Top 10 songs recorded in Memphis by Memphians (2022)

By michaeldgaines on January 16, 2021( 0 )

Memphis, Tennessee is the undisputed home of the blues and birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll. Music permeates every aspect of the city and is truly one of the foundational cornerstones that makes it one of the most visited places on the planet. Memphis has earned an almost mythical reputation when it comes to music, as evidenced by the fact it has been mentioned in 1,074 commercially recorded songs, more than any other city in the world (1).

Artists from every genre of music find inspiration there, and some of the biggest hits ever recorded were laid down in the Bluff City. From ‘(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay’, to ‘Uptown Funk’, to ‘Walkin’ in Memphis’, the list is long of musicians who have tapped into that mysterious magic and created songs that are universally loved.

Most of Memphis’ musical legacy is overshadowed by the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley. While not a Memphis native, he moved from Tupelo, Mississippi at the age of 13, and rose to fame from recording with Sam Phillips at the legendary Sun Studio on Union Avenue.

To quote the indomitable Mojo Nixon, while “Elvis is Everywhere”, he definitely is not the only notable artist who claimed Memphis as home to gift the world with great songs. Here is a list of artists and bands from Memphis, who recorded their biggest hits in their hometown.

10 “Walkin’ Shoes” by Tora Tora

Tora Tora formed in Memphis in 1985 and released their debut album, Surprise! Attack, in 1989. The album, recorded at Ardent Studios, reached #47 (2) on The Billboard top 200 and featured the single “Dancin’ with A Gypsy” that was included on the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure soundtrack. The band would record two more albums but would eventually get lost in the mix once alternative and grunge effectively killed the hair metal scene.

While “Walkin’ Shoes” never reached the top of the charts, it did have the distinction of being the first music video by a Memphis band to be played in heavy rotation on MTV. The song features a blistering guitar riff with a bluesy intro and catchy lyrics that are fun to sing along to.

9 “Sign of the Storm” by Eric Gales

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Eric Gales hit #9 (3) on the US Mainstream Rock chart in 1991 with the first single off his debut album, The Eric Gales Band, recorded at Ardent Studios. From the opening riff of “Sign of the Storm”, one can see why Gales is often compared to Jimi Hendrix. But with the gospel inspired lyrics, and the searing guitar solo, Gales clearly carves out his own niche in blues inspired rock.

Gales was considered a guitar prodigy in Memphis, competing in blues competitions at the age of 9, and was named Best New Talent by Guitar World in 1991 at the age of 16. Three years later he played with Carlos Santana at Woodstock ’94 and has gone on to record 17 studio albums. In 2020 he was named Blues Rock Artist of the Year. (4)

8 “Walkin’ the Dog” by Rufus Thomas

Rufus Thomas is a legendary figure in the Bluff City and rightfully so. He was a vaudevillian, singer, songwriter, DJ, comedian and all-around ambassador. As the ‘World’s Oldest Teenager’, he made his mark discovering and working with legendary acts such as B.B. King, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Johnny Ace, among others.

He had novelty hits with “Do the Funky Chicken” and “Push and Pull”, but his biggest claim to fame was the single “Walkin’ the Dog”, recorded at Stax in 1963 and reaching #10 on the Billboard charts (5). The song is indicative of what would become the ‘Stax Sound’, and the tempo is analogous to the secret of Memphis bar-b-que, slow and low. While Rufus’ version features his trademark playfulness, other bands have made it their own, with the song being covered by 90 different artists (6).

7 “Hard Out Here for a Pimp” by Three6Mafia

Three6Mafia formed in Memphis in 1991 and has become one of the most influential rap groups to come out of what is now known as ‘The Dirty South’. The group has had a revolving cast of members, with the mainstays being DJ Paul and Juicy J. The band and their songs have been featured in numerous TV shows, movies and video games.

While “Hard Out Here for a Pimp” isn’t their biggest hit, that distinction belongs to “Stay Fly” which hit #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 (7), the 2005 release is notable for winning the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 78th Academy Awards. The song, recorded at Hypnotize Minds Camp, features superior production value, and something Memphis musicians are keenly aware of, the mysterious and elusive ‘hook’. When the first chorus rolls around, it’s time to get up to get down.

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6 “Look Alive” by BlocBoy JB & Drake

BlocBoy JB is a Memphis rapper who has been making music since 2012 and gained recognition for his song “Shoot”, which created the popular dance craze known as the ‘Shoot Dance’. BlocBoy’s viral success led to being noticed by Canadian rapper Drake, whose father is from Memphis.

