A Road Trip in The Deep South – Part 1: Planning

Sun Studio - Memphis
Sun Studio – Memphis


Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.
~Winston Churchill

In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.
~Dwight Eisenhower

I’ve visited Memphis once before (October 2009), and I loved it. Sun, Stax, Graceland, Beale Street, The Peabody, Dyer’s, A. Schwab, etc..

I’m finally going back & will also drive from Memphis to Orlando visiting Muscle Shoals & Montgomery. Being given such an opportunity, I feel obligated to produce some material. It is also deep embedded in my nature to always plan well before important ventures – planning is indeed essential.

In this post I’ve collected info on the different places I plan to visit & created relevant playlists for the different sites.


  1. Plan
  2. Memphis
    1. The Peabody Hotel
    2. Beale Street
    3. Sun Studio
    4. Graceland
    5. Stax Museum
    6. Royal Studio
    7. Ardent Recording Studios
  3. Road Trip part 1 – Memphis to Montgomery
    1. Natchez Trace Parkway Colbert Ferry Park
    2. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
    3. FAME Studios
  4. Road trip part 2 – Montgomery to Orlando
    1. Hank Williams Memorial – Oakwood Annex Cemetery
    2. Hank Williams Museum & statue
  5. Recommended books

Hard Edges

  • Landing in Memphis around 20:50 Wednesday 21.01.2015
  • Have to be in Orlando Saturday evening (for an IBM conference Sunday – Thursday)
  • Hotel in Memphis: The Peabody Hotel, in Montgomery: Home-Towne Suites of Montgomery
  • Social circumstances: Traveling with 2 other guys
  • Renting a car from Friday morning (pickup at the Memphis airport) to Saturday evening (drop off at Orlando hotel)
  • Main focus: Music history, music history..and music

Way too little time off course, but that’s how it is this time around.


Wednesday – getting settled 

07:20 Plain leaving my local airport
~21:45 Arrive @ The Peabody Hotel
(after a ~23 Hour trip)
~22:00 Dinner @ B.B. King’s Blues Club/Blues City Cafè/..

Thursday – the big day

09:45 Breakfast @ Tamp & Tap
11:30 Visit Graceland (Mansion only)
~13:15 Royal Studios
1320 Willie Mitchell Blvd
~13:30 Stax Museum
(only pictures & Museum shop)
~14:15 Ardent Recording Studio
~14:45 Sun Studio
~16:30 Burgers & beer @ Dyer’s
Handy Park
~17:30 chill @ Hotel
~20:00 Beale Street – food & music

Friday – Muscle Shoals day

09:30 Breakfast @ The Peabody
~10:30 Leaving Memphis
 ~13:00  Natchez Trace Parkway Colbert Ferry Park
Cherokee, AL 35616
 ~13:30  Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
 ~14:00  Fame Recording Studios
 ~14:15  Lunch in Muscle Shoals
 ~18:00  Montgomery
~19:30 Food & drinks – relax

Saturday – Hank Williams

09:00 Breakfast
09:30 – 11:00 Hank Williams Memorial – Oakwood Annex Cemetery
Hank Williams Museum
Hank Williams Statue
11:00 Leaving Montgomery
~19:30 Arrive @ Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel – Orlando


The Peabody Hotel

The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg. The Peabody is the Paris Ritz, the Cairo Shepherd’s, the London Savoy of this section. If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby… ultimately you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta…
– Author/Historian David Cohn, 1935.


The Peabody Hotel is a luxury hotel in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee. The hotel is known for the “Peabody Ducks” that live on the hotel rooftop and make daily treks to the lobby. The Peabody Memphis is a member of Historic Hotel of America the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

  • The Peabody Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The top floor – the Skyway, offers stunning views of the city and the river.
  • The studios of radio station WREC and later its television spinoff WREC-TV (now WREG) were for many years located in the hotel basement.
  • During the Big Band era, the Skyway was a popular night-spot, and the ballroom was one of only a handful of sites in America from which the CBS radio network would broadcast live weekly programs. Regular headliners included Tommy Dorsey and the Andrews Sisters.
    Sam Phillips worked @ WREC from 1945-49.
  • Elvis’ ties to the hotel date back to his teenage years when The Peabody was the location for his senior prom.
  • If Elvis walked into The Peabody today, he would be pleased to see that Lansky’s, one of his favorite clothing stores, resides in the hotel’s lobby.

