Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Visiting Elvis in Memphis

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Visiting Elvis in Memphis

It rhymes!  And Memphis rocks! We went to Graceland, Sun Studio, Beale St. , the Gibson Guitar Factory, the FedEx Forum, the Hernando de Soto bridge, the Pyramid Arena, and the Elvis Presley and B.B. King Welcome Center.  We had planned on going to Tupelo, about 1 ½ hours away, Elvis’s birthplace and where he stayed for 13 years before moving to Memphis. However, M’A ‘turn’s front air conditioner failed in the blistering 97 degree heat and we had to proceed quickly to Camping World at Little Rock.

At an estimated population of over 670,000, Memphis is the largest city in the state of Tennessee and the nineteenth in the United States. So, despite the RV problem, we still had a lot of fun taking pictures of places, especially those around Graceland:  Elvis’s plane named Lisa Marie, his blue El Dorado convertible, The Elvis Presley Boulevard sign, and Heartbreak Hotel.  We did not take the tour of the mansion though since I had been there before and we had time for only one tour.

We took the tour of Sun Studio where the blending of Blues and Country music came together in the big bang of Rock N' Roll. We actually preferred the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour but they cancelled the last tour of the day.  Our tour literally rocked.  The tour guide, El Dorado, told the stories while playing outtakes from sessions.  We saw loads of memorabilia and heard the story behind the launching of the careers of Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, & Elvis Presley. 

El Dorado told us how the highlight of the studio’s history was made one December night when the four stars chanced upon each other and jammed together for the first time without knowing that the microphones were live.  He played for us part of their horsing around that that night.  This historic event is memorialized in the rollicking play, Million Dollar Quartet which Bill and I saw in Seattle some two and a half years ago (everybody danced on the aisles and atop seats). Finally, we were allowed to have our pictures taken with the original microphone Elvis used!

The Beale St. district is the place to be at night.  After being disappointed at the Gibson Guitar Factory Showroom, we took a photo of the FedEx Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies.  Then we had beer and chicken tenders at the B.B. King Blues Club. You see, we were waiting for 5 PM when the famous Peabody ducks walked the red carpet at the lobby of The Peabody (a famous hotel in the district) every day from their home at the rooftop.

Then we went to see the Elvis Presley and B.B. King Welcome Center where a huge colorful egg adorned the entry. Larger than life statues of the two Memphis sons stood inside.  From the Welcome Center you can see the graceful Hernando De Soto Bridge, a through arch bridge carrying Interstate 40 across the Mississippi River between Arkansas and Tennessee.  It is named for the 16th century Spanish explorer who explored this stretch of the River where his body is believed to have been buried.
Next to the Welcome Center and bridge is the 20,142 seat Pyramid Arena.  Standing at 321 feet (98m, about 32 stories) tall and with base sides of 591 ft, it is the sixth largest pyramid in the world behind the Great Pyramid of Giza (456 ft), Khafre's Pyramid (448 ft), etc. It is also 16 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Although originally built for the Grizzlies, the team abandoned it in 2004.  Since that time, the Arena has not been used for sports.
But we had to proceed quickly to Little Rock because more hot nights will make me lose more beauty sleep.  And that, definitely, cannot be!
Next Stop:  Little Rock, Arkansas