The History Behind the Famous Hollywood Cafe in Mississippi

How Muriel and the Hollywood Cafe sparked the hit "Walking in Memphis"

The Hollywood Cafe

Chillin662/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 

Marc Cohn is an American singer-songwriter and Grammy Award-winner who explores music genres like rock, folk, and alternative country. With a net worth of $14 million, Cohn is best known for his song Walking in Memphis, which became a hit in 1991. The song received nominations like Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Popular artists like Cher, Lonestar, Barett Baber, and Dustin Christensen covered the songs between 1995 and 2015.

In the song, there is a line that puzzles even lifelong Memphians: "Now Muriel plays piano every Friday at the Hollywood." In the 1980's, a gospel singer and pianist named Muriel Wilkins did indeed play the piano every Friday night at a cafe called the Hollywood Cafe. She performed at the Hollywood Cafe for years along with other legendary musicians, like bluesman Son House. 

In 1986, Marc Cohn visited the Hollywood Cafe and watched Muriel play for over an hour. He was then invited to sing Amazing Grace with her, which inspired him to write his hit song. He ended up bonding with her about his family and music life, and they became close—she even attended his wedding in New York. Cohn said in an interview that the song's meaning surrounds the journey to be baptized in the world of blues music, like a "Spiritual Awakening." 

The Hollywood Cafe

The Hollywood Cafe is a small restaurant located 20 miles south of Memphis at 1585 Old Commerce Road in Robinsonville, Mississippi. The cafe is still open today and features all things southern, such as catfish, country vegetables, and a heaping helping of soul.

The Hollywood Cafe was also mentioned by famous author John Grisham in the best-selling book, "A Time to Kill", and was a regular prior to his popularity. Travelers looking for a "must do" dining experience in a quaint 1922 commissary will experience southern hospitality all while having the chance to being seated next to politicians, celebrities, and tourists alike.

Things to Do

The surrounding area of the Hollywood Cafe also includes Tunica County, which is known for its famous casinos like the Horseshoe, Gold Strike, and Tunica Roadhouse. Located in the north of Mississippi, Tunica is also known for its golf courses and is a common starting point for the Mississippi Blues Trail, a highway with scenic routes through its history and points of interest. Travelers can stop by the Gateway To The Blues Visitor Center & Museum before heading to landmarks like the Tunica RiverPark, Tunica Museum, and Bluesville Performance Hall.

Places to Eat

After visiting the Hollywood Cafe, visitors can explore some additional local spots for a bite to eat. The Blue & White Restaurant is an American diner that is great for lunch and vegetarian-friendly. Those looking for a fancier option can opt for Jack Binions Steak House, and people seeking that in-between can stop by the Village Square Buffett for a mix of variety including gluten-free and vegetarian options. Cheaper options include the 80z Burger Bar, Mexico Grill, Waffle House​ and Jeffcoat's Downtown Deli.

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