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Journeys of Discovery: Exploring the soul of American music in Memphis, Tennessee

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Thomas Wilmer

The story of Soulsville and Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis

A 60-year run at Royal Studios in Memphis--recording hits with 1960s vacuum-tube technology

2016 Grammy award-winning producer Boo Mitchell talks about his career, his father, Willie Mitchell, and his passion for producing hit records such Bruno Mars's Uptown Funk.

Sun Studio Memphis-- birthplace of Rock & Roll

Memphis musician Tiffany Harmon takes us on a tour of the "Birthplace of Rock & Roll-Sun Studio and Memphis Recording Service.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame showcases the birthplace of Rock & Roll, Soul, and Blue

A visit with John Doyle Executive Director of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum.

Exploring Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, and Guest House

A visit with Gary Hahn, VP Marketing at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee where he talks about the new Elvis Presley's mega Entertainment Complex, some cool insights about Graceland, and the new 400-room, 4 Diamond Guest House at Graceland.

Tina Turner and blues legend Sleepy John Estes' roots in Brownsville, Tennessee 

Conversation with Brownsville, Tennessee Mayor Bill Rawls, followed by a walking tour o Tina Turner's childhood one-room schoolhouse and the adjacent cottage of legendary bluesman Sleepy John Estes.

Show Descriptions:


Back in the 1960s Stax Records served as an incubator of the MemphisTennessee Soul Music genre.

Join Tim Sampson Communications Director for the Soulsville Foundation where he talks about theStax Museum of American Soul Music, the genesis of “Soulsville”, the astounding Stax Music Academy, and Soulsville Charter School.

This is where musicians like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and Booker T. & the M.G.s came to cut their records.

In 16 years Stax placed 167 hit songs in the Top 100 on the pop charts, and 243 hits in the top 100 R&B charts. 

Royal Studios


Tom Wilmer (left) with Boo Mitchell at Royal Studios Memphis, Tennessee
Credit Royal Studios
Tom Wilmer (left) with Boo Mitchell at Royal Studios Memphis, Tennessee

Boo Mitchell carries on the legacy of his father, Willie Mitchell, as a producer of chart-topping hits.

One of Boo Mitchell’s proudest achievements was taking home the “Record of the Year” Grammy in 2016—the first time in the history of the Grammy Awards that a Memphis-made record garnered the award.

Boo’s father is remembered and revered as a pioneer of the Memphis Soul sound.It was a partnership between Al Green and Willie Mitchell that created a home run hit in 1971, followed by a number-one hit every year for four years straight.

One of many amazing and distinctive nuances at the Royal Studios (celebrating its 60th anniversary), instituted by Boos father back in the 1960's and 1970's, is its reliance of old-fashioned tube technology recording equipment such as the 8-channel Ampex 351 reel-to-reel tape recorder, old-style mikes, and more. Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Boo Mitchell in the control room at Royal Studios located in the heart of MemphisTennessee.

Sun Studio

Sun Studio Memphis, Tennessee
Credit Thomas Wilmer
Sun Studio Memphis, Tennessee

Known fondly as the birthplace of Rock & Roll, Sun Studio opened its doors as Memphis Recording Service in 1950.

It was Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats’ “Rocket 88” Sun Records recording in 1951 that goes down in history as the first Rock & Roll single. A litany of legends came to Sun Studio to record and make music history—cats like Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton, B.B. King and Johnny Cash.

This is the place where Elvis recorded his first single “That’s All Right” in 1954. And Sun is still recording music, in the same location today, in the same studio, using lots of the original tube-technology equipment.

A music legend: “If music was a religion then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio its most holy shrine.”

Memphis Music Hall of Fame

Memphis Music Hall of Fames shines in the night
Memphis Music Hall of Fames shines in the night

A visit at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum with Executive Director John Doyle in downtown  MemphisTennessee.

The museum showcases the story of Memphis Music and its century long legacy as a multicultural birthplace of American Music.


Graceland Memphis, Tennessee
Credit Thomas Wilmer
Graceland Memphis, Tennessee

A journey of discovery at the brand new Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex and 400-room Guest House with Gary Hahn, Vice President of Marketing and Media for Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis, Tennessee.

Tina Turner/John Estes Brownsville, Tennessee

John Estes's old home in Brownsville, Tennessee near Memphis
Credit Thomas Wilmer
John Estes's old home in Brownsville, Tennessee near Memphis

Come along for a stop-off along the Music Highway in Brownsville, midway between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee.

We’ll visit with the town's first elected African-American Mayor, Bill Rawls.

Sonia Outlaw-Clark Executive Director of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center takes us on a walking tour of the Tina Turner Museum, and adjacent, fabled bluesman, Sleepy John Estes’s cottage where he was rediscovered in the 1970s.  

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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