The Tennessee Music Highway is like the Yellow Brick Road of the music world, but instead of leading to the Emerald City, it's scattered with groundbreaking music scenes from Memphis to Bristol. The section of I-40 designated the Tennessee Music Highway by the General Assembly goes from Memphis to Nashville. At Expedia Viewfinder, we're always looking for a good excuse to take a road trip and this trek sounded like music to our ears. To fine tune our itinerary, we partnered with Tennessee Tourism to discover the best places to visit along the western leg of the highway between Memphis and Jackson:
The first stop on the journey is Memphis, home to the famous Beale Street, the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, and home of the blues. No visit to this city is complete without a stop at Graceland. Elvis Presley's estate has become a mecca for fans, where they can peek into the life and career of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. The mansion opens its doors and invites visitors to see memorable attractions from the exotic Jungle Room to Elvis' jumpsuit collection. The tour even includes a visit to the Meditation Garden where Elvis and his family are buried. "It's Now or Never," make a pit stop at the mansion and pay homage to the King.
Music producer Sam Phillips founded Sun Studios and launched the career of a little-known crooner named Elvis Presley. Phillips took the music world by storm as he dabbled with early rock 'n' roll, country and rockabilly musicians. Today, fans can tour one of the world's most famous studios and discover where Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash cut their teeth.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Stax Records was another prominent recording studio in Memphis. During the 1960s, the studio turned up the volume with raw, soulful music from legendary performers including Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MG's and Albert King. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music features a replica of the studio dedicated to Stax stars and other soul rebels. Take a tour through the history of soul music, watch vintage footage and marvel at the collection of stage costumes and Isaac Hayes' custom Cadillac. The exhibits also include memorabilia and original instruments along with the Soul Train dance floor.
Home of Sleepy John Estes
Continue the trek over to Brownsville and visit the home of 1920s bluesman Sleepy John Estes at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Museum. With harmonica player Hammie Nixon and mandolinist Yank Rachell, the guitarist and vocalist crooned big hits like "Drop Down Mama" and "Someday Baby Blues." The frontman's home is open to the public and features exhibits focused on the town's history.
Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School
Right next to Sleepy John's is the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School. The center of the museum is the original one-room schoolhouse attended by Anna Mae Bullock, also known to the world as Tina Turner. Today the Flagg Grove School (moved from Turner's hometown of Nutbush) features a collection of personal memorabilia from the Queen of Rock including costumes and gold records—even her high school yearbook. Visitors also can experience what learning must have been like for African-American students in the 1940s and 50s.
International Rockabilly Hall of Fame and Museum
Known for cultivating the rockabilly music scene, Jackson fused a little bit of rock with a little bit of country. From Brownsville, continue east on the Tennessee Music Highway and stop at the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. Here, visitors can retrace the history of rockabilly stars in the early 1950s. Explore displays of photographs, relics and video interviews with influential performers such as Brenda Lee and Ace Cannon.
The western region of the Tennessee Music Highway is just part of the road trip adventure. Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts, which focus on the music of Middle and East Tennessee as your road trip continues across the state.
Written by Expedia Staff Writer