Meet Memphis Legends on Backbeat's Mem 200 Living History Tour

Meet Memphis Legends on Backbeat's Mem 200 Living History Tour

Ed. Note: While reading Veena's piece below on this Sunday's Mem 200 living history tours, I got so excited! Backbeats Mem 200 Tour is a bus tour for one day only - this Sunday, May 26 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. - and visits important landmarks around town to meet famous Memphians from the past, played by local actors. The tours are just $25 per person, but spots are running out fast. Reserve your spot here or call 901.527.9415. Keep reading for more information. 

Have you ever wanted to meet Ida B. Wells or Gladys Presley? How about Robert Church, Sr., or Bernard Lansky?

Well, here’s your chance!

Holly Whitfield

Backbeat Tours will host a living history tour to ring in Memphis’ Bicentennial, and you're invited. On Sunday, May 26, hop on board Backbeat’s bus and travel through 200 years of our city, meet our most famous residents, and learn about the forces that shaped Memphis into what it is today.

Larry Baptist as Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy. Photo provided by Backbeat Tours.

As the bus makes stop throughout the city, you'll meet well-known Memphians like E.H. Crump and W.C. Handy, as well as a few you might not know as well, such as Daisy Neely, the woman behind the creation of Victorian Village. There will even be a special appearance by General Cadwallader Washburn, the Union Army General who was chased out of Memphis by Nathan Bedford Forrest. And as you travel around the city musician Eric Hughes will regale you with tidbits of Memphis history and music, both staples of Backbeat tours.

The tour is the brainchild of Meagan May, Manager and Group Sales Coordinator at Backbeat Tours. In January she approached her boss with the idea of doing a special tour to commemorate the Bicentennial, and he gave her the go-ahead to run with it. As Meagan says, “If you’re not from Memphis we want you to walk away loving this city as much as we do. If you are from Memphis, we want you to know and understand what that means for you as a Memphian; understand where it all comes from, and where we’ve come in 200 years.”

Start the tour on Beale Street. Photo provided by Backbeat Tours.

As you’ll notice in the lineup of characters, there is one famous name - one that is synonymous with Memphis - that is missing from the list. According to Meagan, the Backbeat team debated long and hard about whether or not to include Elvis, and they ultimately decided to instead include his mother, Gladys. “Who knew Elvis better than his mother?”, says Meagan. Going with Gladys rather than Elvis brings in an unexpected point of view on the famous Memphian. 

The bus stops at Memphis landmarks to meet up with historic Memphians. Photo provided by Backbeat Tours.

If you're a fan of Elmwood Cemetery’s popular living history tours, this will be right up your alley. Meagan consulted with the team at Elmwood to include a lot of similar elements, and 35 percent of the proceeds from the tour will go to Elmwood to help with the preservation of the cemetery.

Now that you are pumped about this tour, here is how you participate:

Sunday, May 26

Two tours: 1 p.m. or 3 p.m., two hours each

Tours depart from the Backbeat ticket counter at Alfred’s on Beale St.

$25 per person / 40 spots per tour

Call 901.527.9415 or visit to reserve your spot today!

If all goes well Backbeat is tentatively planning another tour in November to celebrate Shelby County’s Bicentennial, so be on the lookout for that as we head into fall. 

Getting on the bus! Photo provided by Backbeat Tours.

About The Author
Veena grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River, and after many years of splitting her time between Memphis and India, she is back in the 901. By day she is the Bridge Builders COLLABORATE Coordinator at BRIDGES, and by night she can be found reading and writing, eating her way around Memphis, cheering on her favorite sports teams, plotting her next out-of-town adventure, and pretending to be a runner. All she wants is a lifetime supply of Dr. Pepper and to see the Grizz bring home an NBA Championship. Read about her adventures, and follow along for yourself on Instagram and Twitter.

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