What is the Story Behind Walking in Memphis?

Elvis Presley statue on Beale Street
••• Elvis Presley statue on Beale Street. Richard I'Anson / Getty Images

Question

What is the Story Behind Walking in Memphis?

Answer
Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn's 1991 hit, poetically recounts a 1986 visit to Memphis. The song mentions Cohn's visit to many well-known Memphis landmarks. Below is a list of Memphis references Cohn makes in the song's lyrics.

 

  • Blue suede shoes 

In the first line of the song, Cohn mentions blue suede shoes, a reference to the rockabilly song Blue Suede Shoes originally recorded by Carl Perkins and performed by Elvis Presley.

You can purchase a pair of actual blue, suede shoes from Lansky Brothers Clothier to the King.

  • Delta Blues

The Delta Blues are a style of blues music that originated in the Mississippi Delta in the early 1900s. Memphis is general considered the northern boundary of this geographic area. There is a Delta Blues Museum is in Clarksdale, Mississippi, about 1.5 hours from Memphis

  • W.C. Handy

Handy was a blues musician, composer, and a pioneer of the genre. He performed on Beale Street with his band in the early 1900s and wrote the song "Memphis Blues" (originally a campaign song for mayoral candidate Edward Crump). W.C. Handy Park is a city park on Beale Street; there is a bronze statue of Handy there.

  • Beale Street

Designated by Congress as the "Home of the Blues", Beale Street gained notoriety in the early 1900s as an entertainment district with restaurants and clubs. Today, the nearly 2-mile-long street is a major tourist destination in Tennessee.

  • Ghost of Elvis

There are many conspiracy theories about Elvis, including that he or his ghost has been sighted around the world.

  • Union Avenue

Union Avenue is a major thoroughfare for car traffic in Memphis. While there is a misconception that the street is named after the Union Army, it was actually named in reference to the unification of different areas of the city early in Memphis' formation.

  • Gates of Graceland

Graceland mansion was Elvis Presley's home and today is open for visitors from around the world. It is also where Elvis is buried. The gates of the property have a distinctive metal design with music notes and guitar players.

  • Jungle Room

One of the more famous rooms in Graceland, the Jungle Room is known for the deep green shag carpet and "tropical decor", including carved wooden furniture.

  • Reverend Green

Al Green is Memphis-based soul singer and songwriter who later recorded gospel music and became an ordained minister. He occasionally preaches in Memphis area churches.

  • Muriel at the Hollywood

The Hollywood is a small cafe in Robinsonville, Mississippi where a gospel singer named Muriel performed frequently. There's more to this story if you're interested.