We had planned to start the day at the civil rights museum, which is in the motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated. Today is the anniversary of his death, but the museum is closed on Tuesdays!
Instead we go to the rock n soul museum to learn about the “locals” who became international stars. They were artists moving to the city to make a name: BB King, Al Green, Johnny Cash, Ike Turner, Isaac Hayes, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis… They all came to Belae street and ended recorded at Sun Studios, Stax or Hi records.
Like I was telling you about the blues, people came to the city from the plantations to find better jobs and less segregation. It was called the great migration. From the 30s to the 60s, sharecroppers left the south for the cities further north hoping for a better life. In Memphis the blues musicians from the delta arrived with this new style of music. The city became a stage for them and an incubator of talents. The creative minds transformed the blues into rock n roll (Ike Turner with Rocket 88 in 1951), and the rock n roll into soul.
Memphis was home to the first all African American radio called WDIA. It’s where BB King made his debut.
Across the street to the museum is the Gibson factory, one of three. In this one they build hollow and semi-hollow guitars. We take a tour but it’s the inventory week, it happens once a year! This means we get to see the chain of fabrication, but no one will be at the workstations. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how the wood is transformed into an instrument in the finest way. (no pictures allowed there).
Our last stop of the day is a fishing shop. Yes, a fishing shop. It’s a huge pyramid with water, boats, ducks and plenty of fishing items being sold inside. Crazy.
PS: The juke box got its name because you could play music coming from the juke joints. One day a Dr Pepper representative came in a diner to put a little Dr Pepper neon sign, he put in on the juke box. The juke box owner saw an increase in his sales and told the company. From this day on they produced only juke boxes with fancy lights and colors.
PS2: It’s in Memphis that the US grocery industry has been revolutionized when in 1916 Clarence Saunders opened the first Piggly Wiggly. It was the first self serve grocery store. Instead of giving their order to the clerk who would fetch the goods, clients were filling their baskets as they walked through a maze of shelves and