Day 22: Two Elvises and a King

May 5, 2009


DAY 22: Memphis, Tennessee
Miles traveled: 3,620
States visited: 12
Weather: 75, overcast

Yesterday I blogged about the Beale Street Music Festival. The rest of my Memphis weekend was a good time. My volleyball friend Tasha was in town, staying with her friend Deena, so we all got together on Sunday at a diner-ish place called the Cupboard for a real Memphis meal, with catfish, mac & cheese, black eyed peas, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, and sweet tea.

Then it was off to Sun Studio, birthplace of rock n roll, where Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis all got their start.


I took the studio tour and got to pose with a microphone that Elvis used in the 1950s.


During the tour who showed up but Elvis Costello. He was there to answer questions for a documentary on blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin.


At the festival we tried in vain to stay dry.


I wasn’t going to pay $36 to see Graceland, but thanks to Deena’s local insider knowledge of the city, I found out that on Monday morning between 7:30 and 8:30, they open the gates to the Graceland mansion and let visitors walk up to Elvis’ gravesite for free. I jumped at this opportunity.

I took a lot of photos for some (German?) tourists, then got a shot of myself in front of the mansion. And it didn’t cost a dime – how cool is that?


From there it was on to another great destination. I’d been disappointed that I missed the civil rights landmarks in the deep south, but when I remembered that Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, I thought maybe I could find the hotel where he last stayed, if it was still standing. It’s not only still standing, it’s been turned into the National Civil Rights Museum, and again thanks to Deena I was able to get a tour of the place.

This was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. They have all sorts of displays covering the timeline from slavery to the present day, going through the slave revolts, court battles, bus boycotts, and Washington protests.

The tour takes you inside the hotel, right next to room 306 where Martin Luther King stayed, where you can look out onto the balcony where he was killed.


The tour also goes into another building across the street. The bathroom where the shot was fired has been preserved. It’s kind of eerie that you can go in there and look out the window where the shot came from – the top right window that is obscured by the tree.


The volume of artifacts on display is unbelievable – they have the gun used in the crime, and even the bullet that was removed from King’s body. I’m not often awestruck, but this was pretty overwhelming. I highly recommend a visit to this museum.