More Memphis—Fun and Not So Fun

October 17, 2017 Paul Groves

The Peabody Hotel in Memphis has a unique attraction. Years ago, someone brought in several ducks (used as live decoys) and left them in the lobby fountain where the ducks swam and were apparently very happy and well-behaved. The guests enjoyed these creatures so much, that the hotel manager created accommodations for them on the roof and they now ride the elevator down to the lobby to swim in the fountain twice a day. They are well trained and managed by the official duck wrangler in an impressive red coat. Luckily, we were in the lobby at just the right time to observe the Peabody Hotel Duck March. The event is used as a fundraiser for the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital which is also a Memphis institution. Fun. Located around the bottom of the hotel is Lansky’s clothing store. Apparently, young, poor Elvis was not welcomed in a lot of other stores, but Mr. Lansky was nice to young Elvis. Elvis had Lansky outfit him for many of his performances.

In Nashville, we visited RCA Studio B where Elvis did much of his recording. Before that time, Elvis recorded his first songs at the Memphis Recording Service. Elvis paid $4.00 and recorded a ballad. The service was run by Sam Phillips who did not care for ballads. Elvis was persistent and Sam’s secretary championed Elvis, so after a year, Elvis was called back in for a recording session with two others. During a break in the session, Elvis played a more lively song that impressed and inspired Sam. The trio of musicians and Sam worked and recorded Elvis’ first hit song. The Sun Studios label was created by Sam Phillips and his small studio was the starting place for some great artists, such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Sun Studios is called the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Again, this humble little recording room holds some amazing history.

We came out to have dinner at a wonderful little restaurant featuring Memphis-style barbecue, but just atound the corner was the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot and killed while he stood out on his balcony. James Earl Ray was the shooter and located in a building nearby. The Motel and adjacent building is now a civil rights museum. I remember the photo from LIFE magazine where everyone is pointing to where the shots came from right after Rev. King was shot.