Journeys with Carole Kotkin

Savor Memphis: Celebrate 50 Years of Soul

Carole Kotkin is a syndicated Miami Herald food columnist and co-author of “MMMMiami – Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.” She is also the manager of The Cooking School at The Ocean Reef Club, food editor for “The Wine News” magazine, and co-host of “Food and Wine Talk” on

Just as New Orleans is regarded as the home of jazz, Memphis proudly proclaims itself the blues music capital of the world and the birthplace of Rock’n’Roll. The city lives and breathes it; even the streets are named after some of the biggest music stars. In 2007, Memphis celebrates “50 Years of Soul,” and pays tribute to the musical genre that Memphis, in large part, helped to launch. Multiple events are planned as part of the celebration, and many local attractions also will incorporate special recognition of Memphis’ role in the history of music.


Peabody Hotel
In the heart of “Blues City,” you’ll find The Peabody Memphis, a magnificent AAA 4-Diamond hotel. This historic icon opened its doors in 1925 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Having recently completed an expansive guest room renovation, The Peabody Memphis continues to carry the distinction as the “South’s Grand Hotel.”


A must-see attraction is Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. The downstairs area of the mansion, deceptively small from the outside, offers glimpses of domestic life for one of the major figures of the 20th century – his famous white sofa in the living room, the relatively simple kitchen where his favorite fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches were made. The decor, something of a relic from the 1970s, reaches a kitsch climax with the Jungle Room’s furs and carved animals, with a running waterfall dominating the scene. After viewing scores of Elvis’s gold and platinum discs on the Wall of Gold in the Trophy Room, fans can then view the graves of the King, his mother, his father and his grandmother in the Garden of Meditation.

Sun Studio
Your musical odyssey should continue with the city’s Sun Studio on 706 Union Avenue, where some of the world’s most popular recordings were made. Artists as diverse as Elvis, Johnny Cash, BB King, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and U2 have all made groundbreaking music there, a tradition that continues today. Visitors will hear outtakes from famous recording sessions and can touch Elvis’ first microphone. But it is because Elvis Presley made his first recordings there in 1954 that the place is now a landmark.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
The recently opened 17,000 square foot Stax Museum of American Soul Music is on the site of the original Stax records where the likes of Otis Redding, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Isaac Hayes came to start their careers. Now the Stax Music Academy is providing a service to the community by bringing in young children from the surrounding area and teaching them music while keeping them out of trouble.

Beale Street
Beale Street is one of the most famous streets in America, home to blues musicians like W.C. Handy, who wrote the first blues piece here in 1909. It encompasses three blocks, with more than 30 nightclubs, restaurants and retail shops. Traditional blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll are the musical staples of Beale Street’s famous nightclubs.

National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is one of the most important history destinations in America. Founded in 1991 at the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the museum has 19 exhibit halls that tell the history of the civil rights movement in the U.S. from the 1600s to the present.

Memphis is a big city, but with a small town feel. You’ll find it a friendly and welcoming place. Every time you leave a shop or restaurant you’ll hear someone say: “Y’all have a nice day, now.” For more information contact

There’s more! Click here for Carole’s Memphis Barbecue Experience.

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