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, February 28, 2014

Backbeat Dive Bar Crawl: Our Favorite Memphis Dives

As part of its Memphis Loves Memphis series, Backbeat Tours will be hosting its first ever Dive Bar Crawl on Friday, March 14, from 8-11pm. The crawl is a three-hour tramp on our vintage-look bus to four of our favorite dive bars, led by singer-songwriter Kathryn Brawley. The specific bars we’re visiting is a closely-guarded secret until tour night (that’s half the fun!), but here’s Kathryn’s take on her favorite Memphis dives. Think we’ll be taking our choices from the list? Yep, that would be a good guess. The price for the Dive Bar Crawl is $10 per person. For reservations visit http://www.zerve.com/Backbeat/BarCrawl or call (901) 527-9415.

Why dive bars? Why not? I’d much prefer a grungy, low-lit room where I can hang out with my friends to getting pricey cocktails and having to put on heels to go to a swanky bar and feel uncomfortable for three hours. And there are so many great dive bars in Memphis. I’ve been told to limit this list to my Top 10, and that wasn’t easy, so if I’ve left off your favorite, tell us about it. 

1. Earnestine & Hazels. After having a few drinks, there’s nothing better than chowing down on a $6 world famous Soul Burger. (Tip: ask Steve or Keenan to put extra onions and pickles on yours). It’s a beer bar, but you’re more than welcome to bring liquor into the building. It’s an ideal place for a group hang – you can go upstairs, which used to be a brothel, and grab a table. Be sure to hit up one of the best jukeboxes in the city while you’re there. Our ghost tour guides tell me the jukebox is haunted. My favorite night to go to E&H is Sunday, for their Sunday night Jazz Jam.

2. Buccaneer Lounge. This is what I think of as a “neighborhood bar.” I’m a woman in my 20’s, but I go in, have a drink, and make small talk there all the time. This is my whiskey and coke bar. They have food, but I don’t usually eat there. By the time I get hungry at the Bucc, someone usually suggests walking to Krystal, then walking back. They also have a nice music setting at The Buccaneer, including Devil Train on Monday nights.

3. Wild Bill’s. If you like blues, THIS is where you go. I don’t care what anyone says, Wild Bill’s is a juke joint that will show you what it’s all about. It’s kind of a late night place and cash only, so I say hop in a cab and swing by an ATM before you hit Bill’s. 

4. Alex’s Tavern. This is another late-night place, but I have to admit, I’ve spent many early nights here eating a burger and getting started. Alex’s has shuffleboard, a great jukebox, and if you’re into sports, there are multiple screens they put games on. Like Wild Bill’s, Alex’s is cash only, so be prepared before you head in. 

5. Printer’s Alley. This is a REALLY late night bar –the kind of place you go to when absolutely every other bar has closed its doors. And for that reason alone, it’s awesome. I love the seating at Printer’s Alley, and they have pool rooms so you can have a game. When you walk in, there’s an overwhelmingly delicious smell of burgers on a George Foreman grill. It’s hard to explain why, but it’s pretty comforting at 5am. 

6. Lamplighter Lounge. My favorite 2-to-4-person bar. You can get a cold PBR, Shirley Burger, and shoot some pool with your friends or partner. It’s a nice bar for winding down. But no cursing! It’s a rule.

7. Poplar Lounge. One of my favorite music venues in Memphis. When the Poplar Hi-Tone closed, a lot of bands migrated to Poplar Lounge to play and I was pretty excited about that. It’s a cool little place with some of the nicest staff around. It’s definitely a family at “The World Famous Poplar Lounge”. It’s a beer bar, but you can take liquor (there’s a liquor store right across the street, in fact) inside and there are some mixers. Some old-timers around town associate some pretty heavy fightin’ with Pop Lounge, but it’s a tame place these days. 

8. Bobcat Bar & Grill. This place makes me chuckle every time I think about it. I stumbled upon Bobcat on accident one night. My boyfriend and I were grabbing Schlotzky’s for dinner and, as we were getting in the car, the sign for Bobcat Bar & Grill caught my eye. I mentioned that it was weird that there was a bar right there –it’s a very, very awkward place to have a bar. He suggested we go in for a drink and I was pretty excited about it. We go in, grab a beer, sit down, and take in the scene. At the time, it was around Christmas and there were some Christmas decorations up that made my heart pitter-patter. In the back, there was a group of stained-white collar men playing pool. One of the men walked up to us and said, “Y’all like Lobster Bisque?” I responded, “Yeah, of course”, and he told me, “Well you won’t find that here, but you can get a d____ good slice of pizza”. I decided I liked this place. 

9. The Cove. Great bartenders and food over at The Cove. I feel like the bar is easy to navigate and great for groups as there is plenty of seating and even a deck out back! They have a $2 Sunday beer bust, trivia night and a hand full of shows at The Cove, which are well-worth looking into. 

10. P&H. For me, there are days I really love going to P&H and days when it’s too crowded to enjoy. There’s a reason so many people are there though! P&H is a classic Memphis staple, the feature of director Craig Brewer’s Poor & Hungry, and everyone loves going. It’s a beer bar, but you can bring liquor. The food is EXCELLENT –some of the best bar food in town (I get the fried pickles every time), and the kitchen is open until midnight. They have Karaoke on Friday Nights, but it can get pretty crowded, so I suggest hitting up their Tuesday night trivia instead, which is some of the best in town.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Southern Hospitality for the Spirit World

The Backbeat ghost tour guides (including myself) are what you would call amateur ghost hunters. I know what an EVP reader does, I can differentiate between an orb and ectoplasm and I’m an avid researcher of ghosts and hauntings. However, actual one-on-one communication with dead people is definitely outside my realm of expertise. So what do you do when you want to make contact with the other side? You meet with a medium, of course!

I know what you’re thinking. Crystal balls, eastern European accents and Miss Cleo are all flashing through your head. 

And I will be the first to say that, when folks claim psychic powers, I am extremely skeptical. But Kristeanna’s gentle manner and astonishing insights could make a believer out of a doubter. 

Along with her friend Jessica and daughter Savannah, Kristeanna is part of Ghost Girls. These three women know their ghost hunting. Kristeanna has a natural ability to communicate with spirits; Savannah handles the audio and visual documentation, while Jessica is the debunker who looks for physical explanations. With shows like Ghosthunters and Paranormal Activity being all about the shock factor, it was refreshing to hear that the Ghost Girls were different. The Ghost Girls offer “Southern Hospitality for the Spirit World.” Their goal is to make peace with the ghosts, not scare the bejeezus out of the folks who experience them.

Paranormal resonance that the Ghost Gals caught during our Ghost Tour.
Kristeanna has felt the presence of spirits all her life but when she turned 21 she began meditating, which helped her see and feel spirits more clearly. She has over 10 years of experience as a medium and reader. What’s the difference between a medium and a reader? As a medium, she contacts the spirits of the departed; as a reader, she interprets cards. But here’s the secret; she’s actually using her spiritual connections for both. The cards just serve as a cushion between her and her clients, adding a comfort level. (Which it does! It would be a little overwhelming for someone to have such an in-depth view of your life all within the first hour after you’ve met her!)

Her tarot cards are uniquely hers; a vintage Brazilian deck that were given to her as a gift. She explained to me that psychics interpret tarot cards differently, so your reader’s cards should always be exclusively their own.

On to my personal reading. I sat opposite from Kristeanna with a desk full of tarot cards between us. She asked me to hold the cards and cut them so they could absorb my energy. When I handed them back to her, she fanned them across the desk, asking me to pick a few at a time.

The reading was quite in depth, and very different from the typical Celtic Cross spread that teenagers experiment with. Over about a half hour, she went through five different series of card pulls, with each set of pulls covering a different topic including friends, family, relationships, and career. From that point on, she told me things about myself that I had felt subconsciously, but never said out loud. Some things I was ready to hear, others were harder to swallow and needed a little bit of processing. However, almost everything she gleaned from the cards I picked was spot-on. She told me that I needed to travel more and work in different cities. I’ve always had a little bit of wanderlust, so I learned that the itch to travel would only continue to grow until I couldn’t ignore it. My mom says it's because I have a gypsy soul! How crazy that someone I had never met before could pick up on that! 

If you’ve always wanted to get a reading, reach out to a deceased loved one, or have your home inspected for ghosts, give Kristeanna a call. To contact Kristeanna for readings and Intuitive Life Counseling, visit her website http://www.readingswithkristeanna.com/. If you are looking to have Ghost Girls investigate a haunting, call them at 901-730-2566 or email them at ghostgirlsmemphis@gmail.com.

Will Backbeat Tours do more with Kristeanna? We hope so. Stay tuned and we may have a special appearance by her on a Memphis Ghost Tour soon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Dog's Life: Take Me Out to Dog Day!

 (Translated from the original Canine by Bill Patton.)

It’s tough being a dog.  Seriously.  I know you don’t think so, and that’s cool.  I understand.  All part of the deal.  You think I sleep 16 hours a day, wake up only to eat and do my business.  Personally, I call it “Guarding the House.”  
But like I said, it’s cool.  You make up for it in other ways.  Belly rubs…tug of war…the occasional s--

Whoa – what’s that? –

Where was I – okay, yeah, we do a lot of fun things together.  But, ya know, we don’t actually go many places in the winter.  It’s too cold.  I know, I know, when its warmer we’ll do all these great things.  We’ll go to Overton Bark.  Or the Greenline. Or maybe even Shelby Forest if I’m good.  But in the meantime?  Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping on the sofa.  Love it.  Love. It.  
But it’d be great to get out there more, ya know?  See the city, see some of my own kind, catch up on everyone’s news, smell a few butts (I know you laugh at that, but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. You can learn a lot.)   Yeah, alright, we do the occasional trip to Hollywood Feed or Petco, but I need …

Wait – thought I heard something outside – a cat?  A CAT? –
Where was I – okay.  So, yeah, when I heard about this Dog Day thing, I knew right away, it’s perfect.  What’s Dog Day?  A special tour, a ride around town, all around town, with other dogs, and yeah, people, too, but other dogs!  We get to visit a park, too!  (Don’t ask how I heard about all this.  I have my ways.)  You know I love riding in the car…this is riding in a bus!  How cool is that? Doesn’t that sound great?  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Something you’d definitely want to do?  Doesn’t it? 
Monica and Missy took the Backbeat bus for a test run. Its officially dog approved.
Let’s play a game.  Look deep into my eyes.  My big brown eyes.  That’s right, go ahead, just look into my eyes.  Deep.  Keep looking now.  (Aw, you’re so cute when you cock your head to the side like that!) 
You want to take me to the Dog Day Tour, dontcha?  Dontcha?  I’m gonna wag my tail a little more, and you’re gonna want to do it.  Dog Day, now, c’mon!  It’ll be fun.  Oh, yeah.  Now you’re coming around.  Let’s look for the leash!  Wait, wait!   No changing your mind now.  We’re doing this.  Time to pull out the big guns – the full body wag followed by the jump up.  That always does the trick. 

We’re doing the Dog Day Tour, right?  Yeah?  You’re the best!

The Dog Day Tour is on February 16 at 2:30pm.  $9 per dog; up to 4 friends ride free.  90 minute music tour, includes visit to Overton Bark. Treats for dogs and friends. For reservations and more info, call (901) 527-9415 or click here.  (You just need to make reservations for the dog).  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Project Adrenaline: Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge

January had been especially cruel, so when I was chosen to represent Backbeat at this year’s Polar Bear Plunge, what I was going to do didn’t really register. The Polar Bear Plunge is a charity event held by the Tennessee Special Olympics and involves a variety of activities on Mud Island that lead up to the grand event: a ceremonial dive into the mouth of the Wolf River where it empties into the Mississippi. It is also the first event of Project Adrenaline, where Backbeat highlights different adventurous outdoors events around Memphis throughout the year.

Fortunately, it was sixty degrees and sunny, and one of the warmest days of the year so far. But a wind was carried the chill of the cold river over Mud Island. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was a large pavilion tent with a costume contest and lots and lots of people. The music was loud and the event had an upbeat tone that made me uneasy. All I wanted to do was run into the water and run out and get it over with. I began to think this is why I didn’t join a fraternity in college. There were also a lot of young, fit, and attractive people there in their bathing suits, and I realized that soon, I would be standing next to them with no place to hide the belly I picked up over the holidays.

There were teams in front of me wearing costumes, some of them pretty clever: cavemen, trailer-trash ladies, a man in full motocross leathers and helmet, a soccer team, a girl in a unicorn mask. My blue trunks, white V-neck, water-shoes, and Elvis glasses were pretty bland compared to what others around me were wearing.
An emcee announced the main event, the Plunge itself, and the crowd, including the “Plungers,” began to gather on the long, high-angled ramp that boat-trailers use to slide their vessels into the Wolf River harbor. Spectators lined two cordons of rope held by Special Olympics athletes. Photographers gathered on a small pier that jutted out into the river, and a diver and a lifeguard stood by. Between the ropes a broad path across the cobblestones led strait into the water, and I knew then that there was no turning back.

The emcee began to call out the teams and their organizations. People began to throw themselves into the water to the delight and applause of the crowd. Those of us in the back watched as soaking participants made their way back up the ramp, some laughing, some screaming about how cold the water was. I was in the back of the line, next in line to a man whose name I never caught. When I asked who he was with he simply said “Myself.” He told me he does this every year. Two girls standing behind me were juniors at Lausanne Collegiate School. They laughed about how a third girl was supposed to be with them, but had made a wrong turn and ended up crossing the bridge into Arkansas. Apparently there were people that did this every year, and not just for the thrill.

