Site of this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, Memphis, Tenn. is a busy inland port located in the southwest corner of the state on the shores of the Mississippi River. Declared the “Home of the Blues” by an Act of Congress in 1977, the city is best known for Beale Street, the heart of an entertainment district in downtown Memphis full of nightclubs, restaurants, and retail shops. Music, the city’s driving force, is a melting pot of delta blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B, and gospel.
This famous thoroughfare produced or nurtured some of the greatest talents in the blues and R&B genres, from W.C. Handy, who became known as the Father of the Blues; to Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll. While most of the original buildings where raucous blues clubs once flourished have been torn down, replicas have been built that have re-established Beale Street as the hub of the city’s entertainment district. Beale Street was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Among the top clubs today are Rum Boogie Club, B.B. King’s, Silky O’Sullivan’s, and Hard Rock Café.
Arguably the most quintessentially American culinary tradition, barbecue is as good as it gets in Memphis. Three establishments are in a class of their own. Charles Vergos Rendezvous, which dates to 1948 and claims to have originated the modern dry-rub seasoning, prepares delicious charcoal-broiled pork ribs. Payne’s Bar-B-Que is famous for its jumbo-sized chopped pork sandwich (served with a pickle/mustard seed sweet slaw). The new kid on the block is Central BBQ (est. 2002), where a full slab of ribs, marinated overnight and slow-cooked, will satisfy any appetite.
This white-columned, Colonial-style mansion on the outskirts of the city, acquired by Elvis Presley in 1957, is a must-visit for fans of the “King". On display are the spoils of rock ‘n roll stardom, from a gold-covered piano to Presley’s glittering, high-collared show costumes. Separate tours are available of his cars, touring bus, and private jet. The museum shop is filled with mementos of this rock superstar. Elvis is also buried at Graceland—true fans lay flowers on his tomb.
Located on Union Avenue a short distance from Beale Street, this legendary recording studio, opened by rock pioneer Sam Phillips in 1950, is where many blues and rock ‘n roll innovators established their reputations. It was here that Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and dozens more began their careers. Tours are available.
This beautifully restored 12-story landmark downtown hostelry offers the quintessential Southern Delta experience. The lobby retains its original stained-glass skylights and ornate travertine marble fountain—home to the hotel’s famous resident ducks, who parade each morning across a red carpet to the stirring sounds of Sousa’s “King Cotton March.” The ceremony is repeated in the afternoon when the ducks return to their Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop. The hotel’s 464 guest rooms are spacious and comfortable.