About Us

Here at Backbeat Tours we tell people from all over the world about our unique city everyday. From Graceland to the Grizzlies, Beale St. to the Burbs we are passionate about Memphis. This blog is where we share quirky, behind-the-scenes tales of Memphis, past and present.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Backbeat Tours' Elvis Week 2014 Scavenger Hunt

Happy Elvis Week, everyone! For 2014, we’re hosting a special Elvis Week Scavenger Hunt, running August 9-14. There will be a new “hunt” posted every day at 8AM CT, along with a little history about the location. This is all you have to do!:

Take a photo of the “hunt” of the day, post your picture via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtags #BackbeatTours and #ElvisWeek2014 —From this, we will follow participants, repost pictures, and choose winners! There will be one winner every day, announced at 7pm, and the prize will be $10 in ELVIS BUCKS to use at Graceland and a special Backbeat Tours sticker.

This will be so much fun and we’re so looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries! You get to show off your photography skills, enter to win prizes, and experience a little “backbeat” Elvis history all at once. The King would want you to... 

Here is a list of scavenger hunt places for each day of the contest:

Sat - University Park Cleaners, 613 N. McLean, where Elvis, Bill Black, and Scotty Moore practiced when they first started.

Sun - Coletta’s, 1036 S. Parkway; Italian restaurant that Elvis frequented, and home to the BEST BBQ PIZZA IN MEMPHIS!

Mon - Scotty Moore’s home, 1248 Meda.

Tues - Sears Crosstown, where the Presley’s shopped frequently. Priscilla purchased blue drapes for Graceland, while elvis purchased much of the furniture for Circle G Ranch here.

Wednesday - First Assembly of God church (now called Alpha Church), 1084 McLemore; The Presley’s church when Elvis was a Teenager.

Thursday - Holiday Inn “Rivermont”. Now condos on the south end of Tom Lee Park, this is where Elvis was named one of the 10 Outstanding Young Men of America by the Jaycees). 

** Entries must be made according to the location corresponding date and tagged both “#BackbeatTours and #ElvisWeek2014” to win. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spirits Active on Ghost Hunt

July 19, 9pm: It is a beautiful night in Memphis, with cool, dry weather providing relief from the heat and humidity of the Memphis summer. Backbeat Tours is about to venture out on the "Ultimate Memphis Ghost Hunt,"  a special one-night-only ghost-hunting tour to four of the most haunted places in Memphis. Patrick Herrington is leading the tour for Backbeat, but it is Kristeanna, Jess, and Savannah of Ghost Girls Memphis that are the real stars. They are the professional ghosthunters that will help us uncover any lurking spirits we come across.

We here at Backbeat Tours have seen our share of ghosts. So much so that they've become almost routine for us. We've seen orbs and phantoms, felt cold spots, suffered camera and equipment malfunctions, even been touched once or twice by something that wasn't quite there. More than one guide has had a ghost follow them home. (Kristeanna has recommended that we get some lavenderite beads to prevent this from happening in the future.)  But what we experienced on July 19 would have made even the most jaded skeptic stop dead in his tracks.  

The Orpheum Theater:  Right before the tour, we got surprise permission to come inside the Orpheum Theater. Yes! Thank you, Orpheum! The Orpheum is famously haunted by a young girl named Mary, but there's been evidence of other ghosts there as well.  Being able to go inside when the place was empty was a rare treat.

Mary's balcony
The auditorium and stage, so magnificent during shows, takes on a decidedly eerie atmosphere when deserted.  From our vantage point on the stage, we stared into the empty audience looking for signs of spirit activity. One of our guests, Tyler, was using the infrared gun to catch ambient temperatures. A slow scan of the audience showed fairly consistent temperatures reading between 17.9 and 18.2 degrees Celsius. Then, Tyler pointed the gun at the mezzanine seat that is said to be Mary's favorite, seat C5. I looked over his shoulder to find that the temperature was shooting up and down rapidly. It spiked to 26.4 degrees and held for a few seconds, before returning to the ambient temperature we had seen earlier.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, Jess from the Ghost Girls was doing an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session with some of our group. The voice recorder was running while Jess and guests asked Mary questions about herself. Jess asked Mary if she missed her parents. On the recording you can hear a long sigh (which was kind of heartbreaking). Another guest asked if she likes some shows better than others. After a few seconds, we heard what sounded like a "yes," followed by a pause, and then a "no."

That's not one of our guests - at least not one of our living ones!

I went over to talk to Kristeanna, a medium as well as a ghost hunter. During our conversation, she kept looking down at her side. I looked at her kind of funny, and she told me that the spirit of a little boy kept pestering her. The boy didn't like Mary and was unhappy we were so focused on her. 

While we were talking, a dark shadow caught my eye in the upper balcony and shot straight through the whole theater. I looked up to the balcony to see no one there. When I turned back to Kristeanna, she asked, "Did you see that, too?" Kristeanna had seen the same moving shadow that I had and was still getting glimpses of it moving from place to place.

Historic door
Woodruff-Fontaine House: Folks who've read our previous blog post on the Woodruff-Fontaine House know that the house is said to be haunted by the spirits of Mollie Fontaine and Elliott Fontaine.

In the front foyer of the house is a door that is part of the home's history and was signed by construction workers who took part in building the house. When we first arrived, Kristeanna put her hand on the door, and got visible goosebumps all over her arms. We already knew that our visit to this Victorian mansion was going to be ... interesting.

It didn't take long after entering the home before we started registering paranormal activity. A couple on the tour had taken the EMF detector in the house and were standing at the back of the foyer. An EMF detector is designed to read spikes and dips in electromagnetic activity. Sometimes, these spikes and dips can be a sign of paranormal activity.

The EMF detector started going off loudly whenever it was placed next to a glass case of Virginia Fontaine's personal belongings (a fan, a clutch purse, a pair of gloves, and theater glasses). When the couple stepped away from the case, the detector quieted. This went on as a kind of funny game for about three minutes (buzzing near the case, quiet away from the case). Then, the couple moved away from the case and the EMF detector continued buzzing. Whatever was creating the EMF spikes had moved to an antique chair in the room!

A ghost was sitting right there!

Upstairs, we entered the Rose Room, where Molly Fontaine's baby and husband died. The room was the focus of the investigation done by TAPS from Ghost Hunters (the episode aired on the Sy-Fy channel in February of 2014). As we walked into the room, it became eerily quiet. We looked around the room and the attached nursery for awhile, when we noticed that an indentation on the far edge of the bed had appeared out of nowhere. The bed was blocked off, so it wasn't from our group.

The Rose Room, when we arrived
See the indentation, just past the dresses?

One of our guests, Brittany, joined Kristeanna and Savannah in an EVP session and video in the Rose Room. Brittany told the spirit that she was sorry to hear of the loss of Molly's husband and baby in that room and she hoped that Molly could find peace. At about that time, Savannah thought she saw something move the rocking chair in the corner. She panned over to find orbs flying out of the corner right at Brittany. We counted 20 or so orbs while Brittany was talking to Molly.

The Green Beetle: The basement of the Green Beetle was where Memphis' elite in the 1950s would meet for dinner and political talk. The basement is pretty spooky, but then most basements are. This one, though, appears to be haunted. One guest said that he felt someone touch his neck and several others said that they felt like someone was standing behind them.

Ghost Girls in action

Earnestine & Hazel's:  This restaurant and bar, considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Memphis, never disappoints. I had to get up my nerve to go up the stairs, because in the past, the spirits have pushed me, pulled my hair, and whispered into my ear. One time, I caught a glimpse of a phantom woman turning a corner here. On a previous ghost investigation, with Backbeat Tours' ghost guides Erica and Patrick, the Ghost Girls got a clear EVP of a woman's soft voice. Kristeanna had commented that she bet that the floors of this place could tell a lot of stories. After a moment or two, the spirit responded "yes ... in the ground."

Fortunately for me, Earnestine & Hazel's was somewhat quiet this July night. Tyler did pick up a bit of a stalker while going from room to room. Kristeanna caught several pictures of him in different rooms with the same orb/figure behind him. Could it be the Green-Eyed Girl who is reputed to follow men home from the bar? I hope Tyler has some lavenderite!

Exploring upstairs at E&H, check out the orb
on the empty blue wall, near the baseboard

If you missed the Ghost Hunt, no worries. We've got new ghost hunting equipment that you can enjoy on our nightly Haunted Memphis Walking Tours. And stay tuned - we may offer another Ghost Hunt again in the future. For video of the tour, visit the Backbeat Tours' You Tube channel and the Ghost Girls Memphis You Tube channel.  If you would like to arrange a private Ghost Hunt for your group of 10 to 35, call our group planners at (901) 527-9415. 

If you are concerned about paranormal activity in your own home or office, give Ghost Girls Memphis a call. They really are the best! You can call them at 901-730-2566 or email them at ghostgirlsmemphis@gmail.com.