So, standing there in line it began to dawn on me that I wasn’t the only one who was worried about the water temperature or felt out of place next to all of the people. What I heard and saw was the crowd cheering everyone on, people laughing with strangers, and through this bizarre event Special Olympics athletes would pass through the crowd, taking pictures with pretty sorority girls and laughing at the idiots like me who were about to make fools of themselves.

Things came into perspective. What had at first seemed like a Greek-life showcase that I wouldn’t want to be a part of, transformed into a party for these athletes and their families. I knew what this was like. My childhood best friend has a younger brother who suffered brain damage from misdiagnosed meningitis, and my best friend in high school had been born with spina bifida. I’ve seen first hand how difficult living with mental and physical handicaps can be and the strain it can place on a family. But what I saw here was a community of people coming together to lift these athletes up and to celebrate the lives that these people are living despite the adversity they face. After a while I began to laugh, too. I began to enjoy myself. 

Then it was my turn. The emcee asked me who I was and for whatever reason I said “Elvis’ love-child.” I waved to the crowd, took a running start and threw myself into the river.

It was cold. It was a coldness I can’t explain, a shock my brain held off just long enough to send the order for me to get out immediately. It wasn’t until I was kicking knee-high through the water and back up the ramp that the full coldness hit me.

“You lost your glasses,” the lifeguard told me as I passed her, which I didn’t give a damn about. 

“A tribute to the river gods,” I told her and ran for my towel.

By Michael Flannigan.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Backbeat Goes Behind the Scenes at Wicked

Even as a born and raised Memphian, there will always be something magical about going to see a play at the Orpheum Theatre. From the very first time when my Mom took me to see Cats and the cast came down the aisles all dressed up, to the green sconce lights that filled up the theatre with an eerie green glow at last night’s performance of Wicked, the Orpheum Theatre is one of most magnificent places in our city. Last night the feeling at Wicked was more of an experience than a show. We have all seen The Wizard of Oz but Wicked feels more intimate, like you have finally been invited behind the scenes to hear the whole story of what went down in OZ.

On Tuesday they were laying down the Wicked stage on top of the Orpheum Stage

Speaking of being invited behind the scenes, I had the honor of dropping by The Orpheum on Tuesday to see the stage for Wicked being set up and chat with Ryan Lympus, the Associate Company Manager. He explained to me that it took 30 people over 30 hours to set up the show. It takes 13 semi trucks to transport Wicked from one city to another and there is one trailer just for costumes! (When you see the show and how the people dress in the Emerald City this will make total sense!) All the costumes and stage props are manufactured and housed by specialty stores in New York City before they make their rounds with the touring shows. The show sets up 285 lights, 50 speakers, and a stage with built in electronics, fog, and sliding tracks. Another intricate setup includes the mechanisms that allow Glinda and Elphaba to fly 30 feet in the air. They even have to bring help from the local stagehand union to assemble it all in time. 9 other locals are performing in the orchestra along with 6 company musicians. On Tuesday they were still putting everything together in composed chaos, but by the time the curtain opened on Wednesday it was a well-oiled machine, with the backstage choreographed as meticulously as the show itself.

The orchestra rehearses in the lobby while the stage is being set up.

Ryan described the set as a combination of steampunk and The Wizard of Oz
In case you’re thinking you have already seen Wicked so you’ll just skip it this time, DON’T! This is a whole new cast, giving the story a unique feel. The actresses playing Elphaba (Jennifer DiNoia) and Glinda (Hayley Podschun) have become such good friends in real life that it adds to the drama on stage. These women also belt out the most killer, rock star voices and have toured the world performing. Currently there are 9 touring companies: 2 national tours, the company on Broadway, and 6 international tours. This blockbuster show celebrated its 10th anniversary in October.

The stage completed and ready for the curtain to go up!
So whether you’re going to the Orpheum for the first time or for the fifteenth time, don’t skip Wicked. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, don’t fret! They still have great tickets available. Plus, if you like to live dangerously they are offering a ticket lottery! Two and a half hours before every show people will have the opportunity to show up at the Orpheum Theatre box office and will have their names placed in a lottery drum. Thirty minutes later, names will be drawn for a limited number of orchestra seats for $25 each. If you get drawn make sure to have cash for the two tickets made available to you.

Entertainment Weekly called it “The Best Musical of the Decade” and the show celebrated its 10th anniversary in October. Winner of over 50 major awards, Wicked will be at The Orpheum through February 16. For tickets go to the theatre’s website, www.orpheum-memphis.com or call the box office at (901)525-300. If you want more information on the ticket lottery click here http://www.orpheum-memphis.com/orpheum_theatre_info/news/detail/wicked-announces-lottery-for-25-seats