5 Famous Musicians You Didn’t Know Were From Memphis

When it comes to music, there are certain cities that immediately come to mind. Nashville is known for country music, New Orleans for jazz, and Seattle for grunge. But what about Memphis? The birthplace of rock and roll and home to the legendary Stax Records, Memphis has produced some of the most iconic musicians in history. 

This blog post will look at five famous musicians you never knew were from Memphis.

Memphis’ Influence on the Music Industry 

Thinking of Memphis music, we are often reminded of Elvis Presley and the birthplace of rock and roll. However, Memphis’ impact on the music industry extends far beyond the King of Rock and Roll. Memphis has played a vital role in shaping American music from blues to soul. 

The Birth of the Blues

Memphis played a significant role in the development of the blues, particularly through the work of W.C. Handy, a composer, and bandleader known as the “Father of the Blues.”

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In 1909, Handy heard a blues musician playing a slide guitar at a train station in Tutwiler, Mississippi. The musician’s name was Henry Sloan, and his performance inspired Handy to write his first blues song, “Memphis Blues.” 

The song became a hit and helped popularize the blues throughout the country. Handy wrote many more blues songs and became one of the most influential figures in the genre.

The Birth of Rock and Roll

While the blues was thriving in Memphis, a new genre was beginning to emerge: rock and roll. Rock and roll has its roots in a combination of blues, country, and R&B music. Its sound is characterized by its upbeat tempo, driving rhythms, and catchy melodies. In the 1950s, Memphis became a hotbed for rock and roll music, thanks in large part to the work of Sam Phillips.

Phillips was a record producer who founded Sun Records in Memphis in 1952. He is best known for discovering Elvis Presley and helping to launch his career. Phillips also worked with other notable musicians, including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Together, these artists helped create the sound of rock and roll and put Memphis on the map as a hub of musical innovation.

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Soul Music in Memphis

In the 1960s and 1970s, Memphis became known for another genre of music: soul. Soul music is characterized by its gospel-influenced vocals and strong rhythm sections. Memphis had a vibrant soul music scene, with many notable record labels and studios operating in the city.

One of the most famous of these labels was Stax Records. 

Stax was founded in 1957 and quickly became a powerhouse in the soul music world. The label’s artists, which included Otis Redding, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, and Isaac Hayes, helped shape the sound of soul music and made Memphis a mecca for the genre.

The Legacy of Memphis Music

Memphis’ music can still be felt today. The city is home to many iconic music venues, including the legendary Sun Studio and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. These venues attract tourists from around the world who come to experience the history of Memphis’ music scene firsthand.

Memphis has also been the subject of many movies, TV shows, and books that explore the city’s musical legacy. One of the most famous is the film Walk the Line, which tells the story of Johnny Cash’s rise to fame in Memphis. Other notable works include the book Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records and the documentary Muscle Shoals, which explores the history of soul music in Memphis and other Southern cities.

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5 Musicians From Memphis You Should Know About

1. Three 6 Mafia

Three 6 Mafia is a hip-hop group formed in Memphis in the early 1990s. The group consists of rappers DJ Paul and Juicy J, who are both from Memphis. Three 6 Mafia is known for their gritty and aggressive rap style, which has influenced many other artists in the genre.

The group’s breakthrough album was Mystic Stylez, which was released in 1995. 

The album featured hits like “Tear da Club Up ’97” and “Da Summa.” Three 6 Mafia won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for their track “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from the movie Hustle & Flow. The group has been influential in developing Southern rap, and their legacy continues.

2. Isaac Hayes

Isaac Hayes was a singer, songwriter, and actor born in Covington, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis. Hayes is known for his distinctive voice and soulful music. He was one of the pioneers of the “Memphis sound,” a fusion of soul, R&B, and funk.

Hayes had a successful career as a solo artist, and he also wrote many songs for other artists. Some of his most famous songs include “Theme from Shaft,” “Walk on By,” and “Ike’s Mood.” Hayes was also an actor and appeared in many movies and TV shows, including Shaft and South Park. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

3. Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake is a pop singer, songwriter, and actor born in Memphis. Timberlake rose to fame as a member of the boy band *NSYNC, and he has also had a successful solo career. He is known for his smooth vocals and catchy pop songs.

Some of Timberlake’s most famous songs include “Cry Me a River,” “SexyBack,” and “Mirrors.” He has won many awards throughout his career, including 10 Grammy Awards. Timberlake has also acted in several movies, including The Social Network and Trolls.

4. Al Green

Al Green is a soul singer born in Forrest City, Arkansas, but he moved to Memphis as a child. Green is known for his smooth and soulful voice and has had many hits throughout his career.

Some of Green’s most famous songs include “Let’s Stay Together,” “Tired of Being Alone,” and “Love and Happiness.” Green has won many awards throughout his career, including 11 Grammy Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

5. Booker T. Jones

Booker T. Jones is a musician, songwriter, and producer born in Memphis. Jones is best known for his work with the soul band Booker T. & the M.G.’s, a staple of the Stax Records label in the 1960s.

Jones is a talented multi-instrumentalist who has worked with many other famous musicians throughout his career, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Neil Young. Some of the songs that Jones is known for include “Green Onions,” “Soul Limbo,” and “Hang ‘Em High.”

Key Takeaways

Memphis may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of famous musicians, but it has played a pivotal role in shaping the history of American music. From the birth of rock and roll at Sun Studio to the iconic soul music of Stax Records, Memphis has produced some of the most influential and successful musicians of all time. 

The five musicians we’ve highlighted here are just a few examples of the incredible talent that has emerged from this vibrant and culturally rich city.

Featured photo via Unsplash

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