Andrea recently took a new position at her workplace. She calls it a job change, but I call it a promotion. It came with a slight raise, so, to me, that is a promotion. Semantics. To celebrate we decided to take a short weekend trip. We were originally looking at flying up to New York City (which would have been awesome despite the cold) but decided to save some money by going somewhere closer and within driving distance. After looking around for a little bit we decided on Memphis. It was somewhere we have wanted to go to for awhile now. I have gone through Memphis on the way to somewhere else a few times, but never stopped there.
We booked a tour that was to start early in the morning on Saturday, November 23, so we needed to leave Friday night to get as close as we could. We found a hotel near Jackson, Tennessee to stop for the night. The next morning it was only about an hour and 30 minute drive to get into Memphis, so that wasn’t too bad. We made it into town a little bit early and decided to drive around for a bit. Our first sight of note was the Memphis pyramid.
The pyramid was built in 1991 to try to lure an NBA team. The NBA didn’t bite and they requested that the city build another arena next to Beale Street. Eventually the city capitulated and did build the other arena which later lead to the Vancouver Grizzlies moving into town. In the meantime, it was still used as a basketball arena by the Memphis State University teams. Though after the new arena was built, the pyramid was quickly vacated and remained vacant for a long period of time. Now its’ biggest tenant is a Bass Pro Shop. On the south side of the pyramid (the opposite side that faces I-40) there is a huge, and I mean huge, Bass Pro Shop sign. There is a hotel, some other shops, and some restaurants in the pyramid now too.
After this stop we drove around downtown for a little bit.
Then finally found a place to park next to the famous Beale Street.
Our tour was supposed to meet next to a restaurant here. We took this bus over to Court Square to start the tour.
Our tour guide started us off in Court Square since the city was started around it. It is not far from the river. At one point, there were three other squares in the city. In his first of many “That’s so Mempho” sayings, he explained that court was never held in Court Square, there was never a market in Market Square, and the other two squares (which I cannot remember their names) never did what their name’s suggested. Here’s a look at Court Square.
This building next to the square was built shortly after the end of the Civil War in 1870. It was a place for the rich white folks to gather in a “club” so they could smoke, drink, and relive their glory days from the war that they lost.
Next to this building was another place of interest. In the late 1800’s it was a place of business that lured a young Thomas Edison there. They brought him in to work on a project, but he ended up doing his own thing, creating something that the company didn’t even want. Despite it being, what he thought, a great invention, the company fired him since he didn’t work on what they asked for.
Memphis also has a trolley system.
This next building was built to be an exact replica of the Woolworth building in New York City. At the time in the early 1900’s the Woolworth building was the tallest building in the world. The guy that wanted it built wanted an exact replica in size, but the architect came back and told him there was not enough room on the lot that was bought. So they compromised and went with a smaller plan. It is 1/3 of the original buildings size.
Next, we went down by the Mississippi River where our tour guide told of us the “Battle of Memphis” during the Civil War. The battle wasn’t really much to speak of. The Union brought in iron clad gun boats while the locals only built wooden boats and decided to use some of their plethora of cotton as protection on the boats too. As you can imagine, that was a terrible idea. The Union quickly made easy work of the southern boats with many of them catching fire due to the flammability of cotton. The Union did not lose one troop during the battle and soon brought the city under occupation for what would be the rest of the war.
Next, we went to Front Street where the locals and many people from miles around, even into Mississippi, brought their cotton to sell. It was stacked all along the street waiting to be taken down the river.
Another stop we made was at what was once a radio station. The significance of this station cannot be understated at all. For one, it was where you could say Johnny Cash had his start. The very first time any of his music was played on the radio was at this station. Also, someone who went by the name of B.B. King took up a job here while he was trying to make a name for himself in the music industry. Blues, soul, and the beginnings of rock & roll were first played here too including the start of Elvis Presley’s career. You could say it had a huge hand in the history of music.
Our next stop was the Peabody Hotel. It is famous for it’s Duck March. The Duckmaster brings them down the elevator from their home on the roof and they march into a fountain that is in the lobby. Unfortunately, we did not get the best view. Next time we will though!
Then we went to the roof to catch some good views of the city.
You can almost make out the home of the ducks. It is on the backside of the building in the top left picture.
The tour ended soon after near this Christmas tree.
Afterwards, it was lunch time! We decided to go to Gus’ World Famous Chicken. This was across the street from it.
The chicken was probably the best hot, fried chicken we have ever tried. You are in luck too. Even though it was started not far from Memphis in Tennessee they have franchised. There is even one in Los Angeles and Chicago in addition to a bunch of other cities across the U.S.
Next, it was off to explore Beale Street. Along the way we met Elvis!
Our first stop was at B.B. Kings Blues Club to take in some live blues.
It may be hard to tell, but the neon lights say “Lucille”. Does anyone know the significance of this name to B.B. King? Leave your answer in the comments section.
The band for the day was “Flick’s Picks”. They were pretty good, as you can imagine, and they even played one of B.B. Kings songs.
This guy was the bass player and namesake of the band, Leroy “Flick” Hodges. He has recorded with many famous artists including Al Green, Otis Clay, Cyndi Lauper, and Melissa Etheridge. You can check out his discography here.
From here we did some browsing in the local shops. Andrea found some hats that she just had to try on.
Another cool feature about Beale Street was their walk of fame. It was similar to Hollywood’s stars, but with music notes. You know, for the blues.
