— Iris Lloyd
If you have been following this column, you have come to understand that places are very interesting to us and very important to God. Even places that seem somewhat “secular” may have a meaning to God that, well, we just don’t get. Memphis is a place like that, I believe.
On the outside, Memphis appears to be very worldly. Let’s face it, it is. It is the birthplace of “the blues” and home of Beale Street, Memphis’ answer to Bourbon Street. Did you know that Memphis was once the place that all cotton kingpins came to? Did you know that it was the birthplace of the music of Elvis, and believe it or not, the hotel chain of Holiday Inn? On the outside, not a whole lot of “spiritual” stuff going on there. Or is there?
While visiting on a “drive-through” ride, a day spent at The Cotton Exchange Museum, Sun Recording Studios, Beale Street, and the Gipson Guitar Factory revealed deep roots of racial unrest with a glimmer of hope mixed in. What did all these places have in common? Elvis and the colors black and white. When Elvis’s first record, made at Sun Recording Studio in Memphis, played on the air, it played 14 times in one day—some kind of record back then. The very next day, his savvy agent secured a radio interview for him. His record was playing on black and white stations. No one knew his race—until the interview. The announcer asked him what high school he went to. Living in a period of segregation, Elvis’s answer told the world that he was a white man. But his work of “joining the races through music” had already begun. His agent, Sam Phillips, later went on to found the chain of hotels that have become a staple on the road trips of many Americans–Holiday Inn.
Along Beale Street, one will find blues musicians of all races looking for an opportunity to sing their song and make their mark in the world of a genre of music that has its niche in one of only a few places known for its blues roots. Inside this music, a common thread of suffering and pain unites races and gender. Its roots go all the way back to the early days of slavery. The music itself is rooted in gospel songs written by slaves working in the fields, mostly cotton fields. The cotton they picked was more times than not brought to the Memphis Cotton Exchange to be brokered out around the country. The one room museum in Memphis offers visitors a complete history of the people, music, and events that elevated cotton to a “kingly” status. Elvis was the Grand Marshal at the annual Cotton Parade in his early days at Sun Recording Studios.
If you ever get a chance to visit, do yourself a favor: park, walk, and ride the trolleys that still use overhead wires to navigate through the city. Be sure to stop at Cafe 61 located at 85 South Second Street. The interesting artwork by Lamar Sorrento ordains most of the wall space and offers diners a colorful backdrop to a mouth-watering and varied menu. Add some spice to your meal and order the Crawfish Macaroni & Cheese as your side order–you won’t be sorry!
As summer approaches and the urge to hit the road begins to grow, choose your destination but let Him guide you while you’re there. He’ll turn your trip into an adventure and bring you closer to Him in the process. Your life may even take a new turn in a new direction as you learn to let Him guide you—and after all, isn’t that where The Rubber really Meets the Road?