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Along a bend in the Mississippi River, the city of Memphis rests on the bygone remnants of its blues and rock 'n' roll past, one that birthed legends like Elvis Presley, B.B. King and Johnny Cash, and instantly immortalized it as the nation's eternal music mecca. Yet, it goes beyond the mere enchantment of Graceland, Elvis' old-time mansion that still draws fervent devotees to its humid doorstep. Having suffered a slew of ups and downs, and a downward spiral contributed by economic decline, Memphis seems to be redeeming its pallid neighborhoods and revitalizing its oldish glamor - a historic city on the brink of a renaissance. Memphis is still the capital of old-world cool, with a seething musical passion that never leaves landmarks like Beale Street, and arguably, home to nation's best barbecue. A crowd of nostalgic Victorian homes grace Memphis' curlicued streets, and its historic significance is felt in landmarks like the National Civil Rights Museum, the Cooper Young Historic District, and the C.H.Nash Museum.
Right in the heart of Downtown Memphis lies the legendary Beale Street. Ever since its inception in 1841, Beale Street has always been a major locus of commerce in the city. As the years progressed and the street and the area around it built up, the street snowballed into a thriving commonplace for travelling African-American musicians to perform. With the advent of the Orpheum Theater and the Church Park, nightclubs, restaurants and shops began to brim the area. Through the early 20th Century, legendary musicians like Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and BB King performed on Beale Street and developed the Memphis Blues sound. Today, Beale Street is a major attraction in the city of Memphis, with legendary blues clubs, restaurants and shops that have been around almost as long as the street itself. Come evening, the street and its many lanes are illuminated by myriad neon-signboards of bars and restaurants which merrily beckon tourists and locals alike. The street is also known for hosting the grand Memphis in May International Festival and the Beale Street Music Festival every year.
If you wanted to see how Memphis looked like about six or seven decades earlier, Withers Collection Museum & Gallery is the right place to head to. The museum has a wide and varied collection by Ernest C. Withers. There are photographs that represent the city's political dynamics, African-American lifestyles, and the changes in the social lives of people. The museum offers guided tours and group tours as well.
Like Mark Twain, you can ride on a paddlewheel boat and relive a romantic era in American history. Afternoon cruises include a narration of the sights on the Tennessee and Arkansas sides of the river, while dinner cruises include a bountiful buffet, music and dancing. Try the moonlight music cruise with someone you love. There are daily and moonlight cruises in the warmer months, and the riverboats hosts special events in the winter months.
Highlights of the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum's permanent collection include several Elvis costumes, B.B. King's guitar (affectionately called "Lucille" by the legendary musician), and Dick Clark's American Bandstand podium. The museum also offers special temporary exhibits. The museum is available for private parties and events.