I had four life-changing, enlightening days in Memphis, TN. It’s hard to express how affected I was by Memphis, and the role that music played in forming the culture of the city and vice versa. I asked my four Wisconsin friends/sisters to meet me there for my birthday.
We stayed at an airbnb in a very funky, somewhat upscale neighborhood called Cooper-White, about 10 minutes from downtown and Beale Street, the mecca of Blues and dancing. I have had good luck with airbnbs in Mexico and Guatemala, and this was no exception. Chere was an artist, teacher, and a grand hostess. We stayed in a separate building in her backyard, which she had converted into a two bedroom house and which was a former tack house for horse gear. There was no breakfast served but I did invite Chere over for breakfast one day, when I made veggie frittatas for all. We enjoyed our pick of the many good restaurants in the neighborhood, especially a gourmet, reasonably priced restaurant called “Alchemy”; delicious food and fast, very friendly service.
Memphis is a welcoming, generous and cheerful town. We received big smiles and greetings from everyone we met or with whom we interacted. As we saw later on our tour of the Civil Rights Museum, there has not been the ingrained, organized racial prejudice and persecution in Memphis that has been recorded in Little Rock, Selma, Birmingham and other cities in the South. I attribute much of this to the important role of music in Memphis.
We started our touring at the Sun Studio, the music studio of the amazing Sam Phillips. He didn’t see black and white; he saw talent in the Blues and Rock musicians who came to him to start their careers in music, which changed our lives. The most famous was Elvis, but Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins (songwriter and original performer of “Blue Suede Shoes”), Jerry Lee Lewis, Rufus Thomas, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and my personal favorite, Howlin’ Wolf, all began their careers with Sam, who I would like to thank for bringing Rock and Blues into mainstream America. Sun Records was where it all happened. From Sun Studio pamphlet:
“If music were a religion then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio
its most sacred shrine. Elvis, Johnny, Carl, and Jerry Lee – the Million
Dollar Quartet -, got their start here. Ringo called us Ground Zero. And
Bob Dylan kissed the floor.”
Bob kissed the floor where Elvis had his X to stand on. These were the White, Rock men, but they were heavily influenced by the Black, Blues Men and Women. There was nothing said about women at the Sun Studio tour, but I hope that M’Lou will do a radio program on the Black Women Musicians of Memphis, TN, and the Delta Blues on her Monday show on WDRT community radio in Viroqua, WI.
On to the Rock and Soul Museum; they say it best: “The beat starts here…where musical pioneers who, for the love of music, overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook
the entire world.”
After this, what was left for the Wild Dancing Women of Western Wisconsin to do? DANCE on Beale Street, which has been a dream of mine for many years. YHow I wish I could have been in Memphis in the mid to late 50s when this amazing music had its start. But I sure had fun in 2015!
My next blog will be about dancing on Beale Street (they will remember us!) and about visiting Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum, both on my birthday. I was so drained emotionally that I danced very wildly at B.B. King’s Bar. Next time…..