Memphis has an incredible musical history. Fortunately, they have made it relatively easy for a tourist to learn about this rich history. With the help of the Smithsonian Institution, they’ve created the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum.
During the middle part of the 20th century various cultural influences came together in the musical scene in Memphis. Soul music and the blues, which were originally “black” music, became incredibly appealing and attractive to the white teens during the 1950’s. Elvis recorded his music here. Sam Phillips created the Sun recording studio, and he intentionally went after artists from both the black and white communities. It seems as if segregation took time off when it came to music in Memphis. During the same time their parents were resisting the pressure to integrate, white teens of the 1950’s were enthusiastically embracing black music.
I began to notice and wonder if segregation was mostly a concern of the affluent whites rather than the poorer whites. Many of the early musicians were sharecroppers and others who were anything but affluent. The poorer whites had a lot more in common with the blacks, in terms of their experience of living a hard life, than they had in common with the affluent whites. I wonder if that made it easier for them to work side-by-side, across racial boundaries, as they pursued their musical craft.
In any event, we are loving Memphis. It is an appealing city, with a lot to see and do. The weather is hot (upper 80’s during the afternoon) and sunny. The Mississippi River just keeps rollin’ along – on the western boundary of Memphis. We’ve eaten good BBQ (Central BBQ) and good soul food (Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.)
Tomorrow we head for Birmingham.