An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Music in Memphis

    Allen Tullos (compiler), Emory University

    31 March 2004
    The Mid-South city built on a Mississippi River bluff, Memphis sits at the confluence of extraordinary musical streams: Anglo-Celtic upcountry songstyles, fiddle bands, and gospel harmonies mingled with Delta blues, African American congregational and quartet singing, and jazz up from New Orleans. The offspring include Memphis soul, rockabilly, rock and roll, and country.

    Music in Memphis

    A Century of Blues in Memphis
    A Century of Blues in Memphis

    A Century of Blues in Memphis. "Memphis' role in nurturing the blues is undeniable. In the theaters, parks, and clubs of Beale Street; in its temporary recording units and legendary studios; in its airwaves shooting across the Delta; and in the careers of those born there and those who only stopped for a while, Memphis was the half way point where the country blues of the Delta first grew accustomed to the city. And when it moved on, catching a northbound train to Chicago and beyond, the precedent of the encounter would continue to reverberate in Memphis’ equally historic contributions to jazz, gospel, rockabilly, and soul." (See:

    An audio visit with Nick Spitzer to the streets where Elvis Presley grew up: includes a stop at Wild Bill's blues club and comments from Jerry Lee Lewis (RealAudio, 8:16 minutes).

    Biographer Peter Guralnick discusses Elvis Presley and Memphis. (RealAudio, 3:34 minutes).

    Presley band members D. J. Fontana and Scotty Moore recall Elvis. (RealAudio, 11:37 minutes).

    Sun Studio founder Sam Phillips talks about crafting sound as country, rhythm and blues, and gospel came together to shape rock and roll. (RealAudio, 9:45 minutes).

    The story of Sun Records as told by founder Sam Phillips to Terry Gross of WHYY and National Public Radio's Fresh Air. (Link to RealAudio at, 30:00 minutes).

    Recalling Stax Records and the distinctive sound of southern soul. Featuring Booker T. and the MG's, the Memphis Horns, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas, Johnny Taylor, Isaac Hayes.
    (RealAudio, 19:47 minutes).

    Memphis musician and deejay Rufus Thomas talks about his career. (Audio, 9:48 minutes).

    Rufus Thomas on Elvis. (Audio, 2:15 minutes).

    Reverend Al Green recalls his singing career from soul to gospel. (RealAudio, 13:34 minutes).

    Travel Highway 61 with blues legend B.B. King. (RealAudio, 10:35 minutes).

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    Recommended Resources

    Print Resources

    Bowman, Rob. Soulsville U.S.A: The Story of Stax Records. New York:Schirmer Books, 2003.

    Gordon, Robert. It Came from Memphis. New York: Atria Books, 2001.

    Guralnick, Peter. Sweet Soul Music. New York: Harper and Row, 1986.

    ——— . Last Train to Memphis, Boston: Little Brown, 1994.

    ———. Careless Love. Boston: Little Brown, 1999.

    Hay, Frederick J. Goin' Back to Sweet Memphis: Conversations with the Blues. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000.

    Lornell, Kip. Happy in the Service of the Lord: Afro-American Gospel Quartets in Memphis. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1988.

    Olsson, Bengt. Memphis Blues and Jug Bands. London : Studio Vista, 1970.

    Young, Alan. Woke Me Up This Morning: Black Gospel Singers and the Gospel Life. Jackson: Univ. of Mississippi, 1997.


    Memphis Rock'N'Soul Museum,

    Soulsville USA Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

    Stax Records ( is an unofficial site, run by a private fan/collector and dedicated to Stax/Volt Records, their subsidiaries, and every track that was recorded at the 926 E. McLemore studio. An illustrated history of Stax can also be found at

    Sun Studio.

    Memphis Mojo Cultural guide and calendar.

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