneers and legends of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds. We realised early on that one of the big themes throughout our Memphis visit was how music transcended the racial divide and was a force that united this great city, and this museum illustrated this point very well. Elvis was, of course, the biggest musical star of Memphis, if not the world, and as you would expect, Elvis takes a prominent role in the museum’s display. Taking pride of place is the original sheet with the lyrics to Heartbreak Hotel, as well as the Isana Guitar, which was purchased by Elvis and was his only guitar while stationed in Germany during his term of service in the US Army. All music lovers should visit this museum, and when you do, make sure that you take the digital audio tour guide – the guide is packed with over 300 minutes of information, including over 100 songs.
The Statue of Elvis on Beale Street
Beale Street is a must see for any visitor to Memphis. Fans of the King should make sure that they get their photo taken with the Statue of Elvis, which can be found between Main Street and 2nd Street. The statue was unveiled in 1997 by sculptor Andrea Lugar. This Elvis shows him as he would have looked on Beale Street circa 1955, wearing a stage outfit he might have bought at Lansky Bros. down the block.
Speaking of the stage outfits tailored by Lansky Bros., you can still visit the shop where Elvis bought many of his flamboyant clothes. The original store can still be visited at 126 Beale Street, and there is also a branch at The Peabody hotel. Lansky Brothers quite rightly market themselves as “Clothier to the King”. Lansky Bros. have always offered flamboyant, well made and challenging fashions, quite out of step with current, more staid fashions. Their colourful window displays with bright colours and flashy designs no doubt caught the attention of a young Elvis Presley in 1952. However, it was not just Elvis Presley who was mesmerized by the glitz and glamour of Lansky Bros.’ stage clothing. Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis were all shopping at Lansky Bros. in the fifties and sixties. If you visit the store at The Peabody you can see on display one of seven ‘Superfly’ light coats that Elvis bought. Elvis had damaged this coat and brought it back to be repaired, but he never picked it up. While at The Peabody make sure that you time it so that you see the now-famous Peabody Duck March, which happens daily through the Grand Lobby at 11am and 5pm. This luxurious downtown hotel opened in 1869 and is known as the "South's Grand Hotel." The tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain began back in the 1930's and in 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them to march to and from the fountain. The hotel is also a fantastic place to take a rest during your Elvis tour and enjoy a drink in luxury!
The Levitt Shell
The Levitt Shell (formerly Overton Park Shell and Shell Theater) is an open-air amphitheater located in Overton Park and was built in 1936. The Shell was designed by architect Max Furbringer, it was modeled after similar shells in Chicago, New York, and St. Louis. Elvis Presley gave his first paid concert there on July 30, 1954, when he opened for headliner Slim Whitman, and performed what some music historians call the first-ever rock and roll show. Nowadays, the Shell offers concerts on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights during its spring and fall seasons. While visiting the Shell, there is plenty to see and do at Overton Park. Just two minutes walk from the Shell is the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. There is also the Memphis Zoo, Rainbow Lake and the Old Forest Arboretum, among other attractions at the park
Humes High School
From 1948 until 1953, Elvis attended Humes High School, which is now a middle school. Elvis was the first in his family to finish high school and graduate, which he did here at Humes. While in attendance at this school, Elvis gave his first performance in front of a crowd. He sang and played guitar at a talent show in the school's auditorium. To his surprise and delight he won the competition!
Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and moved to Memphis in 1948. Initially, the Presley family lived in a series of boarding houses and apartments. Their apartment in Lauderdale Courts, a low-income housing project, was the third such residence for the family. It is reported that they paid $35.00 per month in rent. They moved into the apartment in 1949 and lived there until 1952 when their income exceeded the maximum amount allowed.
Join us next time when we return to our Polish travels and focus on the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Zamość. However, do not be alarmed for we will continue sharing further blog posts on our trip to Memphis, and also Elvis' birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Until then, happy reading and safe travels.
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