In 2018, the pair collaborated on the song “Look Alive”, recorded by Memphis producer Tay Keith. The song reached #5 (8) on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video was filmed in Memphis. The chorus shouts out the Memphis area code (901), as well as the street Shelby Drive, which is named after the county the city resides in.

5 “Keep on Dancin’” by The Gentrys

In 1963, seven classmates at Treadwell High School formed a band to play local dances, and quickly became successful on the local scene. After winning a Battle of the Bands competition in 1964, they were awarded a recording contract with local label Youngstown Records.

The band, featuring future WWF personality Jimmy Hart and local legend Larry Raspberry, recorded “Keep on Dancin’” in 1965 and the tune climbed to #4 (9) on the Billboard Hot 100. The song sold a million copies (10) and led to dates opening for The Beach Boys and Sonny & Cher, as well as multiple TV appearances. The song features a pounding rhythm that makes you want to move and a keyboard hook that is definite earworm material.

4 “Soul Finger” by Bar-Kays

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Beginning as the session band for Stax Studios in 1966, the Bar-Kays would go on to have multiple hits and tour with the likes of Otis Redding before four members of the band died in a plane crash that also took the life of “The Dock of the Bay” singer. The band would reform with different members and have a #10 hit in 1972 with “The Son of Shaft”, and 1980’s “Boogie Body Land” which reached #7, both on the R&B charts (11).

But the band’s most successful song was the instrumental “Soul Finger” which rose to #17 (12) on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B Singles chart. The tune features a Memphis staple with bright horns and a rhythmic guitar strum as well as a relentless bass line. The song was recorded at Stax in 1967 and well represents the unpolished groovy sound of the studio. “Soul Finger” is instantly recognizable and has become a mainstay with marching bands around the country.

3 “The Letter” by The Box Tops

While “The Letter” is probably most known as a song by Joe Cocker, it was actually written and first performed by the Memphis group The Box Tops. The band would also have hits with “Cry Like a Baby” and “Soul Deep”, before vocalist Alex Chilton would leave to form the influential power-pop band Big Star.

“The Letter” was recorded in 1967 at American Sound Studios and became a #1 (13) hit for four weeks on the Billboard charts. The song has great sounding horns with a groovy bass line, but what stands out is the world-weary, lovelorn soulful voice of a 16-year old Chilton. In 2011 the single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was included in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock ‘n Roll” (14).

2 “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes

The second song on this list (but first chronologically) to receive an Oscar for Best Original Song, “Theme from Shaft” was recorded by Isaac Hayes in 1971 at Stax Studios. Hayes began his career as a session player and songwriter at Stax and had his imprints on hits such as “Soul Man”, “Hold on, I’m Coming” and “You Don’t Know, Like I Know”. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 (15) along with partner David Porter, and into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 (16).

“Theme from Shaft” was a huge success, charting at #1 (17) on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the Billboard Soul Singles and #6 on Billboard’s Easy Listening (18). From the opening hi-hat, that unmistakable wah-wah heavy guitar riff and the cool as ice lyrics, almost 50 years later this song is still a bad mother….

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1 “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MG’s

If there is one song, by one group, that completely encapsulates not only Memphis music, but Memphis as a city, it is “Green Onions”. Booker T & the MG’s began as the house band for Stax, pioneering the Stax sound and performing on numerous hits by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and many others. The band was one of the first to consist of two black members and two white members, and was one of the most influential groups of the 1960’s.

“Green Onions” was recorded in 1962 and reached #3 (19) on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B Singles charts. 17 years after its release, it climbed to #7 on the UK Singles chart and stayed there for 12 weeks (20). The song begins with a Hammond M3 organ line that Booker T. Jones originally wrote when he was 17, and then settles into an infectious funky groove that is gritty, super cool and features one of the cleanest, meanest guitar solos ever recorded.

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FAQs

Who had the biggest hit with Walking in Memphis? ›

It's one of the ultimate rock tribute songs of all time, and became Marc Cohn's biggest hit by far upon its release in 1991.

Which Grammy Award winning singer recorded the 1991 hit Walking in Memphis? ›

What has Marc Cohn been up to since he released his last recording five years ago? One thing's for certain: The singer-songwriter best known for his 1991 hit "Walking in Memphis," which also earned him a Grammy as best new artist, hasn't spent a lot of time plotting his comeback.

What music is Memphis famous for? ›

Gospel, jazz, blues, soul, and rockabilly have combined to create the distinctive Memphis music tradition, a legacy still savored by music lovers across the nation. The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and the Center for Southern Folklore celebrate that rich legacy today with exhibits and programs.