After our wandering it was time to go to my highlight of the evening (though not necessarily Andrea’s): an NBA basketball game. It was between the local team, the Memphis Grizzlies, and my favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, you read that right. I’ve been a fan of the Lakers since the 80’s, so you can’t call me bandwagon fan. Haha!
We went to the entrance to the Fedex Forum and waited for them to start letting people in the gates.
The inside was kind of nice.
And here is the view from our seats.
They had a live band that was playing pop hits from 1995, the first year of the Grizzlies franchise in Vancouver. The whole place was all about the 25th year of the franchise being in existence and the team even wore the throwback Vancouver Grizzlies uniforms. Here are some pre-game photos.
And this video of Dwight Howard during warm ups.
Finally the pre-game intros were ready to happen.
Then it was time for the Memphis Grizzlies introductions.
Their mascot is supposed to be a bear, but it looks more like a terrible werewolf costume.
Now we were almost ready for the tip-off to the game.
The first quarter did not start off very well for the Lakers. The were down by 10 and gave up about 7 or 8 three-point shots. The second quarter wasn’t much better. At one point in the game the Grizzlies three-point shooting percentage was above 85% and that was with over 10 shots. Let’s just say that is not normal for basketball. I had to hope that their average would get drop precipitously closer to the mean, somewhere in the 45% range for the game, for the Lakers to have a chance in the second half.
For the halftime show, and sticking with the 1995 theme, Montrell Jordan sang his huge hit from that year. He also sang the National Anthem before the game too.
The score at halftime was 63-55 with the Grizzlies having the commanding lead.
Here is some game action.
Then we had a celebrity sighting in Cedric the Entertainer! I have no idea who he was there to root for.
At the end of this craziness, LeBron James sinks a 3!
And here is some more game action near the end of the game.
That was Anthony Davis with the put back lay-up.
This last video was essentially the last play of the game.
And the Lakers win 109-108! It certainly was a pretty good game.
From here it was back to nearby Beale Street for a late dinner at Dyer’s where we had some greasy hamburgers.
The following is from Roadside America and tells a little about what makes Dyer’s different from other hamburger joints.
‘The secret of the tasty-taste of Dyer’s hamburgers, according to Dyer’s Burgers, is that they’re cooked in the grease that the restaurant started with back in 1912. Or at least some of that grease (The restaurant adds fresh grease to the old grease every now and then). To its credit, Dyer’s Burgers has been very protective of its grease over the years, moving it under armed guard as the restaurant has relocated to various Memphis addresses.
If you feel uneasy about burgers fried in “ancient grease,” the restaurant does say that the grease is strained every day. So it’s clean 100-year-old grease.’
The burgers were somewhat tasty with a hint of pepper. But, so far, for our money, we will take a Smashburger burger any day over a Dyer’s.
We didn’t stick around for long after eating. We are not partiers or drinkers like the many other people that were on Beale Street that night. But here are a few more pics.
The next morning, Sunday, woke up in our hotel, a La Quinta near the airport, to have breakfast. After that we took the short trip over to Graceland! That’s right, we went to the house that Elvis Presley, the king of rock & roll, lived in. The area across the street had been turned into a shopping center and museum area. We were just there to see the house though.
After buying tickets for the house tour we were funneled into a small theater to watch a short video on Elvis Presley and the Graceland mansion. From there we were handed an iPad that would serve as our “tour guide” and taken over to the mansion in a small bus.
The mansion was bought in 1957 for just over $100,000 when Elvis was only 21 or 22 years old. That should give you an idea of how quickly he became rich and famous through his music. I don’t want to spoil too much of the house in case any of you want to go there one day, but I will show a few photos of some of my favorite rooms.
This was the first room you see as you walk into the house.
The stairwell to the basement had mirrors on both sides and the ceiling.
One of the rooms in the basement.
The backside of the mansion.
Baby Elvis and his parents.
After the tour of the mansion we were taken back across the street and then went to see two of Elvis’ planes. Here are some photos of the outside of them.
The tour of the mansion and planes took roughly two hours. If you add on everything else there it is supposed to be another two hours or so. I highly recommend going to Graceland if you were a fan of Elvis at any point in your life. Afterwards we got a milkshake, despite the cold, at the candy shop there and then made the six-hour trek back home.
Memphis seems to have a lot going for it. We didn’t get to do any where near everything that we could have over the weekend in the city, so we want to go back at some point. We can explore the zoo, Mud Island, more of downtown, and it would be cool to hang out on Beale Street some more. There are plenty of museums dedicated to the immense amount of music history that came from the city. And then there is the Lorraine Motel, part of the National Civil Rights Museum. On top of all of that, we didn’t even get to try the famous Memphis barbecue. Yeah, we will definitely be making another trip to Memphis!
2 thoughts on “Memphis trip-November 2019”
Excellent blog Paul. Really enjoyed reading about Memphis where I lived for 4.5 years. Though Beale Street is one lane road and call it downtown but Midtown is far better to hang out. Next time don’t miss visiting Mud Island, Pub hoping in Midtown, Casino in Tunica, MS and River Front and last but not least ‘India Fest’ happens in November every year which gathers more than 5,000 ppl across nation. It’s one day festival happens indoor, get to taste varieties of Indian food, know culture, ethnic wear and Music/dance programs.
Thanks, Praveen. I would definitely like to check out that festival!