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Overview of Memphis,  Tennessee

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Memphis Tennessee Overview

Memphis, Tennessee

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Wikipedia - Memphis

Memphis is a city in Shelby County, Tennessee, of which it is the county seat. As of 2006, the city of Memphis had an estimated population of 680,768, making it the largest city in the state of Tennessee and the 18th largest in the United States [1]. The greater Memphis metropolitan area has a population of 1,230,303. This makes Memphis the second largest metropolitan area in Tennessee, surpassed only by metropolitan Nashville. Even though Memphis is the state's largest city, it is the youngest of all of Tennessee's major cities especially its Big Four. Over the years of the state's history, Memphis has never served as state capital primarily because of its western location. Memphis is on the Lower Chickasaw Bluff above the Mississippi River, at the mouth of the Wolf River.


The Memphis area was first settled by the Mississippian Culture and then by the Chickasaw indian tribe. European exploration came years later, with Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto believed to have visited what is now the Memphis area as early as the 1540s. By the 1680s, French explorers led by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built Fort Prudhomme in the vicinity, the first European settlement in what would become Memphis, predating English settlements in East Tennessee by more than 70 years. Despite such early outposts, the land comprising present-day Memphis remained in a largely unorganized territory throughout most of the 18th century, while the boundaries of what would become Tennessee continued to evolve from its parent - the Carolina Colony, later North Carolina and South Carolina. By 1796, the community was the westernmost point of the newly admitted state of Tennessee. Memphis was founded in 1819 and incorporated as a city in 1826, taking its name from the ancient capital of Egypt. At the conclusion of the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862 during the American Civil War, Union forces captured Memphis from Confederate control. Yellow fever epidemics in the 1870s (1873,1878,1879) devastated the population for many years thereafter. As a result, in 1879, Memphis lost its city charter, and until 1893, was a Nashville taxing district. In 1897, Memphis' pyramid-shaped pavilion was a conspicuous part of the Tennessee Centennial exposition. From the 1910s to the 1950s, Memphis was a hotbed of machine politics under the direction of E. H. "Boss" Crump. The city was at the center of civil rights issues during the 1960's, notably as the location of a sanitation workers' strike. Memphis is also known as the place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel. Memphis is well known for its cultural contributions to the identity of the American south, including musical and culinary offerings. Many notable blues musicians grew up in and around the Memphis and northern Mississippi, and performed there regularly from the early 1900's onward. These included such musical greats as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Howlin' Wolf. The first African American formatted radio station, WDIA, was founded in the city in 1947 by Bert Ferguson and John Pepper, and included a young B.B. King as disc jockey. B.B. King's moniker was derived from his WDIA nickname 'Beale Street Blues Boy', a reference to Memphis' Beale Street on which many nightclubs and blues venues were located. In addition to a rich musical heritage, Memphis also boasts a long culinary legacy dominated by regional barbeque. Memphis barbeque is rendered distinct by its sole usage of pork (as opposed to beef), focus on rib and shoulder cuts of meat, and multiple locally-owned barbeque restaurants. Celebration of this local dish reaches its climax each year in May, when the Memphis in May Festival holds its annual international Memphis in May Barbeque Cookoff.


Memphis has a mid-latitude temperate climate, with four distinct seasons. The summer months (late May to late September) are persistently hot (between 68 F [20 C] and 95 F [35 C]) and humid due to moisture encroaching from the Gulf of Mexico. Afternoon thunderstorms are frequent during some summers, but usually brief, lasting no longer than an hour. Autumns are pleasantly drier and mild, with abrupt but short-lived cold snaps, which become increasingly frequent as the season progresses. Fall foliage becomes especially vibrant after the first frost, typically November, and lasts until early December. Winters often begin abruptly and are characterized by periods of subfreezing weather, interspersed with milder spells. Colder subfreezing periods are usually short-lived (2 to 3 days), but have lasted as long as several weeks during more severe winters, though temperatures typically remain above (10 F [-12 C]). The official all-time record low temperature was -13.0 F (-25.0 C), which occurred on December 24, 1963. Mild spells are sometimes warm with temperatures as high as 70 F (21 C) during January and February. Snow is rare but does occur annually, with an annual average of 5.7 inches (14.4 cm) at the airport. Spring often begins in late February or early March, following the onset of a sharp warmup. This season is also known as "severe weather season" due to the higher frequency of tornadoes, hail, and thunderstorms producing winds greater than 58 mph (93 km/h). Average rainfall is slightly higher during the spring months (except November) than the rest of the year, but not to any noticeable extent. Historically, April is the month with the highest frequency of tornadoes, though tornadoes have occurred every month of the year. Memphis is sunny approximately 64% of the time.

