Walking In Memphis – Marc Cohn: THROWBACK THURSDAYS

This week’s Throwback Thursday is the 1991 classic “Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn. I dedicate this to the city of Memphis and my esteemed colleague Ray.

“Walking In Memphis” was written by American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn in 1991 and charted in the US at #13 and Australia at #11. 

 

Track Significance

I recently visited Memphis and I can honestly say – I fell in love with the city.  I adore the gospel choir backing vocals and piano in this track.

It’s the heartland of Delta blues and rock ‘n’ roll music and I visited Graceland (like Marc Cohn suggests he did in the song), Stax Records and Sun Studios where the music greats Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and the Howlin’ Wolf recorded.

The track “Walking In Memphis” brings back fond memories of all the things that I saw, felt and experienced in the city. Cohn captures the spirit, culture and emotion of The Bluff City in the track.

The people of Memphis are so kind and generous, Beale Street is alive with blues music, Elvis memorabilia, catfish and BBQ ribs are everywhere. For a person who loves music as much as I do – Memphis is the musical Mecca. I felt a strong spiritual connection to Memphis and I am truly blessed to have visited this city.

When I returned from my trip, my colleague Ray asked me whether when I was in Memphis – did I play “Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn. Surprisingly, I didn’t. But listening to the song – bought the city back to me, albeit in my memories. Memphis will always live on in my mind and soul.

 

What is the track significance to Marc Cohn?

According to Marc Cohn the song is about a spiritual awakening. Cohn has explained that this song is a journey to be baptized in the world of Blues music.

According to SongFacts:

Cohn wrote this song after travelling to Memphis to check out Graceland in 1986, which is Elvis Presley’s mansion and a kitschy tourist destination. He made sure to see an Al Green sermon when he was there, but it was a trip out of Memphis along Highway 61 where the meaty part of his journey took place. In the desolate Delta, he saw a sign that said “Hollywood,” which turned out to be the Hollywood Cafe, which is a small diner/music joint in Tunica County, Mississippi. This is where Cohn smelled the catfish and encountered a black woman in her 70s named Murial who was at the piano. After watching Murial play a variety of spirituals and Hoagy Carmichael songs for about 90 minutes, he spoke with her when she took a break.

The Hollywood Cafe is still there – you drive right past it to go to several of the casinos now located in Tunica. Murial and Cohn kept in touch, and she attended his wedding in New York. Cohn saw her again when he took another trip down south and played her some of his new songs, but Murial died in 1990.

 W.C. Handy, who Cohn refers to in the first verse, is a blues legend. His most famous recording is “St. Louis Blues,” but he also recorded “Beale Street Blues” and “Memphis Blues.” There is a statue in his honor in Memphis.

The lyrics, “Security didn’t see him” is probably a comment on the story that Bruce Springsteen once successfully scaled the wall at Graceland, trying to deliver a song he wrote. Apparently, Elvis wasn’t there.

The lyrics refer to the girl waiting in the Jungle Room. This was the name of the play area at Elvis Graceland mansion where he and the crew would take care of business (TCB).

The reference to “Blue Suede Shoes” is not about Elvis Presley, but about Carl Perkins who recorded the song in Memphis for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Perkins’ ill luck in a car wreck stopped him touring to promote the record, allowing Elvis’ cover version to become a massive hit. Presley’s copy was done at RCA studios in Nashville. It also helped Elvis’ version that he substituted for Carl Perkins on Ed Sullivan and sang the song. The narrator tells of seeing “The ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue and followed him up to the gates of Graceland“. Sam Phillips’ studios were called Memphis Recording Service and were at 706 Union Avenue.

 

Music Video

I unfortunately cannot remember watching the “Walking In Memphis” video as a young girl. It features a very young Marc Cohn and was shot in the city – showcasing Graceland, bridge over the Mississippi River and ferry, Beale Street, Sun Studios and Hollywood Café in Tunica (Mississippi).  

Watching the video and listening to the song truly touches me, makes me teary and miss the city. Go ahead Raymundo, laugh at my vulnerability while I hit repeat on my Itouch.

 

Lyrics

“Walking In Memphis”

Marc Cohn

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

W.C. Handy
Won’t you look down over me
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
But I’m as blue as a boy can be

Then I’m walking in Memphis
Was walking with my feet, ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Saw the ghost of Elvis
On Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through

Now security they did not see him
They just hovered ’round his tomb
But there’s a pretty little thing, waiting for the king
Down in the Jungle Room

When I was walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet, ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

They’ve got catfish on the table
They’ve got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green, be glad to see you
When you haven’t got a prayer
Boy, you got a prayer in Memphis

Now Muriel, plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would

To do a little number
And I sang with all my might
She said, “Tell me are you a Christian child?”
And I said, “Ma’am, I am tonight”

Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
I was walking with my feet, ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
But do I really feel the way I feel

Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
I was walking with my feet, ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
But do I really feel the way I feel

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

 

Watch the music video for “Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn below:

 

 

Check out some photos I took of Memphis sites below:

 

Elvis’ grave – Graceland

Jungle Room – Graceland

Catfish, ribs, BBQ beans, coleslaw, fries – Blues City Café

The famed B.B. King Restaurant and Bar- Beale Street

Walking In Memphis

 

I love this classic track – and it will always have much more meaning to me now that I understand what it feels like to walk on Beale and through Graceland, Sun Studios and ride the trolleys. I hope to walk in Memphis once again, but until then…I always have this song.

Have you visited Memphis, Tennessee? Do you think this song accurately portrays your experience?

 

Miss Fancye

xo

Walking In Memphis

Walking In Memphis

Walking In Memphis

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