Musical tourism in Memphis was a $4 billion annual industry prior to Covid-19 and is likely to be even bigger once the pandemic subsides. Memphis has seen such troubles before. Yellow fever epidemics after the Civil War caused wealthy whites to flee in large numbers, leaving the city open for the rise of the South’s first millionaire: an African-American businessman named Robert Church. The two local heroes on which the local music tourism depends, however, consist of W. C. Handy, the father of the blues; and Elvis Presley coming along 45 years later. It was in Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Studios on a hot July evening in 1954 that Presley recorded “It’s All Right Mama” and rock and roll took off. For a decade starting in the 1960s, Memphis became the 3rd largest center for recording music in America. No wonder Dusty Springfield came to town to record Dusty in Memphis; you had to be there!
Released today: episode #47 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring David Less, the author of Memphis Mayhem: A Story of the Music That Shook Up the World. Check out the audio link below to get oriented or click on the image below to go directly to the new episode.
David Less has studied Memphis music for over 40 years, including work done for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Gibson Guitar Foundation. He’s been published in Rolling Stone and DownBeat, among other places.
On May 7, 2021, Omnivore Recordings is releasing Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street. The CD/LP features Memphis legend Alex Chilton (The Box Tops, Big Star) backed by the Hi Rhythm Section that backed Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner and others. The liner notes come from David Less. To learn more, visit the OmnivoreRecordings.com web site.