tom parker elvis presley bob neal hank snow

Beale Street

The heart of music in Memphis — and, arguably, of Delta Blues, jazz, R&B and gospel as we know it — was born along this three-block strip downtown. But its significance as an entertainment district stretches all the way back to the 1860s, when the street (once known as Beale Avenue) became a popular pit stop for musicians, traders and merchants. For blues fans, however, W.C. Handy, now revered as the Father of the Blues, crafted the genre’s definitive statements in the early 1900s thanks to singles like “Blues on Beale Street” and “Memphis Blues.”

beale street

Beale Street is a street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, which runs from the Mississippi River to East Street, a distance of approximately 1.8 miles (2.9 km). It is a significant location in the city’s history, as well as in the history of the blues. Today, the blues clubs and restaurants that line Beale Street are major tourist attractions in Memphis. Festivals and outdoor concerts periodically bring large crowds to the street and its surrounding areas.

Some attractions:

  • Blues City Cafe & the Band Box (138-142 Beale)
  • B. B. King’s Blues Club (143 Beale)
  • Memphis Music (149 Beale)
  • A. Schwab’s (163 Beale)
  • Rum Boogie Café (182 Beale)
  • Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum (191 Beale)
  • Handy Park
  • Dyer’s Famous Hamburgers (205 Beale)
  • W.C. Handy historic home (352 Beale)

elvis on beale street


Sun Studio

It has been said that “If music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio its most holy shrine.”

sun studios

Sun Studio is a recording studio opened by rock pioneer Sam Phillips at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 3, 1950. It was originally called Memphis Recording Service, sharing the same building with the Sun Records label business. Reputedly the first rock and roll single, Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats’ “Rocket 88” was recorded there in 1951 with song composer Ike Turner on keyboards, leading the studio to claim status as the birthplace of rock & roll. Blues and R&B artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker, Little Milton, B.B. King, James Cotton, Rufus Thomas, and Rosco Gordon recorded there in the early 1950s.

Rock and roll, country music, and rockabilly artists, including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Ray Harris, Warren Smith, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded there throughout the mid-to-late 1950s until the studio outgrew its Union Avenue location. Sam Phillips opened the larger Sam C. Phillips Recording Studio, better known as Phillips Recording, in 1959 to replace the older facility. Since Phillips had invested in the Holiday Inn Hotel chain earlier, he also recorded artists starting in 1963 on the label Holiday Inn Records for Kemmons Wilson. In 1957, Bill Justis recorded his Grammy Hall of Fame song “Raunchy” for Sam Phillips and worked as a musical director at Sun Records.

11 Great songs recorded @ Sun Studio

  • Mystery Train – Elvis Presley
  • I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash
  • Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On – Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Blue Shoede Shoes – Carl Perkins
  • Cotton Crop Blues – James Cotton
  • How Many More Years – Howlin’ Wolf
  • Lonely Weekends – Charlie Rich
  • I’m Gonna Murer My Baby – Pat Hare
  • Ooby Dooby – Roy Orbison
  • Peepin’ Eyes – Charlie Feathers
  • Ubangi Stomp – Warren Smith

Spotify playlist:


Elvis’ house has balls
~Michael St. Gerard

Graceland Mansion


Graceland is a mansion on a 13.8-acre (5.6 ha) estate in Memphis, Tennessee that was home to Elvis Presley. It is located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in the vast Whitehaven community about 9 miles (14.5 km) from Downtown and less than four miles (6 km) north of the Mississippi border. It currently serves as a museum. It was opened to the public on June 7, 1982. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991, and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. Graceland has become one of the most-visited private homes in America with over 600,000 visitors a year, behind the White House. The most famous icon of the estate is the front gate, shaped like a book of sheet music, with green colored musical notes and a silhouette of Elvis, designed and built by Abe Sauer owner of Tennessee Fabricating Co. It has come to symbolize the estate more than the mansion itself.

