Musical Ride – Memphis, Tennessee Stop

The banner over Beale Street in Memphis announces it as “Home of the Blues”.

For the last few days, Marc Cohn’s song “Walking In Memphis” has echoed in my head wherever Betty & I have travelled in Memphis, Tennessee. (I guess the fact that it echoed suggests my noggin is otherwise hollow, but that’s another story. LOL) The autobiographical song recounts Cohn’s spiritual experience of walking in a city steeped in music history. And this week we joined him on that walk.

Sun Records on Union Avenue, where Elvis Presley & many others recorded their tunes.

On a previous visit with our kids (Ok, they’re not kids anymore, so it was a while ago…) Betty & I visited Elvis’ Jungle Room in Graceland, and stood by his tomb with security guards near by. We have now toured a number of recording studios, so chose to forego a visit to Sun Records on Union Avenue, where Presley laid down a lot of vinyl. When planning this trip last year, I

Bet prepares for a rib feast at the Blues City Cafe on Beale Street in Memphis.
Staff at the Blues City Cafe cook up some tasty meals.

was reminded that we had stopped at a restaurant on Beale Street for the best bbq ribs ever, so that was a point of interest not to be missed. The taste alone put our feet 10 feet off of Beale, as we passed the statue of the father of the blues, W.C. Handy, at Handy Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis, where Martin Luther King was staying when he was assassinated.

While not part of our musical journey, Betty & I wanted to pay homage to the great Martin Luther King, who was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The motel has now been converted into a National Civil Rights Museum, and our extended visit there was a powerfully moving experience.

The balcony where Dr. M.L. King was standing when he was shot.

 

 

 

 

 

At the National Civil Rights Museum, a description of the moments before the assassination of MLK.

 

The next day –Sunday – combined our experience at the Civil Rights Museum with our musical ride and Cohn’s song. While we didn’t hear a sermon from singer/songwriter/ producer Rev. Al Green, Betty & I did attend “Memphis’ First Congregation of Color” – Collins Chapel, founded in 1841. Just as Cohn experienced, this was a tremendously moving experience,

Collins Chapel: “Memphis’ First Congregation of Color” established in 1841.

with the black choir swaying together and clapping in unison as they sang gospel songs. (There was one white woman in the choir who didn’t ever seem to get the rhythm, but she was introduced later as a visitor from Minnesota. LOL)

Guest preacher, Dr. Clifford L. Harris of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, challenged the congregation to live in the eye of the hurricane, as the storm raged around them. Without directly referring to the current administration, he encouraged parishioners to get out and vote, reminding listeners of the day’s responsive reading “… O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you 

Music to end slavery: the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome”.

but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” “For we must never forget that the only thing evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

Betty’s image is reflected in the window of Lorraine Motel room 306 where Martin Luther King stayed before he was killed.

In recounting how he came to write the song, Cohn tells of his inspirational encounter at the Hollywood cafe, just south of Memphis, with singer Muriel Wilkins. He was asked to perform on stage with her, and didn’t know the words to many of the songs. But as a finale they sang “Amazing Grace” together and, even though Cohn is Jewish, he felt the spiritual connection with Christianity that night.

Our visit to Memphis has shown Betty & I the worst and best of the human experience, from the assassination of MLK and the lynchings of blacks and their supporters during civil rights marches, to the inspiring and uplifting music that encourages us all to love and care for one another.

May we all learn to live in peace!

Cheers!

Walking in Memphis
Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy, won’t you look down over me
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
But I’m as blue as a boy can be.
Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?
Saw the ghost of Elvis
On Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through
Now security they did not see him
They just hovered ’round his tomb
But there’s a pretty little thing
Waiting for the King
Down in the Jungle Room.
When I was walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?
They’ve got catfish on the table
They’ve got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green be glad to see you
When you haven’t got a prayer
But, boy, you’ve got a prayer in Memphis.

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
She said
“Tell me are you a Christian child?”
And I said “Ma’am, I am tonight”.

Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
Was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain.

Our campsite (#27) at T.O. Fuller State Park near Memphis.
Charlie watches through the door as Graham misses Mississippi.

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