Celebrating a City's 50-Year Groove

Sunday, May 20, 2007

WHAT: Seven Days of Soul, one of the top events of the year-long "Memphis Celebrates 50 Years of Soul" ( The week-long fete marks the 1957 founding of both Stax Records and Royal Studios, which launched the careers of numerous soul stars.

WHEN: June 16-22.

DON'T MISS . . .

* The Stax Museum of American Soul Music (926 E. McLemore Ave., 901-946-2535, in what remains of Soulsville, the community south of downtown at the heart of the Memphis soul scene. Stax Records, founded in 1957 as Satellite Records and defunct since '75, pioneered the sounds of Otis Redding, Booker T., Isaac Hayes and hundreds of others. An exhibit of photos taken by Joel Brodsky, a longtime album cover photographer for Stax, opens June 8 and runs through Aug. 27. Brodsky, who died in March, shot photos of Aretha Franklin and James Brown, among others.

On permanent display are Redding's favorite brown suede jacket and Hayes's peacock-blue 1972 Superfly Cadillac Eldorado, with television, refrigerator and gold trim. Admission: $10.

* Concord Records' concert at 7:30 p.m. June 22, at the Orpheum Theatre (203 S. Main St., 901-525-7800, The concert, benefiting the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy, will bring together Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Mabel John, the Temprees, Rance Allen and the Reddings, a group consisting of Otis Redding's sons Dexter and Otis II. Tickets start at $27.

* The Gibson Guitar Factory (145 Lt. George Lee Ave., 901-544-7998, Ext. 2, will host soul performances in the lounge of its Beale Street Showcase, which serves lunch from 11 to 3 weekdays. The factory offers 45-minute tours several times daily ($10) to see guitars in the making.

* "Access All Areas: Your Backstage Pass to the Music Industry" at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum (3050 Central Ave., 901-320-6320, The exhibit, through Sept. 2, invites visitors to make their own music (or video) with 33 displays about the physics, technology and history of music. Admission: $8.25.

* "Soul Food! African American Cooking and Creativity," through Aug. 19 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (1934 Poplar Ave., 901-544-6200,, Tennessee's oldest and largest fine-arts museum. Photos, mixed-media installations, paintings and artifacts explore the evolution of black cooking. Free admission on Wednesdays, $7 other days.

* The Beale Street entertainment district (, with clubs, shops and restaurants celebrating the area's history as a center of 20th-century black culture, is a popular stop for tourists, with the souvenir stores to prove it. But it is also Soul Central, where you can hear live music while sampling some of the best ribs and barbecue in the South.

GETTING AROUND: In addition to buses, the Memphis Area Transit Authority (901-274-6282, runs three trolley routes serving Beale Street and downtown. Fare is $1, 50 cents from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Bus tours abound, with myriad themes including music, shopping, local history, civil rights and, of course, Elvis Presley's Graceland. Backbeat Tours ( puts musicians in charge, and they play as you go. For a list of tour companies, go to the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau Web site (see below).

SLEEPS: For a dose of Southern splendor two blocks from Beale Street, the Peabody Hotel (149 Union Ave., 800-732-2639, has an indoor pool and spa. It has a "50 Years of Soul" package through the end of the year for $310 double occupancy, $250 single, including tickets to the Stax Museum and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, a "Top of the Stax" CD, breakfast and valet parking. Skip the tickets and CD, and the "Bed & Breakfast" package offers the rest for $255 double.

Or, for a low-frills room with a river view, the Comfort Inn (100 N. Front St., 877-424-6423, is within walking distance of Beale Street and has a rooftop pool; from $130 per night double, including breakfast.

INFO: Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau,800-873-6282,

-- Margaret Roth

© 2007 The Washington Post Company