The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum was not on my list but I saw brochures for it and it was on Beale Street, so I figured it would be a good stop. Turns out that even though the address says Beale Street, it is actually around the corner on BB King Blvd and next to the FedEx Center.
I was hoping that its nearness to Beale Street would not mean it was a tourist trap. It was not. It was a very informative trip through the music of the South and specifically Memphis. Again, we started with a film. You are given a set of headphones and a recording where you hit the number next to each exhibit to find out about it. Most of the recordings have music in the background and it will tell you that if you hit a certain button you will hear the full version of the song that had been playing. But I could not get the songs to play. But it turned out I would be able to listen to them – just not how I thought.
The museum starts with a rural music and a sharecropper shack with a radio and moves on to the creation of the Grand Ole Opry.
Transmitter for the Grand Ole Opry (WSM Radio Tennessee)
This dulcimer was given by June Carter to Elvis Presley – linking OG country to OG rock and roll.
1934 Seeburg Selectophone Jukebox (played 78rpm records on a spindle)
I had found what was best about this museum. At each jukebox was a list of songs and numbers next to them. They had jukeboxes from this one from 1934 to the first Wurlizter to a 1970 Rockola. The songs listed were from the eras of the jukeboxes and you could spend a lot of time just listening to every song on the jukeboxes.
The museum had exhibits about Sun Studio and Stax Studio, of course, and exhibits on the artists who recorded there. Beale Street and the blues and the artists who performed.
1957 studio equipment from WHER radio.
Stage outfit for Sam the Sham (Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs – “Wooly Bully” was one of the first singles I owned and I played it endlessly. He spoke Spanish at the start and I later learned he was Latino.)
The Bar-Kay’s lead guitaritst Tony Gentry’s signed guitars.
Another wonderful museum trip filled with music.
By Carene Lydia Lopez