Memphis is 200 miles by freeway from Nashville and if Nashville is country, then Memphis is rock’n’roll, gospel and the blues. First off, a visit to Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle Church on a Sunday morning is essential. It is somewhat touristy these days, but this does not detract from the Reverend Al’s fiery sermons and soulful singing. Beale Street is also touristy, but if you want to hear southern roots music in civilised surroundings, BB King’s Blues Club, Alfred’s On Beale and Jerry Lee Lewis’s Café & Honky Tonk will do it for you.
Two other essential stopovers for music buffs are Sun Studios – where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others cut their early recordings in the 1950s – and Stax, the birthplace of Southern soul music.
And, of course, there is Graceland, Elvis’s strange mansion, bought in 1957 when he was a 22-year-old rube from Tupelo. Given that it may be moved lock-stock-and-barrel to Japan in the future, a visit is recommended.
Clarksdale is just 75 miles south of Memphis on US Route 61, across the border in Mississippi, and this takes you to the birthplace of the blues, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club and Red’s Lounge are where you’ll hear the blues, while the Delta Blues Museum is a major attraction.