When we left New Orleans it was bright sunshine and perfect driving weather. The drive from New Orleans to Memphis doesn’t actually take that long on the main highway but we decided to go via Clarksdale so we could hit some musical stops on the way.
Coming out of New Orleans there is a lot of swamp land and then you hit the highway. The landscape around the main road is quite boring as it’s flanked with trees but as soon as we went on to the 49W it opened up and you could see quite a lot. The land is completely flat and we drove through lots of very small farming towns. There was lots of corn growing and another small shrubby looking crop which we later worked out to be forage.
After about 3 hours on the 55 we turned on to Highway 49 W all the way up through the small towns of Mississippi to Clarksdale. It’s quite a small town but here it’s said that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, so we headed there first. There is a sign just on the corner by Abe’s Barbecue where we took photos.
There were a couple of really good places to eat. It was difficult to decide where to have lunch but we went to Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club, which was really cool inside. After lunch we did a photo stop at the Riverside Hotel where musicians used to stay like Ike Turner and Blues singer Bessie Smith died after a road accident.
Back in the car we headed further north, crossing the state line into Tennessee to Memphis where we went to our hotel at the end of lonely street (yes really),,,where else? The Heartbreak Hotel, opposite Graceland.
As it was already early evening we decided not to go into town but walked over the road to the Rock n’ Roll Cafe to watch an amazing Elvis impersonator, Michael Cullipher. He was absolutely brilliant and we had lots of laughs.
The next morning we were up early and really for a full day of musical sightseeing. First stop, Graceland. We had a ticket for a Platinum Tour which included an iPad tour (you actually get an iPad per person!) that had an audio tour with it, narrated by different celebrities. It took you around Elvis’s house and grounds, including the famous Jungle Room, his living room that has a waterfall in it, green shaggy carpet and lots of fur covered furniture. We also saw the grounds, including his racketball room and his car port. In the Meditation Garden we stopped to see Elvis’s grave and then headed back on the bus to the main complex over the road. Here we had a look at his cars, which were amazing and did lots of souvenir shopping. As you can imagine there is every single Elvis covered item that you can think of, which different Elvis themes. For example, Elvis in Hawaii, Elvis in the army, Elvis at the movies, Elvis everything! We were definitely ‘all shook up’ and could not ‘uh-huh-huh’-ing for most of the day.
We left all our shopping in the hotel and then got in the car to head to East Memphis. Although it was a 20 minute drive, lunch at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken was so worth it. Y’all ain’t eaten fried chicken until you’ve eaten at Gus’s! I had 3 tenders (that were huge) battered in a slightly spicy thick batter, served with mac n’ cheese and barbecue baked beans. We agreed it was actually the best fried chicken we’d ever had.
We headed back to the hotel to get rid of the car and took the shuttle bus to the first of our next musical stops, Sun Studios. The studios are where Elvis first recorded and there have been lots of famous artists who have come here, like Jerry Lee Lewis (Great Balls of Fire), Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. The tour was really interesting and we held the microphone that they had all sung into at some point (and spat on probably!).
Our final stop was the Rock n’ Soul Museum near Beale Street which had some fantastic stage outfits on show and an interesting audio tour. We finished at around 6pm and walked round the corner on to the famous Beale Street, which is packed with bars and clubs. First stop was the Rum Boogie Cafe for a beer and then we went to Jerry Lee Lewis’s Club to see an amazing band.
Our package included dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe so we went there next and finished the evening at BB King’s Club opposite. It was a great night out, with music pumping out of every bar. All the bands were fantastic but my favourite was Jason James at Jerry Lee’s. He was a real entertainer and played the piano, guitar and sang really well. He set the piano on fire too!
Although we only really had one full day in Memphis it was the best day ever. I didn’t really know what to expect but it has been an amazing stop on the trip.