“The many sounds of Memphis shaped my early musical career and continue to be an inspiration to this day.”
We disembarked the American Queen on the last day of our seven day cruise on the Mississippi in an upscale neighborhood in Memphis called Harbor Town, and made our way to Memphis Park on Beale Street. Our guide Allegra asked the driver to stop. She introduced us to Memphis Jones who was standing on the corner with his guitar. Before we knew it, he was invited to hop aboard the front of the bus. He welcomed us to Memphis and sang two songs by Elvis including Blue Suede Shoes and a song by Johnny Cash. Allegra said that he would be performing at B.B. King’s House of Blues at 5 PM. After Jones got off the bus, we followed as Allegra invited us to see the bronze statue of Elvis. I went up to Jones to thank him for his performance on the bus and asked him if we could take a photo together for my blog enjoyyourlifenow.net Not only did he oblige, the good natured guitarist unexpectedly took off his guitar and gave it to me to use as a prop, as we struck a pose.
Our group then explored Beale Street, which comes alive in the evening. Beale street has a lot of history. It is where General Grant had his Civil War headquarters, it is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched, and where B.B. King and Elvis Presley got their start. Before the 1900s Beale Street was a place where Jewish, Italian, Greek and Chinese immigrants lived and worked, and where the African-American freedmen came to make a make a life for themselves.
Our bus then proceeded to the Graceland Mansion estate that was owned by Elvis Presley which serves as a museum. It was declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006, and is the second (only to the White House) as the most visited home in America, with over 650,000 visitors a year. Elvis’s car collection and showcases of Elvis memorabilia was incredible. After having lunch there we checked into our hotel.
At 4:30 PM we met Susan and Nelson Bye at the Peabody Hotel to witness the Peabody Duck March, a charming tradition that has been going on for over 80 years. It began in 1933 after the Peabody’s general manager returned from a hunting trip empty handed with the smell of Jack Daniels on his breath. He bitterly released his English call ducks that he had used as bait into the Grand Lobby fountain as seen in one of the photos. It became a big hit with guests.
We then went to listen to Memphis Jones and his band perform the B.B. King House of Blues at 5:15 PM. It was a one of a kind interactive experience. Jones is not only an exceptional high energy performer, but an avid “music historian.” He can tell you the stories behind music. He pointed out B.B. King didn’t discover the Blues, he mastered it. Elvis didn’t invent rock and roll, he mastered it. After one of his sets, I went in front of the stage and asked Jones “Do you remember me? We met in the park this morning.” After dropping a $20 bill in the jar, he smiled, thanked me and said, “Would you like to come up on stage and have a picture taken with the band for your blog?” I said, yeah, that would be great.
After that fun encounter with Memphis Jones, we went to dinner with the Byes at Itta Bena on the top floor of the club. It was named after the town where B.B. King was born. The ambience couldn’t have been more perfect, the food exquisite and Nelson introduced us to a wonderful blend of wine from California called Conundrum. We topped it off with a peach cobbler.