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Beck & Call rooftop bar

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A Noteworthy Road Trip

Editor Denise K. James visits Musical Memphis

Thanks to my mother, I was raised on rock ‘n’ roll. Weekends in childhood were spent dancing around our den to radio and records, or dancing around the pizza parlor to favorites on the jukebox. Much later, I learned rock ‘n’ roll was raised on the blues — and for me, there’d be no better road trip than to Memphis to celebrate the history of my favorite music. Inspired, I packed a quick bag, made the pleasant three-hour drive and found myself on legendary Beale Street by late afternoon, checking into the gorgeous Hyatt Centric, right in the center of the action. 

I rewarded myself for the drive with a cocktail at the Hyatt’s Beck & Call rooftop bar, taking in views and hovering over the firepit, since it was pleasantly cool for spring. Indoors, I noticed thoughtful, musical touches throughout the hotel — carpets patterned after waves of sound and treble clefs dotting the walls. That night, I slept like a baby in the comfortable bed, dreaming about bluesmen traveling Highway 61 through the Mississippi Delta, hoping to make it big in Memphis.

The next morning, I fueled up with breakfast at Sunrise Memphis and hit my first stop: Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley first recorded. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and let me pose cheesily with the microphone, then I spent the afternoon enjoying gorgeous weather on Big River Crossing, the longest pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi, where Tennessee and Arkansas touch. I had trouble choosing a happy hour spot: would I wander Beale Street and see what stood out? Or choose a surefire spot like Lafayette’s Music Room at Overton Square? Finally, I realized I was on vacation — why not both? 

The next day, after another delicious morning at Sugar Grits, I headed for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, where I was engrossed in the story of Stax Records and its rise and fall in history. Looking forward to dinner at the Hyatt’s CIMAS Bar & Lounge, I ate a light lunch and continued combing the city, pausing to chat with locals, catch live tunes here and there and read historic markers. I hopped a bus and took the “Mojo Tour,” loving the guide’s descriptions as we rode around Memphis' different neighborhoods. 

It’s hard to describe the energy of Memphis. For me, of course, it’s musical, but the city offers much more: there’s interesting people, delicious cuisine, plus a lot of art and history. Speaking of art and history, that evening, I caught a performance of the musical adaptation of “Mean Girls” at the historic Orpheum Theater, then savored a nightcap at Earnestine & Hazel’s, the allegedly haunted dive bar, which my late friend, Delta poet James Thomas Miller III, mentions in a poem.

My heart felt sad when I departed Memphis the third morning, but I promised myself I would return soon, perhaps for the “Mempho” Music Festival in September or RiverArts Fest in October. Or, perhaps I would just visit at random, grab a beer on Beale and soak up the bluesy mood of musical Memphis. 

More restaurants recommended by our friends at River City Lifestyle

  • Paulette’s
  • Gray Canary
  • Bishop
  • Catherine & Mary’s 
  • Good Fortune Co. 
  • Fancy's Fish House 
  • Sun Studios
  • Beck & Call rooftop bar
  • CIMAS bar and lounge