What city is mentioned in the most songs? ›

The 10 most sung about places in the world:
  • New York, USA – 161 songs.
  • London, UK - 102 songs.
  • Los Angeles, USA - 87 songs.
  • California, USA - 68 songs.
  • Hollywood, USA - 66 songs.
  • Paris, France – 52 songs.
  • Miami, USA - 46 songs.
  • New Orleans, USA - 43 songs.
12 Jan 2019

What does 10 feet off Beale mean? ›

ten feet off of Beale ("ten feet off" implies "floating above" and is idiomatic for "very happy") I was walking on Beale street feeling very excited and happy to be there. thank you very much.it took me years to know about this. Community platform by XenForo® © 2010-2022 XenForo Ltd.

What is the meaning behind Walking in Memphis? ›

Cohn has explained that this song is a journey to be baptized in the world of blues music. He said it is about "Spiritual Awakening." The lyrics, "Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale" refers to Beale Street, an actual street in Memphis.

Who made Walking in Memphis famous? ›

"Walking in Memphis" is a song composed and originally recorded by American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, for whom it remains his signature song. It received a Song of the Year nomination at the 34th Grammy Awards in 1992, the same year that the 32-year-old Cohn won the Grammy for Best New Artist.

Does Bruce Hornsby Walk in Memphis? ›

Walking in Memphis — Bruce Hornsby | Last.fm.

Who wrote the lyrics to Walking in Memphis? ›

What famous person was born in Memphis? ›

Memphis-born Lisa Marie Presley is a singer-songwriter and actress. She's best known as the daughter of Elvis Presley. George Hamilton was born in Memphis, Tennessee and is a talented film and television actor.

Is Memphis a Music City? ›

Nashville & Memphis Are “Music Cities”

Both Nashville and Memphis have “music city” reputations and claim some of the same artists like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. However, Nashville is largely associated with Country and Bluegrass music. Over Memphis-way, it's Rhythm and Blues and Jazz.

Where is the birthplace of R&B? ›

Vail Jazz: New Orleans was the birthplace of funk and R&B in addition to jazz. Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd, known as “Professor Longhair” or “Fess” for short, invented the distinctive beat found in many early R&B songs. He influenced artists like Fats Domino, Dr.

What is the #1 song of all time? ›

Blinding Lights

What is the most covered song of all time? ›

According to Guinness World Records, “Yesterday” has the most cover versions of any song ever written. The song remains popular today with more than 1,600 recorded cover versions. Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone.

What is the most played karaoke song? ›

The 30 Most Popular Karaoke Songs of All Time
  • 1. “ I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
  • 2. “ A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.
  • 3. “ Livin' on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.
  • 4. “ Y.M.C.A.” by Village People.
  • 5. “ Dancing Queen” by ABBA.
  • 6. “ I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
  • 7. “ Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette.
  • 8. “
14 Apr 2022

What food is Memphis famous for? ›

Barbecue

Is Beale Street worth visiting? ›

You really can't go to Memphis without making a visit to Beale Street. It is a street with a fascinating past and is often mentioned as one of the most iconic streets in America. So although it is known for music and partying into the wee hours of the night it is truly much more than that.

What does Beale mean? ›

handsome man

Where is the land of the Delta Blues? ›

Memphis is referred to in the song as the "land of the Delta Blues." Delta blues is a style of blues music that originated in the Mississippi Delta in the early 1900s. Memphis is generally considered the northern boundary of this geographic area.

Is Johnny Rivers in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? ›

His name has been suggested many times for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he has never been selected.

Where is the famous Beale Street? ›

The iconic Beale Street is located in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

What is Memphis time? ›

Offset to GMT/UTC
Standard time zone:UTC/GMT -6 hours (Central Standard Time)
Daylight saving time:+1 hour
Current time zone offset:UTC/GMT -5:00 hours (Central Daylight Time)
Time zone abbreviation:CDT

Who wrote and sang Walking in Memphis? ›

What artists have sang Walking in Memphis? ›

Marc Cohn

Who all has covered Walking in Memphis? ›

Covers of Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn
  • Walking in Memphis by Cher (1995) ...
  • Walking in Memphis by John Tesh (1996) ...
  • Walking in Memphis by Lonestar (2003) ...
  • Walking in Memphis by Matt Tyler (2006) ...
  • Walking in Memphis by MRM (Memphis Rave Mafia) (1992) ...
  • Walking in Memphis by Paul Anka (2007)

Who wrote walking in Staten SNL? ›

Marc Cohn and Method Man aren't names you typically see in the same sentence. But “SNL” star Pete Davidson – aka, the Steward of Staten Island – achieved the glorious marriage with “Walking in Staten,” a love letter of sorts to the New York borough set to Cohn's 1991 classic, “Walking in Memphis.”