Elvis Presley died at the estate on August 16, 1977. Presley, his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley, and his grandmother, are buried there in what is called the Meditation Garden. A memorial gravestone for Presley’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, is also at the site.


On May 26, 2013, Sir Paul McCartney visited Graceland, and left a guitar pick on Elvis’s grave, and said, “so Elvis can play in heaven.”

elvis grave paul mccartney


20 Great Elvis Presley songs recorded in Memphis

  • Mystery Train
  • That’s All Right
  • Good Rockin’ tonight
  • Baby Let’s Play house
  • Blue Moon Of Kentucky
  • Suspicious Minds
  • In the Ghetto
  • Any Day Now
  • I’m Moving On
  • Long Black Limousine
  • My Boy
  • I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby
  • Raised On Rock
  • Good time Charlie’s got The Blues
  • Are You Sincere?
  • Hurt
  • She Thinks I Still Care
  • Pledging My Love
  • Way down
  • Moody blue

Spotify Playlist:

Check out my previous post:


STAX Museum


The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a museum located in Memphis, Tennessee, at 926 East McLemore Avenue, the former location of Stax Records. It is operated by Soulsville USA, which also operates the adjacent Stax Music Academy.

Stax Records: 

Founded in 1957 as Satellite Records, the label changed its name to Stax Records in 1961. It was a major factor in the creation of the Southern soul and Memphis soul music styles, also releasing gospel, funk, jazz, and blues recordings. While Stax is renowned for its output of African-American music, the label was founded by two business people, Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton (STewart/AXton = Stax). It featured several popular ethnically-integrated bands, including the label’s house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and a racially integrated team of staff and artists unheard of in that time of racial strife and tension in Memphis and the South.

Following the death of Stax’s biggest star, Otis Redding, in 1967, and the severance of the label’s distribution deal with Atlantic Records in 1968, Stax continued primarily under the supervision of a new co-owner, Al Bell. Over the next five years, Bell expanded the label’s operations significantly, in order to compete with Stax’s main rival, Motown Records in Detroit. During the mid-1970s, a number of factors, including a problematic distribution deal with CBS Records, caused the label to slide into insolvency, resulting in its forced closure in late 1975.

Stax Records is critical in American music history as it’s one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time – second only to Motown in sales and influence, but first in gritty, raw, stripped-down soul music. In 15 years, Stax placed more than 167 hit songs in the Top 100 on the pop charts, and a staggering 243 hits in the Top 100 R&B charts. It launched the careers of such legendary artists as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Booker T, & the MGs, and numerous others. Current Stax recording artists include Ben Harper, Booker T. Jones, and others.

11 Great songs recorded @ Stax:

  • (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
  • In the Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett
  • Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave
  • Green Onions – Booker T. & the MGs
  • Born Under A Bad Sign – Albert King
  • Knock On Wood – Eddie Floyd
  • Last Night – Mar Keys
  • Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes
  • You Don’t Miss Your Water – William Bell
  • Tramp – Otis Redding and Carla Thomas
  • My Boy – Elvis Presley

Spotify Playlist:

stax logo

Royal Studios

royal studios memphis

Royal Studios is a recording studio located in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Established in 1956, it is one of the oldest continuously operated music recording studios in the world.

It is widely known for producer, recording artist and owner, Willie Mitchell (1928-2010), and notable productions of Al Green, Chuck Berry, John Mayer, Buddy Guy, My Morning Jacket, Robert Cray, De La Soul, Otis Rush, Keith Richards, Solomon Burke, The Bo-Keys, Bobby Blue Bland, Ann Peebles, Ike & Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Anthony Hamilton, Rod Stewart, Cody Chesnutt as well as the “Barnyard” and “Soul Men” Soundtracks.

Royal Studios was founded in 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee as the operating studio of Hi Records.

