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Memphis Music Tour

Memphis is where the Mississippi River meets the Deep South. The city has a rich musical history, full of blues, rockabilly, gospel, and rock and roll. And the landmarks of this history are yours to enjoy. If you like, you can get in the proper mood with a song.

WDIA went on the air in Memphis in 1947. By 1949, it became the first US radio station to be programmed by and for African-Americans. Former deejays include Rufus Thomas and B.B. King, and Carla Thomas and Isaac Hayes performed live on the air. You can see it on Union Avenue.

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Beale Street is the home of The Blues in Memphis. Between the statue of W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues on one end and the statue of Elvis on the other end, Beale Street is crammed with music clubs such as B.B. King's original Blues Club, and street musicians busking for tourist dollars.

More Memphis music landmarks, after the jump.

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Stax Records and the subsidiary Volt Records produced the sound that became known as Memphis Soul for nationwide consumption. Rufus and Carla Thomas were their earliest stars, followed by Booker T. and the M.G.s (which stands for Memphis Group), Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and The Staple Singers. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is located in the Soulsville neighborhood where Stax Records once stood, along with Willie Mitchell's Royal Studios and Aretha Franklin's birthplace. The museum also runs the Stax Music Academy and charter school.

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You'll be welcomed for Sunday services at the Full Gospel Tabernacle. