From laying down the groundwork for music genres like soul, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll to serving as the home base for Elvis Presley, Memphis has a deep and rich musical history. While there’s certainly no shortage of live music around town, the city also offers a few unique listening room experiences — from exploring an extensive music conservatory to listening to rare recordings of Elvis in the studio. Here are three unique Memphis listening experiences that offer something for every type of music lover!
Memphis Listening Lab
Neighborhood: Crosstown Concourse
More info: memphislisteninglab.org
Picture this: an expansive library filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves, but instead of books, the space is full of vinyl records, CDs, and music history memorabilia. This is precisely what you can expect at Memphis Listening Lab, a music conservatory housing nearly 35,000 45 rpm singles, 15,000 LPs, 25,000 CDs, and so much more.
This one-of-a-kind space was made possible by Memphian and music industry professional John King. As one of the co-founders of the Ardent Records label, John accumulated tens of thousands of vinyl records, CDs, and musical history artifacts over the years. The best part? Memphis Listening Lab is free to visit and open to the general public.
When you arrive, head to the front desk and tell the staff member what you’d like to listen to during your visit (they can also provide suggestions!). From there, grab a set of headphones, set up shop at one of the listening stations, and sit back as you soak in the music.
In addition to its vast vinyl collection, Memphis Listening Lab is also home to The SoundRoom, a space designed specifically for listening to music. Complete with state-of-the-art materials and technology, many musical artists book this space for album release parties. To see a list of upcoming events happening in The SoundRoom, click HERE.
Neighborhood: Edge District
More info: sunstudio.com
You likely know Sun Studio as “the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll,” where legendary artists like B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and many more recorded hit songs. Whether you’re a Memphis native or are just passing through, a tour of this iconic recording studio is a must.
While the tour is traditional in the sense of including close-up views of music memorabilia — such as recording devices used by Sun Studio founder Sam Phillips, original 45 rpm singles, and more — you’ll also hear unique music recordings throughout your visit.
Sun Studio tours are split into two parts. During the beginning of your tour, you’ll get to explore the humble beginnings of Sun Studio, Sam Phillips, and how the studio came to be. As your tour guide walks you through the history, you’ll also hear snippets of famous Sun Studio songs like “Well That’s Alright” by Howlin’ Wolf (which was later re-recorded by Elvis) and “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats.
As you make your way downstairs to the recording studio — where you can stand in the same spot where Elvis once stood — you’ll be able to hear even more recordings, some of which are relatively rare. You’ll listen to Elvis’s famous rendition of “Well That’s Alright” as well as an outtake from The Million Dollar Quartet, which was an impromptu jam session between Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.
Central Station Hotel
Neighborhood: South Main
More info: centralstationmemphis.com
In addition to honoring Memphis’s railway history, the Central Station Hotel also pays homage to the city’s music scene. In fact, you’ll find music-centric elements throughout the hotel — from a wall of speakers to an expansive collection of vinyl records and more.
If you’re looking for a more intimate listening experience, check out the hotel’s listening room. Tucked behind the lobby bar, the space fits up to four people and includes EgglestonWorks Viginti speakers, which are top-of-the-line speakers that are hand-built in Memphis. As you take in the music, be sure to note the large screen at the front of the room, which allows you to pick your own songs as you learn the stories behind them.
SB Tip: The listening room can also be booked for private events, including a fun date night option!
If you’re staying overnight at the hotel, you can also enjoy music from the comfort of your room, as each guest room is also equipped with EgglestonWorks speakers. We recommend turning on a playlist carefully curated by one of the hotel’s on-site DJs.
For a more communal listening experience, head to Eight & Sand. The lobby bar is home to a 30-foot wall of EgglestonWorks speakers and a collection of 500 vinyl records. You can also order a craft cocktail as you soak in the tunes of yet another playlist or one of the bar’s professional DJs.
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