Great songs recorded @ Royal Studios:

I’m not 100% sure all these songs were recorded at Royal Studios (hard to find proof)

  • Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
  • I Can’t Stand the Rain – Ann Peebles
  • When Something Is Wrong With My Baby – Charlie Rich
  • Groovin – Willie Mitchell
  • Let’s Straighten It Out – O.V. Wright
  • Sweet Little Rock And Roller – Chuck Berry
  • Corrina, Corrina – Boz Scaggs
  • Already Gone – Robert Cray
  • Tuff – Ace Cannon
  • She’s Looking Good – Don Bryant

Spotify Playlist:

Ardent Recording Studios

ardent recording studio memphis

Ardent Studios is a recording studio located in Memphis, Tennessee. Ardent Records/Ardent Music is the in-house label.

Ardent Studios was founded by John Fry and was initially a studio in his family’s garage, where he recorded his first Ardent Records 45’s.

Ardent became home to young producers and engineers such as Jim Dickinson, Terry Manning, Joe Hardy, John Hampton, Paul Ebersold, and later Skidd Mills, Jeff Powell, Jason Latshaw, and Pete Matthews. In 1971, Ardent Studios moved to its present location on Madison Avenue, followed by the acquisition of 24-track recorders, bigger consoles and more gear.

Ardent came to have three studios equipped, all with large format Neve and SSL desks alongside Pro Tools rigs. It is managed by Jody Stephens (also drummer for Big Star) — an early Ardent group whose first two albums appeared on Ardent Records label in the early 1970s.

Early on the studio recorded Sam & Dave, Led Zeppelin, Isaac Hayes, Leon Russell and The Staples Singers, and in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s recorded James Taylor, ZZ Top, R.E.M., George Thorogood, The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In the 2000s younger artists such as The White Stripes, 3 Doors Down, Cat Power, North Mississippi Allstars, The Raconteurs and Guy Sebastian have recorded at Ardent, and the soundtracks for Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan were produced at Ardent as well. To date, Ardent has recorded over 70 gold and platinum albums and singles.

Great songs recorded @ Ardent Studios:

I’m not 100% sure all these songs were recorded at Ardent Studios (hard to find proof)

  • Billy Austin – Steve Earle
  • Thirteen – Big Star
  • Alex Chilton – The Replacements
  • Stand – R.E.M.
  • Gentlemen – Afghan Whigs
  • Wine – James Luther Dickinson / Jim Dickinson
  • Walk On By – Isaac Hayes
  • La Grange  – ZZ Top
  • Boot Hill  – Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Just Like a Putty – Jimmie Vaughan

PS! Afghan Whigs brilliant “Gentlemen” is not on spotify…

Road Trip part 1 – Memphis to Montgomery

road trip part 1
Memphis to Montgomery via Natchez Trace Parkway Colbert Ferry Park and Muscle Shoals.

Natchez Trace Parkway Colbert Ferry Park

colbert's stand

I’ve embedded a detour to be able to follow the The Natchez Trace for just short bit & stop by the “singing river” for a “mindful moment” @ Colbert’s Stand.

The Natchez Trace, also known as the “Old Natchez Trace”, is a historical path that extends roughly 440 miles (710 km) from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, linking the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi Rivers. It was created and used for centuries by Native Americans, and was later used by early European and American explorers, traders, and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the trail is commemorated by the 444-mile (715 km) Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows the approximate path of the Trace,[1] as well as the related Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. Parts of the original trail are still accessible and some segments are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Colbert’s Stand – George Colbert operated a ferry across the Tennessee River from 1800 to 1819. His stand, or inn, offered travelers a warm meal and shelter during their journey on the Old Trace. Colbert looked after his own well being and once charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his Tennessee Army across the river.The site of his stand is a short 50 yards up the path from the parking area.

Natchez Trace map


Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two
~Lynyrd Skynrd, “Sweet Home Alabama”

3614 Jakson highway

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was formed in Sheffield, Alabama, in 1969 when a group of four session musicians called The Swampers decided to leave the nearby FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals to create their own recording set-up.

