ARTS LEADERSHIP RECIPIENT, 2017 GOVERNOR’S ARTS AWARDS
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum opened in 2000 and has since been dedicated to telling the story of music in Memphis. Located on the corner of legendary Highway 61 at the FedExForum, the Museum offers a comprehensive Memphis music experience from the music of the farm and field workers of the 1930s, through Memphis’ musical heyday and the explosion of Sun, Stax and Hi Records in the 1970s, to its global musical influence.
The product of a unique collaboration between the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of American History, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is now acquired, housed and maintained locally by Memphians committed to preserving the city’s rich musical heritage.
In 1990 the National Museum of American History set out to develop a traveling exhibition about American music and continually returned to the “roots of America’s music” in the Delta and Memphis, Tennessee. Found there were the sounds of the sharecroppers in the 1930s and 40s—field hollers, work songs, blues, country and gospel—that eventually collided and fused with the urban blues and jazz Beale Street, rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly of SUN Studio, and rhythm and blues soul music of STAX Recording and HI Records.
Funding was not secured for the traveling exhibition, but a group of visionary Memphians banded together to raise the necessary dollars to complete the research, acquire pertinent objects and artifacts, and complete the installation and construction of the museum. The resulting exhibition is the story of the body of music that had the most cultural influence during the mid 20th century and the musical pioneers who, for the love of music, overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook the entire world.
Now one of the city’s most prominent museums, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum steadfastly archives interviews and oral histories of Memphis musicians and influential producers, providing thousands of tourists and residents a glimpse into the roots of uniquely American music forms. It has welcomed over 800,000 visitors from all over the world, including thousands of school students participating in the Museum’s education program to learn about the social changes that impacted the nation and led to the development of rock ‘n’ roll.
The Museum continues to contribute to the City of Memphis’ musical brand by orchestrating a multi-venue admission pass to iconic sites in the city; curating and producing the Historic Walking Tour of Beale Street to offer visitors an opportunity to learn the historical significance of Beale Street interactively; proving instrumental in launching and running the Memphis Music Hall of Fame; and staying open daily to visitors interested in learning the stories of one of the most iconic musical beds in the world.
Videography by Dr. Bradley Hanson; Editing by M.C. Seals; Voice-over by Sandra Harris; Directed by Suzanne Lynch