A Visitor’s Guide To the Rock and Soul Museum Memphis

Anyone who has ever listened to Rock and Roll, Soul, Rhythm and Blues or Country Music should run not walk to the amazing Rock and Soul Museum Memphis. The address is Beale St but in reality it is about a block off, right across the street from the Gibson Guitar Company.

Your visit begins with a video that lasts about 15-20 minutes. When it is over you are handed an audio tour that you follow through the museum.

You begin your journey traveling through the rural south in the 1920-s and 30-s where the life of the share cropper was hard and their music was a way to take them away from the harsh realities. In the fields and on the front porches both black and white they made music that was the roots of rhythm and blues and also of Country Music.

By the 1940’s the invention by the Ford Motor company of a tractor that could plow the cotton fields had decimated the tenant farmers of the south. The landlords no longer needed them and many families moved to cities like Memphis, Detroit and Chicago. They brought their musical style with them and the North was introduced to the likes of which they had never heard.

It wasn’t until 1953 that they found what they had been looking for, a white man who sang like a black man. His name was Elvis Presley and in him all the pieces came together. Once Elvis had opened the door, there were many singers who went rushing through it and a whole new sound was born.

What this museum is all about is the development of that sound. You will see and hear about the record studios where the sound was born, the radio stations that promoted it and the singers and song writers who made rock and roll and soul what they are today.  rock and soul

Names like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, AL Green and B.B. King are found and expounded upon. All along the way you will have the opportunity to not only read about the history of Rock and Soul but to hear the songs that made the 50’s and 60’s such a revolutionary time.

Your audio tour tells the story but there are over 90 opportunities to play songs through that audio guide. Groups like the Carter family and singers like Jerry Lee Lewis bring the sound right to you.

Rock and Roll was a revolution built on the poverty in the rural south and on the disapproval of parents. Without this combination, rock could have never thrived the way it did.

If you only have time for one museum in Memphis, make it this one. All the music that we enjoy today had it start in Memphis over 50 years ago and it is a nostalgic trip down the musical memory lane for any baby boomer.

This Museum is part of the Smithsonian Museum so you can be assured that everything is done well. Allow at least two hours and if you love music, allow more.

The entrance is $12 for adult and they do have an AAA discount but they won’t offer it you don’t ask. The tour finishes at the gift shop which is small but has a few interesting items.

There is a parking garage near the Peabody Hotel or if you are lucky there is metered parking along the street. This may be my favorite museum of all times; I guess that remains to be seen.

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