Elvis Inspired Road Trip to Nashville & Memphis

Amanda Rudham on 11 August 2018
To celebrate the release of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’, I’m looking back on my own Elvis inspired road trip with my husband and two teenage children a few years ago. We had an amazing time and I would recommend the trip to anyone, especially those with passions for music and history.

Our trip began in Nashville, Tennessee where we visited ‘Studio B’, a recording studio where Elvis recorded over 200 songs! It was incredible to stand in the exact location the legend himself once was and to further understand what went into making the music we know and love today. Right next to Studio B is the world renowned ‘Country Music Hall of Fame’. This was an unforgettable experience as we were able to learn about the history of country music which was instrumental in creating Elvis’ unique rock and roll sound. We were able to see the memorabilia of prominent country artists like Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash – my daughter was particularly taken by the section dedicated to Taylor Swift!

Nashville is not only a great place for an Elvis fan to visit, it’s also a must do for any music lover. It is referred to as ‘Music City’ and just walking around, you can really tell why. It’s filled with rooftop and honky-tonk bars that blast live music onto the streets. We went on a trolley tour to get to know the city better and visited famed sites such as ‘Music Row’, the ‘Johnny Cash Museum’ and the ‘Ryman Auditorium’. Nashville is also filled with fantastic restaurants and bars that will satisfy any foodie out there.

We then drove 3 hours to Memphis with the main attraction being ‘Graceland’, Elvis’ home. During our visit we were not only able to explore where he once lived, but also learn in depth about all aspects and eras of his life. As well as the house, there are exhibits dedicated to things such as his iconic jumpsuits and his time in the US military. We were able to step onboard Elvis’ planes where we saw his gold toilet! The house itself was smaller than I’d imagined it would be and actually felt very homely. Some of the décor felt very “rock star” though, particularly the Jungle Room with a rock waterfall and green shag-pile carpet! We visited Graceland the day before the anniversary of Elvis’ death and there were many fans visiting to pay their respects and take part in a candlelight vigil. Each year the anniversary is marked during Elvis Week when there are special events to celebrate his life and music.

Another must do in Memphis is ‘Sun Studio’, where Elvis recorded his first song. It was also home to other extraordinary artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. ‘Sun Studio’ is a place filled with history and the knowledgeable guides really bring the past to life. Our visit to the ‘Rock n Soul Museum’ was also really interesting. It tells the story of how the musical genres of rock and soul were created. This would be ideal for any Elvis fan as it depicts his role in the development of rock and how he was influenced by both the country music of Nashville and the soul music of Memphis. Not only is this museum great for music fans, but also those who love history. For example, it highlights the impact race had on the making of these musical genres. If the soul aspect of this museum interests you, I would highly recommend a visit to the ‘Stax Museum of American Soul Music’. It is located on the site of the legendary Stax Records and tells the story of this record label and the great soul artists it worked with.

Away from the music, a visit to Memphis should also include a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum which is on the site of the Lorraine Motel building where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. The exhibitions take you through the history of the civil rights movement and I found it a very moving experience.

Whilst in Memphis, we stayed in ‘The Peabody’, a hotel famous for the fact it houses ducks that march through the lobby every day. It is a beautiful and historic hotel and the fact that there were ducks only made it better in my opinion! If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can still catch a glimpse of the ducks by visiting the lobby in the morning or afternoon. You can enjoy a duck themed cocktail while waiting for the parade. There are plenty of other great hotel options in Memphis but for an Elvis fan, I recommend a stay at the ‘Guesthouse at Graceland’ as this is a hotel right by ‘the King’s’ actual home, where it has taken its inspiration from.

A visit to Nashville and Memphis can easily be done in a week but if you have more time, add on a trip to Tupelo, Mississippi to visit Elvis’ birthplace. Or learn more about the US’ musical history by exploring jazz in New Orleans, Louisiana and Motown in Detroit, Michigan.