When you think of Memphis, chances are you probably think of Elvis Presley and his extravagant abode. And while Graceland is a must for any Memphis trip, the southern city offers a variety of attractions for music history buffs and fans of country, rockabilly, soul, blues, gospel and anything in between. The city is even the new home of the Ameripolitan Awards, an annual award show that celebrates traditional country music in various categories, including honky tonk, Western swing, outlaw country and rockabilly.
Music City might be just down the road, but when it comes to music history, Memphis is still second to none. Below, read Wide Open Country's list of the five must-see music museums in the music history mecca that is Memphis.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
No trip to Memphis is complete without a trip to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum pays tribute to the legendary Stax record label. The company was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton as Satellite Records. The label would go on to release timeless albums by musical icons such as Otis Redding, Tina Turner, the Staple Singers, Carla Thomas and house band Booker T & The MGs. Stax and the Satellite Record Shop was a second home to artists and music fans alike. You can feel the sense of community within the walls of the museum, which is filled with fascinating artifacts, including Tina Turner's gold dress and Isaac Hayes' lavish (and insanely cool) car.
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
Created by the Smithsonian Institution, the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum tells the complete story of the birth of rock and soul music in Memphis. The tour begins with rural music makers of the 1930s and traces the history of musical pioneers through the rise of Sun Records and Stax. The museum also showcases how the civil rights movement impacted the music being made in the south and beyond and how many of the songs recorded in Memphis, such as the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There," became anthems for the movement.
Sun Studio is synonymous with Memphis music. Dubbed "the birthplace of rock 'n' roll," the recording studio was opened by Sam Phillips in 1950. Blues legends such as Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King recorded there, as did country, rock and rockabilly artists like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. Sun Studio even launched the career of Cash, who made his first recordings, "Hey Porter" and "Cry! Cry! Cry!," with Phillips. Visit the place where music history was made and pick up some timeless Sun Studio apparel while you're there.
Blues Hall of Fame Museum
If you're a fan of the blues, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum in Memphis should be on your travel bucket list. Opened in 2015, the interactive museum is filled with memorabilia from music legends, such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Mavis Staples, Billie Holiday and B.B. King.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame honors the many Memphis musicians who've made an indelible mark on music history. In 2015, a brick and mortar location was opened in downtown Memphis. The museum features artifacts and memorabilia from hall of fame members, including Elvis Presley, W.C. Handy, Isaac Hayes, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison and Carla Thomas.
This article was originally published in March of 2019.
READ MORE: Visiting Graceland For the First Time? Here's Everything You Should Know
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