Day 1 You'll See:
- Beale Street
- Backbeat Tour
- Elmwood Cemetery
Day 2 You'll See:
- Graceland Tour
- Stax Museum
- Sun Studio
- Playhouse on the Square
Day 3 You'll See:
- Memphis Rock n Soul Museum
- Gibson Guitar Factory
On this fantastic Memphis Highlights adventure, you and your students will enjoy the very best of the Blues City, starting with a stop at iconic Beale Street, the birthplace of the rockin’ blues. Next up: the customized Backbeat Tour of your choice – your group’s very own personalized introduction to the rest of Memphis! You’ll also visit Sun Studios, take in a wonderful local production at Playhouse on the Square, stop by the Gibson Guitar Factory and tour Graceland, the home of The King of Rock and Roll, himself!
Official home of the rockin’ blues, vital center of riverfront trade to the West and burgeoning affluent suburbia to the East, Beale Street has survived a hurricane of feast and famine, renovation, renewal, growth and change to arrive where it is today: THE most visited attraction in all of Tennessee, acclaimed entertainment venue, local hangout and important cultural hotspot. Today, Beale’s gritty and wild atmosphere is tempered, considerably, by a healthy, tourism-driven economy, and the area is a virtual 2-mile beacon of incredible cafes, BBQ joints and restaurants, live music, street performers, an array of novelty and specialty shops, music stores, houses of worship, theaters, museums and historic points of interest with a distinctly Southern-fried crunch steeped in a richly authentic, smooth and moving Blues culture and vibe. Anything goes on Beale Street; come as you are – see the sights and sounds of this quintessentially Memphis neighborhood: follow the walk of brass notes, stop in at A. Schwab’s dry goods store, vibe to the smokin’ Memphis Jams on Beale at Handy Park, come to town for the International Blues Challenge, pop by the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum or just hang out with your group and revel in that “catfish on the table, gospel in the air” feel of this most iconic street in America!
Groups planning a rockin’ Blues City getaway may want to enlist the talents of the good, capable folk at Backbeat Tours in providing a unique specialty entertainment excursion with that “personal touch” – their fantastic outings have been featured on CNN and Fox 13 News, and in Forbes, USA Today, Southern Living, Memphis Magazine, and newspapers around the country and treat guests to an extraordinary Memphis sightseeing extravaganza! They offer something for every age, interest and adventure appetite, and promise to leave you with a smile on your face and a song in your head – with a Memphis memory you’re certain to cherish. Memphis owns a compelling and influential history which has helped shaped popular culture to a degree far beyond imagining; Backbeat Tours’ knowledgable and talented guides bring that history to life on creative, informational and truly entertaining forays into the very heart of the home of the Delta Blues!
If you enjoy a stroll through an old cemetery, you will appreciate a stop by Elmwood, an archetypal garden cemetery featuring sweeping vistas, shady knolls, glorious stands of ancient trees, wonderful Victorian structures and magnificent funerary art. Founded in 1852 as a part of the Rural Cemetery Movement, Elmwood, Memphis’ oldest and finest cemetery, is the final resting place of more than 75,000; its inhabitants include mayors, governors, madams, blues singers, suffragists, martyrs, generals, civil rights leaders, holy men and women, outlaws and millionaires.
More than 600,000 adoring fans annually make the big-daddy of all celebrity pilgrimages to 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, thronging through those hallowed, music-booked-shaped gates onto the perfectly preserved and maintained 13.8 acre estate at Graceland, the favorite tourist attraction in all of Memphis and place the legendary humanitarian, movie star and King of Rock and Roll loved and called home for more than 20 years; a stop by Graceland is an absolute must on any Blues City getaway! You and your students will enjoy an audio-guided tour of the mansion featuring commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter Lisa Marie. You’ll see where Elvis relaxed, played, ate, slept and spent time with his cherished friends and family on a very personal look inside the home of the King of Rock 'n' Roll, with peeks into each lovingly, elaborately decorated room, furnished in Elvis’ signature flamboyant style. You’ll have a change to admire the collection of vehicles Elvis owned at the time of his passing, including the Pink Cadillac he bought for his precious Mama, his purple Cadillac Convertible, his Stutz Blackhawk and the little Red MG he drove in “Blue Hawaii.” Last stop on your Graceland Tour is the Meditation Garden, where Elvis would go in troubled times to seek peaceful refuge, and where he and several family members have been laid to rest.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music is the “spittin’ image” of the original Satellite/Stax Studio - a wonderful 17,000-square-foot museum opened in 2003, showcasing more than 2,000 videos, films, photographs, original instruments, stage costumes, interactive displays, and other Stax - related artifacts, with featured exhibits including an authentic 101-year-old Mississippi Delta church, the Soul Train dance floor, Isaac Hayes' 1972 gold-trimmed, peacock-blue Cadillac El Dorado and a gallery of special exhibits updated throughout the year. One of a mere handful of museums in the world dedicated exclusively to soul music, Stax not only celebrates the rich legacy of Stax Records and its artists but features other soul music labels as well, and visitors are treated to fantastic vintage video footage of greats including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Patti LaBelle and Ike & Tina Turner.
