A Dynamic, City-Defining Riverfront Park Grows in Memphis
In the whirring, flashing, globe-spanning machine that is American popular culture, Memphis, Tennessee—population 620,000—operates as one of those miraculous little cogs that performs hundreds of vital functions without ever wearing out. Products bearing its signature stamp go back to the dawn of modern media, and keep popping up: W.C. Handy’s 1912 song “Memphis Blues” was a key evolutionary link between ragtime and jazz; just over 50 years later, Bob Dylan namechecked it with his seminal folk-rock anthem “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”; 15 years after that, a group of radical Italian designers in Milan, listening to the Dylan track while thinking up a name for their incipient movement, ultimately settled on “Memphis Group.” The Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain got its start in the city in 1916, and Holiday Inn opened its very first location there in 1952. Today, Memphis is home to the headquarters of FedEx, AutoZone, and International Paper. Against certain odds, the little town on a bluff over the Mississippi has entered legend as a mecca of Americana, living up to the curiously monumental name its founders gave it in 1819.