USA ’22 #19: We’re walking in Memphis …

USA ’22 #19: We’re walking in Memphis …

Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th May 2022

Our hotel is opposite the famous Peabody Hotel which opened there in 1925.

Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederacy had lived in the original 1869 building. By far the most famous residents now are the Peabody Ducks who march through the lobby daily at 11:00 to swim in the fountain – more of them later. We walked across the road to see if there were any restrictions on the number of people who could come to see the waddling procession and Matilda was pleased to find out that all are welcome.

The lobby of the Peabody Hotel

As an added bonus the ducks were still swimming in the fountain as they remain there until 17:00. We planned to return for the 11:00 duck parade the next day.

We then set off to see some of the sights of Memphis, one of the most famous of which is Beale Street [see Selfie of the day] which is known as the Home of the Blues.

Metal quavers on the pavement here celebrate famous musicians and Matilda obviously chose this one to photograph.

Robert would have you believe that he took this photo to show the typical style of architecture on Beale Street, whereas those of you who know him well will realise that he wished to include the neon sign as it appealed to his [juvenile] sense of humour. He did consider going in for a drink but turned straight around and walked out when he realised it was a cocktail bar only and did not serve beer.

The stylish Old Daisy Theatre was built in 1902 and from the 1930s to the 1960s was a major stop on the ‘Chitlin’ Circuit’ which was the only safe way for R&B artists to perform in the segregated south. George Benson, Ike and Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and The Jackson Five are just a few of the artists who toured in this way.

Now a Blues Museum, the Old Daisy Theatre did not seem to be open whenever we walked past.

Established in 1876, A. Schwab’s is the oldest shop and the last remaining original business on Beale Street. According to the website it sells ‘Memphis souvenirs, clothing (in all sizes), household items, feather boas, party supplies, voodoo supplies and ephemera.’ The company motto apparently is “If you can’t find it at Schwab’s, you’re probably better off without it.” Given the limited luggage space and Robert’s recent acquisition of a shirt, we found we were, indeed, better off without it.

Further up the street, Robert was channelling his inner Elvis in his new Blue Hawaii shirt.

Although Silky O’Sullivans nominally encompasses three buildings, the second and third in the row are purely facades and have steel supports to prevent them from collapsing.

Venture in and go behind the facades to the beer garden and patio and you find a goat park. Apparently customers have been known to buy the goats beer and they have developed quite a taste for it.

The goats provide entertainment and prove their sure-footedness by playing on a helter-skelter.

The original Lansky Brothers’ store, opened by Bernard and Guy Lansky in 1946 is now the Hard Rock Café where of course they have some Elvis memorabilia.

Many of the bars along Beale Street have live music including the Beale Street Tap Room where Robert wished to sample some local brews.

The following morning we, along with quite a few other people, had an appointment with the Peabody Ducks.

The Peabody Ducks comprise a male and four female mallards – who parade through the lobby to the Fountain at 11:00 each day accompanied by the Duck Master – what a great job title that is – to the sound of the King Cotton March music written by John Philip Sousa. 

The Duck Master wears a military style uniform and carries a stick as it transpires that the ducks may not be as well drilled as the publicity would have you believe and they sometimes need a little gentle guidance to get them into the fountain.

The ducks work an average of three months before retiring and duck is NEVER on the menu at this hotel.

Since 1981 Lansky Brothers has had an outlet in the foyer of the Peabody Hotel and of course we dropped in to browse.

The shop is famous for being ‘clothier to the King’ and Bernard Lansky is credited with helping Elvis to develop his distinctive style in the fifties, focusing on blue, black and pink including two tone bowling shirts paired with two tone shoes.

While we were in there, Robert was asked, ’Does Elvis know, you’re wearing his shirt?” which made us smile.

Robert has received quite a few comments on his clothing, including an oft repeated joke in New Orleans: ‘I know where you got them shoes.’ Obviously the answer is ‘You got them on your feet.’

We then decided to catch the Main Street Trolley.

This took us out to the station so we could see whether we could leave our luggage but there were limited facilities.

We had passed the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel but unfortunately we failed to check the opening times and when we returned the following day it was closed. This is where Martin Luther King Jr was shot on the balcony of his motel room making this a potent symbol for the civil rights movement: we were disappointed not to have been able to visit the museum and learn more. The balcony of room 106 was where he was shot, and the window of the guest room opposite [pictured on the right] was where the shot was fired.

The Sun Studio was originally called the Memphis Recording Service and was located in the same building as the Sun Records record label. In 1960 the studio moved to Madison Avenue but in 1987 the studio was restored to become a tourist attraction whilst still being a recording studio. We arrived just after a tour had started and as there is little else around this area we decided not to wait almost an hour for the next tour.

Walking back into the centre we saw part of a baseball match over the perimeter wall of the stadium.

Once nicknamed Millionaire’s Row and now known as Victorian Village the mansions alongs Adams Avenue include from left to right the James Lee House, the Woodruff Fontaine House and the Mallory-Neely House.

We found somewhere to eat where even the salad was too much to finish – see Dish of the day then went to Memphis Central Station to catch our sleeper train.

The waiting area is the hotel lobby [and bar]. . .

. . . so we did not mind that the train was running a little late.

Video of the day:

Selfie of the day:

Dish of the day:

Greek salad with chicken

Route Map:

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