City slicker: Memphis
Monday 14 August 1995
Where's Elvis?: Buried in the back garden at Graceland, the mansion he called home for some 20 years. Elvis decked out the place to his own design and it's, well, hideous. The Jungle Room, a splishsplash of clashing colours, features carpet on the ceiling and a waterfall: it was meant to remind him of Hawaii, his favourite place. It's all so awful it's great, and few of the 650,000 yearly visitors leave totally disappointed.
Three things to do: Elvis moonlight cruise on the Mississippi River; bus trip to Tupelo, Mississippi, 95 miles south-east, where Elvis was born on 8 January, 1935; or visit the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Open House at Memphis Hospital.
Three ways to pay respect: Cry at the graveside; write a message on the "Wall of Love" outside Graceland; drop your business card into the gap in the guitar in the Elvis Presley statue.
Musical Shrine: The Sun Studio "tour". This is where Elvis got his career start after producers listened to a record he cut there for $4 as a present for his mama.
Other big names: Blues singer/guitarist BB King owns a touristy live music club and cafe downtown on Beale Street and plays here about half a dozen times a year, when the cover charge rockets up from the usual $5 to beyond $25. Jerry Lee Lewis - The Killer - is known to drop in on Beale Street clubs and challenge whoever's playing to a jam session.
Nightlife: Most people head to Beale Street. Once the bustling centre of black culture in the Delta and lined with theatres, pawn shops and gambling dens, this is the place where (urban) blues was born. Now restored into a heritage area but with half a dozen or so lively blues clubs in a two-block stretch. Definitely worth a look.
Has anything happened since punk?: An ironic yes. Many of the session players for Sun and Stax (arguably the most famous of all Memphis labels) are still around and the city's studios are doing well out of bands coming to pay respect.
Food: Memphis brags loudly that it's the barbecue capital of the world, but more unusual offerings are to be found in the soulfood cafes which serve such highly-calorific Deep South delicacies as fried yams, ham hocks and chitterlings (pig intestines). Apparently Elvis himself was a mean chef. A favourite recipe of his was to gouge the flesh out of a loaf, fill it with peanut butter and bananas and then fry the whole thing in butter. Mmm.
Top hotel: The stately old downtown Peabody with its Marching Ducks. Each day at 11am and 5pm these pampered fowl exit their rooftop suite and ride down the elevators, exiting to the tune of Sousa's King Cotton March before going for a splash around in the lobby fountain.
View from the plane: The Mississippi River - about a mile wide at this point. Downtown on its east bank, is the 32-storey Pyramid. Built at the start of the Nineties, this was meant to be a multimedia experience centre dedicated to the Egyptian city of the same name, but they ran out of funding and it's now a weirdly-shaped sports and entertainment complex.
Place to get married: No, not Graceland, but the Full Gospel Tabernacle in the pleasant suburb of Whitehaven. The official would be one Rev Al Green, Seventies soul superstar who saw the light of Jesus supposedly after a girlfriend threw a pan of hot grits (corn porridge) over him. There's a two-year waiting list for the services of the Reverend Al.
Three songs about Memphis: "Memphis Tennessee" by Chuck Berry (1959); "All the way from Memphis" by Mott the Hoople (1973); "Walking in Memphis" by Mark Cohn (1991).
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