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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Four musicians who made records at Sun Studios: Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley , Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins
Sun All Stars: These four musicians all made records in the Sun Studios in Memphis: (clockwise from upper left): Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins Photo: Jim Read

Memphis Blues

Our search for authentic music -- music not mass-produced nor homogenized -- has led us to embrace the blues, jazz, gospel and rock and roll that was born in Memphis in the middle of the 20th century. Larry Nager, in his book Memphis Beat, asserts: "Memphis is arguably the most musical city on the planet; again and again, revolutionary sounds have emerged from the streets to change the way the world sang, danced, played guitar, and lived."

Memphis music has its roots in the music of the slaves, and this accounts for its regional identity, distinct from and independent of the centers of today's music industry on the West and East coasts. It is the unmistakable musical blend of black and white, rural and urban, which gave rise to Memphis' reputation, starting in the days of W.C. Handy almost one hundred years ago, as a major music center. Its diversity is mirrored in the blues of Memphis Minnie, the jazz of Phineas Newborn, and the rockabilly of Elvis Presley. Today in Memphis, this lively musical tradition continues to flourish.

Documentation includes the introduction from Nage's book; a photobook, Fond Memories of Elvis; a video recording of the ABC News presentation, The Century: Elvis; and two CDs: "The Music that Made Memphis," and "Elvis Presley, The Million Dollar Quartet."

Originally submitted by: Fred Thompson, Senator & William Frist, Senator.



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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