Jayne Ellen White really loves music and, more specifically, Memphis music. In fact, more than a decade ago, after graduating from Temple University in Philadelphia, she took a cross country musical road trip simply to indulge in Americana music. One of Jayne’s stops included Memphis. After experiencing the city’s rich culture, she admits she was hooked — eventually moving to the Bluff City and landing a job at Sun Studio and later Stax Museum, two legendary historical venues. Jayne now serves as the music specialist at Memphis Travel. The role allows her to combine her enthusiasm for music and Memphis along with her bevy of musical knowledge — all to uplift the city’s artists on a national stage.
The former military brat now calls Memphis home and makes her mark as one of the city’s go-to guides for everything Memphis music. As our newest FACE of Memphis, she spoke to us about her love for music and what she’s learned along the way by allowing her passion to fuel her career.
Looking at your career, one can say you love Memphis — the music, history, culture, etc. How did you get into music and tourism?
I had fond memories of coming to Memphis when I was younger, and I was drawn to this city and who we are and who I know us to be now. I moved here and wanted to study music and music history. I began working at Sun Studio and worked there for a decade. I started there as a tour guide and then became a public relations director. I really took the time to study our musical history while I was there. And then I began working at Stax for a while and was able to study the Stax legacy and learned more about who we are as a soul city. Now I work at Memphis Tourism as the music specialist. I feel kind of lucky to have both of those iconic, legendary recording studios on my résumé.
How did those experiences reaffirm your love for music?
I was able to come into contact with people all over the world who have been really moved by who we are and what we’ve put out into the universe culturally. Being able to see the impact of all of the artists who have recorded here was powerful. Every day I was getting this affirmation of how wonderful Memphis is from outside sources, and it started to weigh on me in a positive way, but I wanted our current music scene and current community to get the same shine as our music legacy did. I think that created my drive to really work on who we are as a music city today and our current musicians.
What makes Memphis music so unique to you?
It’s just groundbreaking. I feel like art is the result of people’s experiences. And it’s not an accident that all of this music came from this small little area. In a nutshell, our history is pretty deep here. We have a lot of social issues. This was the place where Black Americans stamped down their music history early on from Beale Street. That’s kind of what it was — the Black entertainment district. The music that we have here in the city and beyond comes from that experience. It created who we are in Western pop culture. Honestly, to call it groundbreaking is really putting it lightly.
What do you love most about your job as a music specialist for Memphis Travel?
I do a lot of things — everything involving music, including styling our music in digital marketing pieces. When I started at Memphis Travel, one of the first things I did was design a landing page that serves as a music hub. It’s a 101 on Memphis music. You can go to the pages and learn who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. In addition to the hub, I do everything that’s needed. If it is music-related, usually I’m in the conversation.
Overall, I love being able to hype up our current musicians. People have felt the impression of our music all over the world. Our sound has been the soundtrack to people’s lives and big, impactful moments in history. We’ve touched the world.
Is there a project you’re currently working on or have worked on that you’re especially proud of or excited about?
Yes! I am working on something called Memphis Music Month for October 2020. It is a big deal! It’s essentially a campaign that we’re doing in my office of Memphis Travel’s Music Hub to celebrate Memphis music within every facet of our community and beyond. We’re going to have a music series that features live music while social distancing. I’m super excited about it.
Shifting gears, besides the music, what do you love most about the Memphis?
We aren’t like anywhere else, and we know it. It takes people a few minutes to wrap their heads around who we are as a city. There is so much heart, grit and grind. There is a heartbeat or pulse here that is so unique and not like anywhere else, and we are so blessed with talent here. You go to any bar, club, entertainment venue or even church, and you will find someone who will literally make your jaw drop because of their talent.
If someone was visiting Memphis for the first time, what places would you include on your must-visit list?
My perfect day would be coffee at City & State, a run across Big River Crossing, a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, a Soul Burger at Earnestine and Hazel’s and a trip to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. I would also include oysters and a cocktail at The Gray Canary and then maybe finding some music somewhere on Beale Street or in another one of our city’s entertainment districts.
I also recommend visiting Shangri-La and stocking up on some Memphis vinyl, hanging out on all of our patios and soaking in that Memphis way. We are a great city to just be in.
I love being outside here. Big River Crossing is so powerful. It was here when Indigenous people were here, and it will be here when we are all gone. The land around it is constantly flooding and receding, and it’s a great reminder of how powerful nature is.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I have two. One is, “Not everyone deserves access to you. Be choosy.” And the other is to drink a lot of water every day.
Besides faith, friends and family, what are three things you can’t live without?
My workouts and yoga practice. Another thing is if I don’t have a workout playlist, I can’t seem to get motivated. My quarantine hobby has been to find good hype music to move to!
All photos submitted by Jayne Ellen White.