With all our newly learned knowledge of Elvis whizzing round our brains, we said goodbye to Graceland and headed to our Motel 8 to get some sleep before touring Memphis the next day.
The following morning, feeling refreshed, we headed to the Peabody Hotel for something rather unique and perhaps a little strange. My friend Sarah had told me that I had to go and see the famous ducks at the Peabody Hotel when we got to Memphis. So, I looked it up in my Lonely Planet book and it was in there saying that twice daily at 11am and 5pm, some ducks made their way to the hotel lobby via the lift, walked a red carpet and landed in the lobby fountain where they splashed around. Now when I pictured this, I assumed that the ducks would just be models and it was some kind of remote controlled gimmick. How wrong I was!
When we arrived, the lobby was packed full with people all waiting to see the famous Peabody Ducks. There was a ‘Duck Master’ dressed in a very fancy costume walking up and down the red carpet telling the history of these ducks. At 10:55, the duck master disappeared into the lift to collect the ducks. When the clock struck 11, the lift doors opened and out waddled four REAL LIFE ducks. They made their way down the red carpet, totally unfazed by all the people staring at them and clicking cameras in the feathery faces and when they reached the end they walked up some steps and jumped straight into the marble fountain. There they would stay until 5pm, when they would waddle back the way they’d come, into the lift and back up to the roof where they live.
It was a truly bizarre sight. The Duck Master said it only takes a week for the ‘Duck Trainer’ to train them and then the ducks do it all out of habit and need no further reminding. Genius!
From here we wandered around Memphis for a while, walking down the famous Beale Street where all the bars serve beers and live music. We passed the Fed Ex Forum, which is home to the Memphis Grizzlies but also where lots of concerts take place.
And for our last stop we walked down to the Sun Studio. It didn’t look much from the outside but inside it had some hidden gems. Sun Studio was set up by Sam Phillips, who had a passion for the blues and wanted to record artists. He achieved his dream and cut records for artists such as BB King, Howlin’ Wolf and Ike Turner and later went onto record Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and of course Elvis Presley to name a few.
When we walked in, we were met with an old fashioned looking bar/café, where the walls were covered with photos of the stars and records that you could still buy. We booked ourselves onto a tour and were first taken upstairs to a small museum, which was filled with lots of memorabilia from all the stars that had recorded there. There was even the old radio station kit that had been dismantled from it’s original location and reassembled in the museum. It was all going to be destroyed as the building it was homed in was being converted into flats, but luckily the fabulous people of Sun Studio nipped over there in the night and took it all. It was the original kit that played Elvis’ first record, ‘That’s All Right Mama’. When it was played, the listeners of the WHBQ station loved it so much that the DJ Dewey Phillips had to play it over and over again. They then tracked down Elvis who was in the local cinema and dragged him down the studio to speak to the listeners.
From the museum we were taken down to the studios themselves, which despite only lasting as a recording studio for 10 years and then being taken over as a barber shop, surf shop and more, still has all the original fixtures and fittings. We were able to sing into the mic that many of the recording artists would have used and we got to see the drum kit that U2 left behind after they finished recording one of their albums there.
I finished the day by standing on the exact spot where Elvis once stood! Does life get any better???….