By Meagan May, Ghost Hunter and Tour Guide Extraordinnaire

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"That's All Right" Anniversary Tour: July 5

This Saturday, July 5, Backbeat Tours is hosting a special tour celebrating the 60th anniversary of Elvis' first recording That's All Right. This one-time-only tour will offer all the goodies of the Hound Dog tour - your favorite Elvis sites, live Elvis music performed by a professional musician, and great behind-the scenes stories - and will be stopping at Sun Studio for a commemorative ceremony and cake-cutting, featuring some surprise guests. You'll also visit the new Dewey Phillips' exhibit featuring his historic broadcast booth from radio station WHBQ. As all good Elvis fans know, Dewey was the DJ who first played an Elvis record on the air and was quite the character himself! But we'll leave those stories for the tour .... 

Dewey and Elvis at Pop Tunes

19-year old Elvis
Tickets for the 3-hour Elvis Presley's Memphis/60 Years of Rock 'n' Roll Tour are $36 for adults, $34 for seniors, $24 for children (7-12) and free for children under 7. To reserve tickets, call (877) 230-0331 or go to http://www.zerve.com/Backbeat/HoundDog

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Elvis Week is Coming!

We can't wait for Elvis Week! The glitz, the glamour, the vigil, the tribute artists! As always, we're offering our special all-Elvis Hound Dog Tours, but this year they're bigger and better than ever!  To celebrate, we'll be giving away free tickets to the Hound Dog and Mojo tours during our Elvis Trivia contest the weekend of June 27-29. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to play along.

If you've never been on the Hound Dog tour before, you don't want to miss this unique show on wheels! Led by professional, local musicians who are Elvis devotees, it's a high-energy concert and sightseeing tour rolled into one. You'll hear your favorite Elvis hits performed live on the bus while seeing where he grew up, where he went to school, where he worked, and where he dreamed.

Elvis at Lauderdale Cts.
19-yr. old Elvis before an early concert.
The 2 to 3-hour tour includes an optional visit inside the Presley family apartment at Lauderdale Courts, where a 13-year old Elvis lived shortly after his family moved from Tupelo to Memphis. Restored to its 1950s appearance, a visit to the Presley apartment is like taking a step back in time, offering a glimpse into the lives of Elvis, the teenager, and his family.

(a) Elvis at Sun w/Sam Phillips and Marion Keisker; (b) with prom date, Regis Wilson, (c) on Main Street

Other sites on the tour are:
  • Sun Studio
  • Elvis' home on Audubon Drive, where the family moved shortly after Elvis made it big
  • Elvis' high school
  • Lansky Bros. clothing store
  • The former Memphian Theater
  • The Overton Park Shell, where Elvis gave one of his first concerts
  • The Hotel Chisca, home of WHBQ radio station
  • Supercycles, where Elvis purchased his motorcycles
  • And much, much more!

Elvis at 1034 Audubon Drive, poolside and out front signing autographs

(a) Elvis on motorcycle; (b) with Bernard Lansky; (c) at Memphian Theater with date

The Hound Dog Tour has become an Elvis Week tradition with many passengers returning year after year. Come celebrate the man behind the legend. Whether you're a longtime fan or a new admirer, we guarantee fun for all!

Here's a video preview, courtesy of the Elvis Presley You Tube Channel.

Hound Dog Tours are scheduled for August 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 17. For times, information, and prices, click here or call (901) 527-9415. For more information about other Elvis Week events, go to http://www.graceland.com/elvisweek/.

Again, don't forget to play along via 
Facebook and Twitter in our Elvis Week Trivia contest for fun prizes! And if you're as big a fan as we are, @BackbeatTours to share some Elvis trivia of your own!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Up, Up, and Away

Our New Year's resolution this year was to look for unusual and thrilling things to do in Memphis, things we've never done before and might never do again - a bucket list of sorts that we call Project Adrenaline. You may have read our post about the Polar Bear Plunge, the first of our Project Adrenaline activities. This month, Backbeat manager Meagan May offered us the chance to ride in an AirCam, a homemade airplane (yes, I said "homemade") that her father-in-law Tim built and pilots himself. (Tim is a biomedical engineer. I don't think that has much to do with building planes, but at least the word "engineer" is in the title.)

We thought it a wonderful way to honor our recent college graduates here in Memphis, who are now flying themselves, experiencing the "thrill" of having the whole world laid out before them.

Meagan and Tim met myself and Backbeat music guide Nancy Apple at Colonial Air Park outside Collierville to enjoy 20-minute flights in the lightweight, open cockpit AirCam. As I strap myself into the tiny plane, I see a crude instrument panel and joystick in front of me, and some pedals on the floor.  Pilot Tim tells me not to touch anything or we'll crash. "Well, except for that red handle behind you," he says. "If we start going down, just pull on that. It's a parachute." (No, not for me, for the whole plane.)

The AirCam isn't for everyone. The kit itself costs $50,000 and takes an average of 1,100 hours to build, and you need a pilot's license to fly it.  It was first designed for the National Geographic Society for aerial photography in remote areas of Africa. Powered by two engines mounted on the wings, the AirCam flies low and slow, and provides a wide, unobstructed view of the ground below, making it perfect for wildlife photography. Or, as it turns out, for buzzing over waterskiers on a beautiful Mississippi afternoon.

"Check it out," says Tim, as he banks the plane over a small lake south of Collierville. The ground and water yaw up at us and we see a family in a boat below - mom, dad, and four kids - waving excitedly at us. We're flying low, just a few hundred feet from the ground, and we can clearly see their smiling faces. I wave back at them as we soar over the lake. This is what flying in its earliest days must have been like, strumming along on the wind like a dragonfly, over houses and fields with grazing horses, with that perfect freedom that you can only get high above the earth.

We're wearing helmets with a headset inside, and up front Tim is chatting away on the intercom. "You like rollercasters?" he asks. Before I answer, whoa! we're plummeting down in a sudden maneuver that leaves my stomach up near my throat. We pull up and level out, both of us laughing, exhilarated.

Before long, our time is up and we circle around back to the landing strip. I reluctantly unfold myself out of the cockpit - it's a tight squeeze for anyone over four feet tall - and Nancy wriggles in for the next flight. As I watch Tim take off again and the orange and white plane disappears from view, I think to myself the trick is finding a way to never come down.

By Bill Patton, President of Backbeat Tours and adrenaline junkie.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Downtown Kidventure: Family Fun in Memphis

Downtown Memphis - home to music, nightlife, great sports action .... and kid mecca? If you grew up in the '70s or '80s, that might seem far-fetched, but look at the city now and you'll see a wondrous place full of adventure, fun, and frolic. From the Orpheum Theater to the Peabody Ducks, from the Fire Museum to the Mississippi River Steamboats, from the Main Street Trolley to the old-time Peanut Shoppe, there are no end of delights to please every child. We're proud of our city's resurgence, so - as part of our Memphis Loves Memphis tour series - we want to invite you and your family to join us on a unique child-oriented tour: the Downtown Kid-Venture.

The tour is on Saturday, May 10, the day before Mother's Day. What a great way to celebrate the holiday! (As an added bonus, it will tire out the kids, so mom can get some rest on Sunday.) The tour includes:
Peabody Duck Palace and Main Street Trolley

But what do kids think? We wanted to get some advance opinions, so we asked some of our littler friends what they thought.  Here's what they had to say.

Practical Elizabeth

Peabody Ducks. Elizabeth, 11, was excited to learn that there were ducks in a hotel, but was concerned that they might "poop" everywhere. We asked Elizabeth if she would like to live in a palace like the ducks, but she declined. "I don't even clean my room. I couldn't clean a whole palace."

When asked what a Peabody duck might do in its spare time, Allie Grace, 9, offered, "probably just duck stuff. Eat, watch TV, swim, fly ... do they fly south for the winter like other ducks?"

The kids were creative when it came to catching runaway ducks, but we liked the solution offered by Courtney, 6, the most: "Put on wings and a beak and duck feet and pretend to be its mom. Then I could lead it back to their house."

The Peanut Shoppe. The Peanut Shoppe with its selection of candy and nuts was quite popular with the kids. When Sammy, 3, heard about a store that sold only candy and peanuts, his eyes got VERY WIDE.  Charlie, 3, said he likes both candy and peanuts, because they're "yummy." When asked about favorite candies, Anna, 5, summed up the general consensus, saying, "I like chocolate. And sour stuff. And gummy bears. And Starburst. I guess I just like it all."

The thoughtful Cody
Mr. Peanut vs. Rivals. We asked our group to compare Mr. Peanut to some our other furry (and feathered) friends. There was general agreement that the "good ducks" could beat Mr. Peanut in a fight, but, after some consideration, Cody, 14, noted that, even though peanuts are not very big, Mr. Peanut does have a weapon of sorts: his cane. Courtney, 6, thought Backbeat's mascot, Rufus the Hound Dog, would probably be more fun than Mr. Peanut, because he "could play fetch and stuff with you," while "Mr. Peanut has glasses. I don't think he could play very much." Sorry, Mr Peanut - we love you anyway!

Rufus.  Speaking of Rufus, Charlie, 3, had quite the friendship with our Hound Dog mascot.  According to Charlie, Rufus "likes to come to my house and give me candy under my sofa... He is invited to my birthday party and I like him."  (Rufus agrees and has already accepted  the invitation to Charlie's birthday party.)

Swimming in the mini-Mississippi
Mud Island.  All the kids were excited about going to Mud Island. Drew, 10, said that he went on the tram last year "and I thought we were going to fall in the ocean!" Collin, 7, explained that, at first he thought that there might be little people living in the miniature Mississippi River on Mud Island, but now he knows that there aren't. (He seemed a bit disappointed about that.)

Future Firefighter Lucas
Adventurous Sammy
Fire Museum. The Fire Museum was also a popular choice. Sammy, 3, said it would be fun to be a fireman so you could ride in the truck and play with the dog. Lucas, 7, realized it might take a little while before he could start his firefighting career. "Right now I don't have my driver's license, but when I get that and if I learn, ... I think I could [drive a fire truck]."

Little Vigor at the Fire Museum of Memphis

Join us on Saturday, May 10, for the Downtown Kid-Venture. The tour begins at 10:15am on the rooftop of the Peabody Hotel (in front of the Duck Palace) and ends at 12:30pm. Prices are $12 for adults; $7 for children (5-14), free for children under 5. Wear comfortable clothes; there's about 8 blocks of walking altogether (with plenty of rest stops as we go).  Strollers are welcome. To make reservations, call (901) 527-9415 or book online through Zerve.  

Thanks to our partners, the Fire MuseumThe Peanut Shoppe, and Mud Island River Park for giving us free or reduced prices to make this tour possible!  

By Meagan May, mother of the first Backbeat baby, Valerie!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nine-Inning Trivia: The Quirky History of Memphis Baseball

Spring is here and that means baseball is back in town again!  The Memphis Redbirds kick off their 15th season at AutoZone Park tonight with a four-game homestand against the Iowa Cubs.

Why do we love Memphis baseball? Is it because of the cool, retro feel of AutoZone Park? Or the zany antics of Rocky the Redbird? Yes, but that's only part of the story. What we really love about Memphis baseball is that its history is loaded with tales of the "it could only happen in Memphis" variety. For example, did you know that the origins of the Memphis Zoo are linked to a baseball bet? Or that Memphis is the only city in history to have a team named after a virus?

Step on up to the plate and see if you can knock it out of the park in these nine innings (nine questions) of Memphis baseball trivia. Check your answers at the end.

1.  In what year was professional baseball first played in Memphis?
a. 1877
b, 1907
c. 1937
d. 1967

2. Which member of the Grand Old Opry also played baseball for Memphis?
a. Earl Scruggs
b. Roy Acuff
c. Slim Whitman
d. Charlie Pride

3. The Memphis Zoo was founded as a result of a baseball bet over what type of animal?
a. an armadillo
b. an eagle
c. a tiger
d. a bear
Memphis Zoo 1914-15

4. Which of these Memphis players, considered the greatest pitcher of his generation, was the oldest rookie in major league history at the age of 42 years old?
a. Charlie Lea
b. Satchel Paige
c. David Cone
d. Lancy Lynn

5. What Memphis baseball stadium burned to the ground on Easter Sunday, 1960?
a. Russwood Park
b. Tim McCarver Stadium
c. Overton Park Field
d. Martin's Field

6. Which of the following was not the name of a Memphis baseball team?
a. The Blues
b. The Turtles
c. The Bowl Weevils
d. The Fever Germs
Question 7

7. Name this former Memphis right fielder (pictured), who famously played only two innings in the major leagues and never got a chance to bat (hint: he was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the movie Field of Dreams):
a. Clarence "Sunbeam" Mitchell
b. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
c. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown
d. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham

8. This Christian Brothers High School graduate played for the Memphis Chicks before becoming a two-time All-Star and World Series champion with St. Louis:
a. Joe Garagiola
b. Johnny Bench
c. Tim McCarver
d. Ted Simmons


9. Name the player with the longest home run in Memphis history:
a. Tim McCarver
b. Bo Jackson
c. Albert Pujols
d. Stubby Clapp

Answers: 1: A, 2: D, 3: D, 4: B, 5: A, 6: C, 7: D, 8: C, 9: B

By Michael Flanagan and Bill Patton