Cultural events and fairs

One of the largest celebrations in Memphis is Memphis in May. The month-long series of events promotes Memphis' heritage and outreach of its people far beyond the city's borders. Each year, Memphis in May honors a different country, highlighting various aspects of the honored nation's history and culture. Since its founding, the economic and educational impact of Memphis in May has given a significant boost to the city each spring. The celebration includes a diverse mix, beginning during the first weekend of the month at Tom Lee Park, the site of the Beale Street Music Festival. During International Week, the city focuses on its honored country, part of a larger program in coordination with area schools to broaden cultural awareness among students. Other signature events of Memphis in May include the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the FedEx St. Jude Classic (a PGA Tour golf tournament), and the closing event of the month - a performance of the Sunset Symphony. Carnival Memphis (formerly known as the Memphis Cotton Carnival), is a series of parties and festivities staged every year by the Carnival Memphis Association and its member krewes (similar to that of Mardi Gras) during the early summer. Carnival salutes various aspects of Memphis and its industries, and is reigned over by the current year's secretly selected King & Queen of Carnival. Fall brings the Mid-South Fair to the city each year. In the Cooper-Young district of Midtown Memphis, the Cooper-Young Festival, an art festival which is also held annually on the intersection of Cooper Street/Young Street, and draws in artists from all over North America, and includes art sales, contests, and displays. In its ninteenth year, this event has grown into one of Memphis' most anticipated events. This year over 50,000 guests will enjoy an appealing mix of art, music and crafts presented by over 300 artisans from around the country. This Festival is a true celebration of the arts, people, culture and Memphis heritage. In addition to art, the festival includes sales of clothing, jewelry, live music, and gay novelty items. As a result of Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans in August 2005, Memphis became the first city to co-host the Voodoo Music Experience, a gathering of musicians that typically is a centerpiece of New Orleans' Halloween festivities. Performers gathered both in New Orleans' Riverview Park and in Memphis' Auto Zone Park in late October 2005. Plans announced regarding the 2006 event, set for the final weekend in October, thus far only includes performances in New Orleans.

The Arts

Memphis is the home of founders and establishers of various American music genres, including Blues, Gospel, Rock n' Roll, and "sharecropper" country music (in contrast to the "rhinestone" country sound of Nashville). Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and B. B. King were all getting their starts in Memphis in the 1950s. They are respectively dubbed the "King" of Country, Rock n' Roll, and Blues. Other famous musicians who either grew up or got their starts in the Memphis area include the Box Tops, the Gentrys, the Grifters, Aretha Franklin, Carl Perkins, John Lee Hooker, Justin Timberlake, Howlin' Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis,Lucero (band) , Al Green, Muddy Waters, Big Star, Tina Turner, Roy Orbison, Willie Mae Ford Smith, Sam Cooke, Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, The Blackwood Brothers, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Three 6 Mafia, Eightball & MJG, Shawn Lane, The Sylvers, Anita Ward and "Father of the Blues" W.C. Handy. Memphis is also a literary mecca. Tennessee Williams had his first play written and performed in Memphis (on Snowden Street and Glenview Street respectively). Memphis has also had a significant impact in the world of photography, William Eggleston, the pioneer of color photography as a serious artistic medium and considered one of the greatest photographers of all time, still lives and works in Memphis. A number of younger photographers, including Huger Foote, are Memphians. Some other notable Memphis photographers are fashion photographer Jack Robinson and civil rights-era artist Ernest C. Withers. In the last decade, the art scene in Memphis has exploded. The independent art scene has centered primarily in South Main, located in downtown Memphis on the trolley line. More than a dozen art galleries have moved into the neighborhood, fueling a redevelopment boom that has expanded into new residential construction. Perhaps the most interesting conversion has been the Power House, a former power plant near Central Station that has been transformed into contemporary art space. The Cooper-Young neighborhood in Midtown is also home to several art galleries. The Edge is a nascent arts neighborhood, located at the edge of downtown near Madison Avenue, Marshall, and Union Avenue. The Edge is home to Memphis' Black Repertory Theater, world-famous Sun Studios, and Delta Axis, among others.