The four, Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass), then became known as The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section and were the first rhythm section to own a studio and eventually run their own publishing and production companies. Their backing and arrangements have been heard on many recordings, including major hits from Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and the Staple Singers, but a wide range of artists in popular music recorded hit songs and complete albums at the studio. They are referred to as “the Swampers” in the lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The group first came together in 1967 and initially played sessions in New York and Nashville, as well as on recordings made at Rick Hall’s FAME facility. The initial successes in soul and R&B led to the arrival at the Muscle Shoals Sound studios of more mainstream rock and pop performers, including The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, Millie Jackson, Julian Lennon and Glenn Frey.

Great songs recorded @ Muscle Shoals Sound Studio:

  • Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones
  • Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones
  • Slow Train – Bob Dylan
  • Precious Angel – Bob Dylan
  • I’ll Take You There – The Staple Singers
  • Free Bird (original version) – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Bloody Mary Morning – Willie Nelson
  • Everlasting Light – The Black Keys
  • Take A Letter, Maria – R.B. Greaves
  • Kodachrome – Paul Simon

FAME Studios

fame recording studios


FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios are located at 603 East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, an area of northern Alabama known as The Shoals. Though small and out of the way of the main recording locations of the American music industry, FAME has produced a large number of hit records and was instrumental in what came to be known as the “Muscle Shoals sound”. Started in the 1950s by Rick Hall, the studio is still actively recording, and was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on December 15, 1997.

Founded by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford in the late 1950s, the studio was first located above the City Drug Store in Florence, Alabama. The facility was moved to a former tobacco warehouse on Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals in the early 1960s, when Hall split from Sherrill and Stafford. Hall soon recorded the first hit record from the Muscle Shoals area, Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On“.

Hall took the proceeds from that recording to build the current facility on Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, and in 1963, Hall recorded the first hit produced in that building, Jimmy Hughes’ “Steal Away.

As the word about Muscle Shoals began to spread other acts began coming to the location to record. Nashville producer Felton Jarvis brought Tommy Roe and recorded Roe’s song “Everybody”. Atlanta Music Publisher Bill Lowery, who had mentored Hall through his early days, sent The Tams. Nashville Publisher/Producer Buddy Killen brought Joe Tex, while Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett to record.

10 Great songs recorded @ FAME:

  • I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin
  • Land of 1000 Dances – Wilson Pickett
  • You Better Move On – Arthur Alexander
  • I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James
  • Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley
  • Carl Perkins’ Cadillac – The Drive-By Truckers
  • It Tears Me Up – Dan Penn
  • Fancy – Bobbie Gentry
  • Dress Blues – Jason Isbell
  • Patches – Clarence Carter

Spotify Playlist:

rick hall duane allman
Rick Hall & Duane Allman

Check out this Great article over at Songfacts:

Road Trip Part 2 – Montgomery to Orlando

road trip part 2

I’m a huge Hank Williams fan, Montgomery was not chosen by accident.

Hiram King “Hank” Williams, Sr. (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential singers and songwriters of the 20th Century.

If it wasn’t for Elvis and Hank Williams, I couldn’t be doing what I do today.
~Bob Dylan (to Robert Shelton 1978)

To me, Hank Williams is still the best songwriter.
~Bob Dylan (to Paul Zollo, April 1991)

Hank Williams Memorial – Oakwood Annex Cemetery

hank williams grave sign


hank williams grave

Hank Williams Museum & statue

hank williams statue

hank williams museum

Hank Williams Museum (link)

My 15 favorite Hank Williams song:

  1. Lost Highway
  2. Cold, Cold Heart
  3. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  4. Your Cheatin’ Heart
  5. Long Gone Lonesome Blues
  6. Lovesick Blues
  7. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
  8. Ramblin’ Man
  9. Hey, Good Lookin’
  10. Jambalaya (On the Bayou)
  11. Why Don’t You Love Me (Like You used To Do)
  12. I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)
  13. Take These Chains From My Heart
  14. You Win Again
  15. A Mansion On The Hill

Spotify playlist:

Recommended books


-Egil (your’s in planning)

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