Karryon chats to Memphis Tourism Australia Director CHRIS INGRAM to discover the sights, and indeed sounds, Aussies can’t miss in Memphis.
A conversation about Memphis – like a visit to the city – starts and ends with music. Write it or wrap it any way you like, but the city’s soul (its spirit AND that genre of music … see what I did there?) is about as inescapable as a catchy hook – many of which were born in the Tennessee town – and roll-call of musicians hailing from the city, from Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones and Al Green to Big Star all the way up to Justin Timberlake.
Household names like Johnny Cash and BB King also made Memphis their home, while countless others found a muse in the city, evidenced by the number of hit songs referencing Memphis (too many to name).
Then, of course, there’s some guy called Elvis. Not bad for a town with a population today of around 630,000.
Full of Grace(land)
In a one-on-one with Karryon, Memphis Tourism Australia Director Chris Ingram called Memphis “the ultimate melting pot of music”.
“It’s endlessly cool. It’s gritty, but also full of grace and luxury, if that’s what you want, and of course, it was home to the king of rock n roll, Elvis,” he says.
So what should visitors do/see/listen to when it comes to music?
“Aside from the obligatory Graceland visit, music lovers can’t miss Beale Street for live music, STAX Museum, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and Sun Studios for a historic insight,” he explains.
“For a more modern – and fairly mind-blowing experience, a visit to Crosstown Concourse is a must – to head to the Memphis Listening Lab. The Memphis Listening Lab’s collection consists of 35,000 45rpm singles, 15,000 LPs, 25,000 CDs, 2,000 books, and over 1,000 unique pieces of musical history. The Collection represents an incredibly wide spectrum of musical genres, all of which are free to the public.”
For the full musical experience, “music lovers should also check into the Central Station Hotel, which promotes itself as a musical stay, offering a listening room with daily curated playlists and podcasts as well as a record wall with 3,500 vinyl records, an in-house DJ, and room speakers to transmit the hotel’s mixes”.
Australians flocking south
I try to steer the conversation away from the aural (hey, not everyone is as music-obsessed as Chris and I), but like an artist covering a classic song, Chris knows when and when not to tinker with a winning formula.
Music, he says, is at the “centre of everything that we do”.
“Why lead with anything to do with … all of these rational benefits as to why you should visit our destination. Just come for the music. That’s enough.”
And Ingram is confident that for Aussie visitors, who account for the second biggest visitor market outside of North America, music is enough.
“They’re not musicians. These are just people who love music … and Aussies love music,” he explains.
“And they love a good gig. So that paired up with obviously the whole Elvis proposition, Graceland, and it being America’s second most visited house behind the White House, and its proximity to Nashville, Tupelo and all the way to New Orleans”, says Ingram, keeps the destination on the radar of many Australian visitors.
“A lot of Australians have been to the US two, three times now. And so they’ve actually made that transition beyond the West Coast gateways and now they’re wanting a richer experience – and that’s where the South comes into play.”
King of Rock n Roll (and Tourism)
Then there’s the impact of the hit film Elvis, which Chris says is bringing a whole new generation of fans to the city.
“Memphis has built its brand most significantly off the back of Elvis Presley. And there are more Elvis societies in Victoria than there are anywhere in the world,” he says.
Want even more music? Then head to Memphis and find it.
Memphis Tourism is hosting travel industry events at The Toff in Melbourne on 17 May and Sydney’s Zeta Bay on 18 May.
To register for the Melbourne event, go to https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/memphis-tourism-exclusive-vip-event-melbourne-tickets-604139125387
Or to register for the Sydney event, go to https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/memphis-tourism-exclusive-vip-event-sydney-tickets-604180930427
For more information, also visit https://www.memphistravel.com/aus.