Museums and art collections

Many museums of interest are located in Memphis, including the National Civil Rights Museum, located in the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It includes a historical overview of the American civil rights movement, ranging from the abolishment of slavery to more modern themes such the GLBT movement. A yearly parade and celebration happens outside the room where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, on Martin Luther King Day. The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, founded in 1916, serves as the region's major art museum. It is located in Overton Park, in Midtown and is adjoined to Memphis College of Art, which also contains a small gallery of student-made artwork. A smaller art museum, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens focuses on impressionism and has several works by Monet, Degas and Renoir, and aside from impressionist artwork, includes four outdoor gardens, with Greco-Roman sculpture. Memphis is also home to the Peabody Place Museum, home to the largest collection of 19th century Chinese art in the nation. The Art Museum at the University of Memphis is home to the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the South. The Children's Museum of Memphis features many interactive exhibits, including a simulated grocery store, a wood skyscraper maze, roughly 5 stories high, and full-scale models of a fire truck and an airplane fuselage. Graceland, which is the second most visited house in the United States (after the White House), attracts over 600,000 visitors a year, from many different countries. It is the former home of Rock n Roll legend Elvis Presley, and contains a guided tour of the estate, which includes Elvis memorabilia, and facts, and a hotel called Heartbreak Hotel located across the street named after a popular Elvis hit. Celebrations include the annual Graceland Christmas lighting, and memorial services on the week of Elvis's birthday. It is now a National Landmark. Owing to the city's musical heritage, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music[10] is home to a broad collection of artifacts, photographs, exhibits, commentary, and music. Along with the legendary Stax Sound, the museum also spotlights the music of Muscle Shoals, Motown, Hi and Atlantic. The National Ornamental Metal Museum is the only museum in North America dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of fine metalwork. The site is situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and includes historic buildings, a working blacksmith shop and foundry, and a sculpture garden. Every October, the Museum hosts an annual Repair Days Weekend, during which the public can get broken metal items fixed and observe skilled metalsmiths at work. The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, serves as the mid-south's major science museum, and features exhibits ranging in topics from archeology to chemistry. It also includes America's third largest planetarium, as well as an IMAX Theatre. The Memphis Walk of Fame is a public exhibit located in the Beale Street historic district, which is modelled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but is designated exclusively for blues musicians, and composers. Names include B.B. King, and Aretha Franklin, among others. Mud Island Mississippi River Park and Museum is located on Mud Island in downtown Memphis, and includes an actual-sized Titanic replica, and facts on the Mississippi River. The Park is noted for its River Walk, a 2112:1 scale (30 inches=1 mile) model showing 1000 miles of the Lower Mississippi River, from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana. The Walk stretches about 0.5 miles, allowing visitors to walk in the water and see models of cities and bridges along the way. Other museums in the area include the Fire Museum, the Memphis Museum Hall of Fame, Gibson Guitar Museum & Showcase, and Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum.

Other points of interest

Blues fans can visit Beale Street, where a young B.B. King used to play his guitar. He occasionally still appears there at a club bearing his name, which is partly owned by him. Street performers play live music, and bars and clubs feature live entertainment around the clock. Today, Beale Street, is the most visited tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee, and considered to be the busiest street in the southern United States, second being Bourbon Street. Sun studios was where Elvis first recorded "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Other famous musicians who got their start at Sun include Johnny Cash, Rufus Thomas, Charlie Rich, Howlin' Wolf, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The Memphis Zoo, which is located in midtown Memphis, features many exhibits, of mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians, from all regions of the world. The most popular exhibits are the Cat House, which is the fifth oldest in the United States, and the zoo's panda exhibit, which is one of only a handful in North America. There are Libertyland Amusement Park and the adjacent Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Mud Island, Detour Memphis - an art and performing space, Lichterman Nature Center - a nature learning center, The Pyramid, the FedEx Forum, and the Memphis Queen Riverboat
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