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Memorable spots in Memphis

By Sean Daly, Times Pop Music Critic
Published August 5, 2007


The Peabody: 149 Union Ave., (901) 529-4000. This elegant downtown landmark is famous for the ducks that frolic in the lobby's Italian marble fountain. (They sleep in swanky digs in the penthouse. Seriously.) The Peabody doesn't have much to do with rock history - um, the Rolling Stones stayed there? - but if you're going to Memphis, you might as well go in style. Rooms start at $200.

Sun Studio: 706 Union Ave., toll-free 1-800-441-6249. If Elvis had recorded his first song in Florida, there just might be a water park built on the roof of the studio. But Memphis keeps its history pure and ungussied, so the birthplace of rock 'n' roll has retained its plain brick facade, utilitarian office and that sunken studio itself, which still gives chills to the young, hipster tour guides. Expect lots of great music, too. Tour is $10.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music: 926 E McLemore Ave., (901) 946-2535. The original Stax Studio, home to Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and more, was demolished years ago, but this shrine to the Memphis Sound was built on the same spot. You'll love the extensive collection of soul-kissed artifacts, especially Isaac Hayes' Shaftastic 1972 Cadillac. Admission is $10.

Graceland: 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd., toll-free 1-800-238-2000. Gaining entry into Graceland on Aug. 16 for the 30th anniversary of the King's death will be tough, but if you order soon you might get lucky. I recommend the $30 "platinum" package, which gets you a tour of the mansion plus entry into Elvis' car and plane museums.

Beale Street: www.bealestreet.com. This downtown party zone is steeped in music history - but now it's also steeped in college kids openly carting around oversized draft beers. Think Ybor City or Bourbon Street. Coyote Ugly and the Hard Rock Cafe have nudged aside genuine juke joints. If you must do Beale, try out the Rum Boogie Cafe, 182 Beale St., (901) 528-0150.

Shangri-La Records: 1916 Madison Ave., (901) 274-1916. One of the best record stores in town, Shangri-La specializes in the Memphis Sound on CDs, LPs, and a full wall of cheaply priced 45s. (I bought a pristine copy of Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose for $2.) Don't be shy to test out that vinyl-only listening booth, either. Jukebox owners all over the city swear by it.