I decide not to go to Graceland. I know its a pilgrimage for many people but it doesn’t appeal to me. I’ll go to Sun Studio instead. First I take a walk down 2nd street to the National Civil Rights Museum. Around the corner is the recognizable sign for the Lorraine motel. The motel is preserved as part of the museum and I stand right below the balcony where Martin Luther King was killed. I figure I’ll take a quick lap through. It begins with an exhibit on the 400th Anniversary of American slavery (2019). It is all contained in one room. The room is very quiet. You then walk through the history Civil rights. You can sit next to Rosa Parks on an actual vintage bus, sit at a segregated lunch counter and walk over the Selma bridge. When they played music like gospel, spirituals or protest songs, African American women would sometimes sing along like I wasn’t there. I liked it. The end of the tour you walk past the two motel rooms in the Lorraine occupied by MLK and his staff setup the way it was then. Finally you pass a window a few feet where MLK was assassinated. My quick walk through took an hour and a half. It was a very sobering, solemn and moving experience.
A shuttle bus runs from near the Civil Rights Museum to Sun Studio and four times a day it make a run out to Graceland. The bus is packed and I just make it on. The driver asks “Is everybody going to Graceland?” As the bus got quiet only one voice yelled “No!”. Me. “Alright folks we have to take a detour and stop at Sun Studio first. This is the Sun bus!” A few people grumbled but most are good natured. A few told me they already went and loved it. When I got off the bus I turned and told everyone “Have a great time in Graceland!’
Sun Studio is just two storefronts and a second floor room. The hour long tour through the two rooms is fun and entertaining and played the music recorded there as they told the story.
In 1953 eighteen year old Elvis Presley walked in and asked to record two songs for his Mamma. The only person there was the secretary Marion Keisker. She recorded the two songs and charged him $3.25. She then went to her boss Sam Phillips and said have I got something for you. Phillips then went on to record not just Elvis but Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins among a list of others. At the same time he was recording Black Blues artist like BB King, Howlin’ Wolf and the first ever Rock and Roll song ‘Rocket 88’. Must have been a fun time. I walked back to hotel singing the songs I knew.
In the evening I walked the couple of blocks to Beale Street. From the start there was music coming from every door and open window. I walk down the street and back and go into BB King’s place. Yes touristy, but the place was rocking. I drank a few beers and listened to the house band. Then they played Prince. I was never the biggest fan of Prince but they played a soulful, blues version of Purple Rain and the entire place sang along. I left singing it after that.