sun studio

6 hours on the Road for 5 hours in Memphis, TN

Five hours in Memphis, Tennessee on Friday, April 28, 2006

This quick trip was designed around 3 things: the Maxfield Parrish exhibit at the Brooks Museum, Sun Studios and BBQ ribs.

We left Nashville around 8 a.m. on a Friday and pulled into Memphis a clean 3 hours later. First stop, the Brooks Museum to see the Maxfield Parrish exhibit.

Maxfield Parrish’s work is a wonder of colors and details. It’s full, dreamy, magical. Blues of every nuance…and that’s just the mass produced prints. Standing in front of the actual 1922 Daybreak oil on panel was like looking into a window of heaven. Blue, violet, periwinkle, cerulean, lavender, mauve and the light. It was as stunning 10 feet away as it was with my nose nearly pressed against the glass.

Some things I learned: Parrish never mixed colors, he instead painted in layers–60+ sometimes–layering in gouache, glaze and more color. He photographed friends and family in the poses and then sketched them onto his paintings to get the details. And he kept rocks in his studio to “model” for the backgrounds. He was a perfectionist with an eye for light, color and nature–and a keen sense of humor. He aspired to be considered more a fine art creator versus being the illustrator.

Next stop was Sun Studios: recording home to Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash during the 1950s. The studio tour starts with a memorabilia tour next door. They have early recording equipment, scratchy recordings of Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash and more. Plus, they have Elvis’ social security card and high school diploma (on loan from Graceland), and some pre Ed Sullivan video of Elvis’ hip shaking. Back downstairs, you enter the Sun Studio reception room from the side. The studio itself is behind the reception room. It’s much smaller than I’d imagined. But not so difficult to imagine a young Elvis coming in one afternoon to record a song for his mother. The very intuitive receptionist, running the studio solo that afternoon, smartly made a copy of Elvis’ first recording for her boss Sam Phillips. It’s the stuff of legends! Old microphones, pianos, photos, and guitars line the walls. And it is still a recording studio…for $75/hour, you too can record at Sun!

Next stop, Blues City Cafe on Beale St. for ribs. A no-nonsense kind of place with huge portions. The full rack of ribs was moderately priced and some of the meatiest ribs we’ve ever seen.

We walked down a few blocks to pay our respects to the mighty Mississippi River and then headed east on I-40 back to Nashville. Wishing we could have spent the night on Beale St…they were gearing up for that music in the streets. Next time…

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