I haven’t driven to Tennessee since 2011 when I moved from Memphis back to Maryland. I have just been flying back and forth every year, or a few times a year. And the past few times I have been to Memphis, I have only done Elvis related things. This time I am going to all my old haunts (and a couple new ones) in Memphis and across Tennessee.
I usually go to Memphis the first weekend of May for the Beale Street Music Festival and had my hotel and flight booked and everything. Then U2 announced they were playing Nashville May 26th, Memorial Day Weekend. I couldn’t really go to Memphis twice in the same month, and I didn’t want to go to Nashville and be only three hours from Memphis and not go – that’s sacrilege. So I moved my trip to Memphis from the beginning of the month to the end – the week before the U2 show in Nashville. I cancelled my flight and made it a 10 Day Road Trip through Tennessee with stops in Winchester, Virginia, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Tunica, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, Jackson, Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee and Wytheville, Virginia.
I am leaving Ellicott City, Maryland Saturday morning May 19th and driving 500 miles to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Along the way, stopping in Winchester, Virginia to see the home and grave of Patsy Cline. I am spending the night in Pigeon Forge and going to the Elvis and Friends Legends show at the Memories Theater. I was at an Elvis show at the Memories Theater back in 2003 when I met Charlie Hodge there – a friend of Elvis’ who was working there. Sunday May 20th I will drive 450 miles across Tennessee to Tunica, Mississippi where I am staying at the casino for five nights during my stay in Memphis – it is about half hour outside of Memphis. The past four times I have been to Memphis over the last year and a half I have stayed at the Guest House at Graceland and absolutely adore it! I had reservations there for this trip too, but I got a great deal at the casino (including three free nights) so I couldn’t pass it up.
Monday May 21st I will spend the day at Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis and have dinner at Marlowe’s up the street after. Tuesday May 22nd I am touring Jerry Lee Lewis’ Ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi. I have driven by his ranch before and even stopped to take photos, but this will be my first time touring it. On the way into Memphis, I am going to stop by Elvis’ old ranch the Circle G in Horn Lake, Mississippi. From there, I will tour Stax Museum, which I have not done in 8 or 9 years. Now with my new obsession with Otis Redding, I am quite excited! I plan on having lunch at my favorite restaurant The Cupboard in Midtown, right down the street from Sun Studio. Definitely going to Sun, but not sure if I will take the tour or just hang out in that magical building – I could literally give the tour I have taken it so many times. After Sun, I am going to tour the Rock n Soul Museum, which I have not done in about 8 or 9 years. Then I will head over to Beale Street to hang out for the evening. After a while, I will probably end up people watching and eating dinner on the patio at Rum Boogie.
Wednesday May 23rd I am going to drive 120 miles over to Tupelo, Mississippi and spend the day where Elvis spent his first 13 years. I will be touring his birthplace including the shotgun house, the church and the museum – as well as the grounds and monuments etc. I have not been to Tupelo in about ten years, so I am very excited to go back. Then I am going to drive to Elvis’ elementary and junior high schools, the fairgrounds where he performed, the courthouse where WELO Jamboree used to be where Elvis performed, Tupelo Hardware where Elvis bought his first guitar and have lunch at Johnny’s Drive-In where Elvis used to eat. Thursday May 24th I am going to tour Lauderdale Courts for the first time. This is where Elvis lived as a teen in Memphis. After, I am going to tour the National Civil Rights Museum, which I haven’t done since I worked there in 2009 – and since the renovation. It is the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, so this is a great year to finally go back. I am going to have lunch at the Arcade Restaurant, the oldest cafe in Memphis and one where Elvis used to eat. I haven’t eaten there in probably ten years – hopefully I can get the Elvis booth. After lunch, I am going to do some shopping in Midtown. When I say shopping, I mean for records and books and 1950s stuff at Shangri-La Records, Burke’s Books and Flashback. I have never been to Shangri-La, used to go to Burke’s all the time when I lived in Memphis and I visit Flashback on my yearly trips to Memphis but haven’t been since 2016. I am going to finish the day back at Graceland – just to tour the mansion one last time before heading out of town.
Friday May 25th I will drive 241 miles over to Nashville stopping in Jackson to tour the Rockabilly Hall of Fame again (toured it about 8 years ago) and visit Carl Perkins’ home and grave. I will meet Sharon in Nashville and after checking into our hotel, resting a bit and unpacking, we will tour the Johnny Cash Museum. I am so excited about this because it was not there the last time I visited Nashville. We will also tour the Patsy Cline Museum above the Johnny Cash Museum. After, we are going to eat dinner and hang out on Broadway going to Ernest Tubbs Records, Savannah’s Candy Kitchen and the various bars and shops. Saturday May 26th we are going to tour RCA Studio B and the Country Music Hall of Fame. I have done both these tours before, but am so excited to tour them again especially RCA Studio B where Elvis recorded the majority of his songs. We will grab lunch somewhere and probably rest for a bit before going over to the Bridgestone Arena for the U2 show. Sunday May 27th we are going to tour The Ryman (the original site of The Opry). I toured The Ryman back in 2002 and saw Lisa Marie Presley perform there the following year, but very much looking forward to touring it again. We will have lunch before going our separate ways and heading home. I will drive about 360 miles to stay in Wytheville, Virginia for the night. Then get up Monday morning Memorial Day May 28th and drive about 320 miles home.
It should be a fun and busy 10 days in Tennessee. And I just realized I am sort of doing the Million Dollar Quartet road trip by going to the homes and/or museums of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Follow me @DeenasDays on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates from the road!