What songs does Marc Cohn? ›

Marc Cohn

When did Cher record Walking in Memphis? ›

It was released by Cher and her team in October of 1995 as a single from her “It's a Man's World” album. The version released by Cher wasn't as successful as Cohn's.

Who is a famous woman from Memphis? ›

Kathy Bates

Born Kathleen Doyle “Kathy” Bates in June 28, 1948, she is an actress, director, and producer. With a showbiz career that spans over 40 years, Bates is known for her roles in many films and TV shows; including American Horror Story.

What celebrity has a home in Memphis? ›

9 Famous Celebrities Who Live in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Justin Timberlake. Born and raised in Memphis is the famous songwriter and singer, Justin Timberlake. ...
  • Juicy J. ...
  • Patrick Earl Houston “Project Pat” ...
  • Morgan Freeman. ...
  • Elvis Presley. ...
  • Chris Hardwick. ...
  • Memphis Slim. ...
  • Charlie Musselwhite.
10 Aug 2022

What do you call people from Memphis? ›

[ mem-fee-uhn ] SHOW IPA.

Is Nashville or Memphis bigger? ›

Memphis is one of seven municipalities within Shelby County, which remains by far the state's most populous county with more than 938,000 residents. Nashville's metro area, with a population of 1.83 million, is much larger than the nine-county Memphis area, which has an estimated 1.34 million people.

Is Memphis safer than Nashville? ›

1 most dangerous city; Nashville in top-50. MEMPHIS, Tenn.

Is Memphis or Nashville better? ›

If you're an Elvis fan, BBQ lover or into blues music, Memphis is the obvious choice. If you're into country music, Nashville is the obvious choice. If you're not crazy about any of these things, I'd lean towards Memphis. Visit Mud Island & Graceland during the day.

What was the first R&B song? ›

The Rise of R&B

One of the genre's earliest practitioners, bandleader and saxophonist Louis Jordan — who also co-composed the 1944 hit song “Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby” — used elements that would come to define R&B.

Who made R&B popular? ›

Ray Charles. As a performer and recording artist in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ray Charles pioneered a new style of music that became known as "soul," a blend of gospel music, blues, and jazz that brought him worldwide fame.

Who invented hip hop? ›

In 1973, DJ Kool Herc set up his turntables and introduced a technique at a South Bronx house party that would change music as many people knew it. His ability to switch from record to record — as well as isolate and repeat music breaks — led to the discovery of the hip hop genre.

Who made Walking in Memphis famous? ›

"Walking in Memphis" is a song composed and originally recorded by American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, for whom it remains his signature song. It received a Song of the Year nomination at the 34th Grammy Awards in 1992, the same year that the 32-year-old Cohn won the Grammy for Best New Artist.

What artists have sang Walking in Memphis? ›

Marc Cohn

Does Bruce Hornsby Walk in Memphis? ›

Walking in Memphis — Bruce Hornsby | Last.fm.

Why did Marc Cohn get shot? ›

On August 7, 2005, Cohn was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking in Denver, Colorado, while on a concert tour with Suzanne Vega. The bullet "barely missed Cohn's eye and lodged near his skull." Cohn survived and was hospitalized for observation, but was released after eight hours.

Where is the famous Beale Street? ›

The iconic Beale Street is located in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Where is the land of the Delta Blues? ›

Memphis is referred to in the song as the "land of the Delta Blues." Delta blues is a style of blues music that originated in the Mississippi Delta in the early 1900s. Memphis is generally considered the northern boundary of this geographic area.

What is Memphis time? ›

Offset to GMT/UTC
Standard time zone:UTC/GMT -6 hours (Central Standard Time)
Daylight saving time:+1 hour
Current time zone offset:UTC/GMT -5:00 hours (Central Daylight Time)
Time zone abbreviation:CDT

What year was Walking in Memphis? ›

Who wrote the lyrics to Walking in Memphis? ›

Is Johnny Rivers in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? ›

His name has been suggested many times for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he has never been selected.

Who wrote and sang Walking in Memphis? ›

Is Marc Cohn still married? ›

Cohn, 54, and Vargas, 51, have been married since 2002 and have two sons, Zachary, 11, and Samuel, 7½.

What genre is Marc Cohn? ›

What band was Marc Cohn in? ›

According to the Walking In Memphis Songfacts, Cohn was discovered by Carly Simon in the mid-'80s when he was with a 14-piece band called The Supreme Court. Atlantic Records signed him in 1989, but the first attempts to record his debut album with Tracy Chapman 's producer David Kerschenbaum failed.

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