Budweiser Made in America is getting closer all the time as we explore the nation's most musically cultured cities. Now we hit Memphis, whose famous faces include everyone from Elvis Presley to Justin Timberlake.
Memphis, Tennessee has been a massive influence on musical culture since music charts began, with a range of artists frequently mentioning the great city within their own song lyrics; think Marc Cohn's 'Walking In Memphis', Chuck Berry's 'Memphis', Paul Simon's 'Graceland' and of course Alannah Myles' 'Black Velvet'. Thus, it's only right that Budweiser Made In America bring their documentary series to the great city to explore what Memphis is all about nowadays.
Watch the Budweiser Made in America documentary for Memphis:
What do you think of when you think of Memphis music? Sam Phillips' independent label Sun Studios usually springs to mind with their impressive roster of artists that included the one and only Elvis Presley along with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. '[Memphis is known for] its independent spirit', says Big Star's Jody Stephens. 'And when you think about Sam Phillips and what he did and the Stax [Records] folks and what they were doing, they kind of followed wherever their spirit led them.' His power pop band was surprisingly heavily influenced by Stax Records, which came some years after Sun, and signed artists such as Otis Redding, Booker T. & the M.G.'s and The Bar-Kays.
Rock band Big Star's early influences came from Stax Records
Stax began in 1957 with intentions of signing potential country stars, but it soon became clear that the vast African-American community in Memphis was producing a very different sound. The signing of Booker T. & the M.G.'s became a huge statement of equality and unity with the band consisting of two white and two black musicians. 'As far as the music scene here, it's all influenced by Stax', says Project Pat from Memphis' most famous rap collective Three 6 Mafia. 'Back in the day they had only three black radio stations; one was in Harlem, one was WDIA which was in Memphis, and one was in Atlanta, and they had Stax Records and they had Motown.'
Booker T & The M.G.'s played a massive role in early musical unity
Music developed at an alarming rate in the city through the decades, with the place having such a sense of significance to all who ventured there. 'Memphis was really fun and like a really crazy place but we picked Ardent [Studios, to record in] because, well, Big Star', says R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. 'They're from the south, they're not doing some cliched southern thing, they were taking influences from all over.' Meanwhile, one current Memphis rock band Ex-Cult's Chris Shaw explains that it's never been hard to 'make something happen' musically in the city as the scene is so tight knit. It's clear that anything that comes out of Memphis, the locals are highly proud of too. 'I think that was a common denominator, no matter what types of music you listened to everybody could agree on Project Pat and Three 6 Mafia', he insists of the hip hop group, who have truly played a huge part in transforming the city's music scene.
'People would say, 'Down south, they're stuck in their ways' - that's how they were with their music; they were just stuck on it and they couldn't get off of it. [But] that was good because that helped us get off', says Project Pat. He explains that while rap originally remained in New York, Memphis and surrounding areas soon found their voice. 'When Three 6 Mafia came out, nobody had ever heard that sound before. Now the people that make beats for a lot of the hits, songs that you've heard, they're from here like Drumma Boy - he makes platinum hits.' Since then, Three 6 Mafia have helped spawn a whole new generation of hip hip including Juicy J, DJ Squeeky, Al Kapone and Eightball & M.J.G.
Three 6 Mafia are Memphis' greatest hip hop success
Speaking of hip hop, there'll be plenty of that going on at 2014's Budweiser Made in America festival. It's no surprise given the talents of its curator Jay Z, but the weekend's main headline is Kanye West, who is arguably one of America's biggest rap heroes. Alongside him at the Philadelphia/Los Angeles event will be Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Azalea, Chance The Rapper and J. Cole as well as the likes of Kings of Leon and Imagine Dragons.