Discover the Musical Legacy of Memphis at its Amazing Music Museums

Memphis, Tennessee’s musical legacy runs as deep as the Mississippi River and flows with influence from virtually every current of pop culture in America. The city has been and remains one of the country’s top destinations for fans of live music – whatever the genre. It’s probably one of the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate the rich diversity of American music and learn about the heritage of blues, jazz, country, rock ’n roll, funk, and soul.

For a visit that’s sure to keep you humming a happy tune way after your trip ends, be sure to set aside plenty of time to check out as many Memphis museums and heritage attractions as possible. We’ll start the count off with a list of our favorites.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame

memphis museums beale street homes of the blues

The list of famous musicians who call Memphis home is a lengthy one. Downtown and within the Beale Street Entertainment District, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame honors local musicians for their lifetime achievements and features artifacts and memorabilia from Hall of Fame members, including Elvis Presley, Justin Timberlake, Isaac Hayes, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, and Carla Thomas.

You may also like: 6 Memphis Museums You Need to Explore

Graceland

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With over 650,000 visitors each year, Graceland is the second most-visited house in the United States (the White House is number one). The last home of Elvis Presley, Graceland is a bucket-list must for fans of the king of rock ’n roll – or anyone in love with rock music and the American dream. For music buffs, the house serves as an essential link for learning about Presley’s rise to stardom from humble roots by mixing musical genres and utilizing his immense talent, personality, and pluck.

Blues Hall of Fame Museum

The Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame Museum features exhibitions about the lives and times of over 400 of its inductees. Located downtown on Main Street, the museum is divided into 10 galleries with interactive touchscreen displays where you could listen to recordings and watch performances. Before you book your flights to Memphis, you should check out who’s going to be playing as performances get filled up fast. If you can’t make a show, you’ll also find a wealth of key blues memorabilia to see, including instruments played by blues musicians such as R.L. Burnside and Charlie Musselwhite, as well as dozens of photographs, album covers, and all sorts of related ephemera.

Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum

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Set on Beale Street right by Highway 61, the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum was launched by the Smithsonian Institute to tell the story of “the birth of rock and soul music” and the “musical pioneers who, for the love of music, overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook the entire world.” To understand what makes Memphis such an inspiring city, don’t miss a chance to explore the museum’s seven extensive galleries.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

memphis museum stax

Image via Flickr – CC by 2.0Britt Reints

A genre-defining record label, Stax Records released albums by many of America’s most important and beloved performers, including Otis Redding, Tina Turner, the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and Stax house band Booker T & the MGs. For the deepest dive into some of the most soulful tunes that you’ll ever hear, strut your stuff over to Stax and let the rhythm wash over you.

Sun Studio

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Recording pioneer Sam Philips opened this legendary studio in Memphis in 1950. What followed is history, with rock ’n roll royalty passing through to record some of their biggest hits: namely Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash. But, the story wouldn’t be complete without including the blues and R&B artists who also recorded there, such as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, and Rufus Thomas. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Sun Studio is a must-see site for all music aficionados.

W.C. Handy House

Memphis Museums W.C. Handy House

Image via Flickr – CC by 2.0 Tom Bastin

A shotgun shack on Beale Street – once owned by Father of the Blues W.C. Handy – is an important piece in the story of American music (not to mention how significant the role of Memphis played in that story). Stop at the W.C. Handy House to discover how Handy helped define American music and planted the seeds for virtually all popular music that came after his era.

Does your taste in music ever influence where you go on trips? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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