Memphis' Rock 'N' Soul Museum is one of the only institutions in the country that tells the complete story of rock and soul music. It takes you to the fields where sharecroppers sang as they worked to the studios where Elvis Presley recorded the greatest hits of all time. The museum is even located on a historical spot—the corner of Beale Street (where stars still sing all night) and B.B. King Avenue, nicknamed the Blues Highway. The museum is interactive, and you'll be dancing and singing the whole time you're there.
Here's everything you need to know for a visit.
When the Smithsonian Institution was turning 150 years old, it did a series of research projects on topics important to America. One of those projects received so much interest that it was expanded to become the Memphis Rock 'N' Soul Museum.
The museum was originally located in the factory for Gibson Guitars. It was the first time the Smithsonian set up a permanent exhibit anywhere except New York and Washington, D.C. In 2004 the museum moved to its current location in the plaza of the FedEx Forum.
- Rural Culture: This exhibit takes you to the Mississippi Delta where farm workers sang melodies as they worked hard, inventing a new genre of music.
- Rural Music: As workers sang in the field, rural communities in the Delta also invented gospel hymns at church and ballads sung at home. This exhibit shows you how it all came together to start a musical revolution.
- Coming to Memphis: Sharecroppers moved to Memphis for jobs in cotton mills and warehouses. They shared their music, Beale Street thrived, and music was shared over the radio and in live performances.
- Sun Records & Youth Culture: Musicians who couldn't afford fancy studios went to Sun Records. The studio launched the career of unknown musicians from B.B. King to Elvis Presley. This exhibit tells the story of Memphis' famous recording studio.
- Soul Music: Here you'll learn how labels like STAX recorded black musicians who walked in off the streets. Many became legendary musicians.
- Social Changes: This gallery tells the story of how the civil rights revolution fueled the rock 'n' roll movement. The musicians also led the civil rights movement.
- Bravo Gallery: This exhibit highlights individuals (some lesser known) who shook the world with their tunes, changing the landscape of music forever.
- Temporary Exhibits: The music has temporary exhibits that dive more in-depth into topics. For example the "King of the Screen" exhibit spotlighted the movie career of Elvis Presley.
How to Visit
The museum is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Final museum admission is at 6:15 p.m. Note: the museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. If you also want to visit the Memphis Music Hall of Fame at Beale Street that gives more music about Memphis music icons be sure to buy the combo ticket.
Discounts are available for members of AARP, AAA, members of the military, and Smithsonian. There is free admission for Shelby County, TN residents on Tuesday. Make sure to bring your proof of residency!
The museum is located in downtown Memphis at the corner of Beale Street and B.B. King Avenue. It's located on the plaza of FedExForum, home of Memphis' NBA team Memphis Grizzlies.
What to Do Nearby
The museum is situated in the heart of downtown Memphis. It's located at the corner of Beale Street, a pedestrian-only street where many music legends including B.B. King made their name. You can still pop into the dozens of bars and clubs and hear live music. On beautiful days, you'll also find street performers. There is street food, and many bars and restaurants serve Memphis comfort food.
Music lovers shouldn't miss the nearby Music Hall of Fame where you will learn more about music legends from Memphis.
The museum is located in the plaza of the FedEx Forum, a gigantic entertainment complex. During basketball season make sure to buy a ticket to see the NBA Grizzlies play. It's a festive affair with the entire city rooting for their team.