“If music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem, and Sun Studio its most Holy Shrine.” You and your student group will cherish this golden opportunity to check out this landmark historic attraction, springboard for some of the most important careers in the history of music and comfort food for established modern talent looking to tradition for occasional inspiration. Rock pioneer Sam Phillips opened the doors to his childhood dream and brand new Blues City studio with the slogan, “we record anything, anywhere, anytime” in an effort to drum up business and generate some fast cash. Phillip’s studio ultimately garnered the reputation as the place that nurtured fledgling talent and encouraged it to expand with bigger labels, and heavy hitters that cut their teeth at Sun would move back through those doors, time and again – legends like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison – and Elvis Presley, the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The table where The King signed his very first contract sits right at the studio entrance. Tours happen on the half hour, and treat guests to an unforgettable hit of pure nostalgia; while you’re waiting your turn, check out the killer memorabilia on display, browse souvenirs, or pop a squat at the counter, order up a yummy malt and imagine Elvis right next to you. It’s not that hard to do!
Playhouse on the Square
Votes are rollin’ in! The Playhouse on the Square, a midtown gem now in its 41st season, is a bright and steadily rising star on the vibrant Memphis arts scene. Every seat in this beautiful little modern venue is “the best” and its wonderfully diverse productions, flawlessly executed by exceptional Blues City talent regularly delight audiences of all ages. Come a little early to enjoy the local art exhibition in the lobby…a bonus while you and your students wait for the doors to your evening’s fabulous entertainment to open!
Memphis Rock n Soul Museum
Rise and shine! You’re headed to the Rock n Soul Museum to “experience” the gutsy, gritty story of the brave musical pioneers who transcended daunting racial and socio-economic barriers to create a special brand of music that would shake the world to its core. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, developed in unique cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution, offers guests a personal Blues City experience they won’t soon forget, with an engaging audio tour serving up more than five hours of music in conjunction with a fascinating stream of information, allowing them to drift at their own pace through seven unique galleries chockfull of musical treasures. Your group of Rock ‘n’ Soul aficionados will appreciate the Museum’s winning presentation of this cross section of the rich history of that unmistakable sound - and the living, breathing heart and soul behind it - that ultimately shaped a delta city and forever changed the face of music.
Gibson Guitar Factory
Fans of Gibson’s legendary instruments will cherish this opportunity to check out the Beale Street Showcase in Memphis. When this small company started crafting mandolins in 1894, it likely had no idea the impact it would make on the music world. Today, Gibson is the foremost builder of electric guitars and is best known for their Les Paul and Chet Atkin models, and of course, B.B. King's Lucille, which ultimately became the guitar of choice for artists like Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton, John Lennon and George Harrison. Entertaining and informative 45 minute tours consist of an intimate viewing of the facility as Gibson's skilled Luthiers craft some of the finest guitars in the world, affording lucky guests an opportunity to witness the entire intricate process of their creation, from binding and neck-fitting to painting, buffing and tuning; these artists turn out the iconic musical instruments that have inspired and shaped some of the most important musical careers in history! Be sure to set aside a little extra time to visit the Gibson Factory Store, where you can pick up a souvenir of your visit, daydream a little, test drive a fabulous selection of special guitars – and maybe even go home with that Les Paul you’ve been dreaming of!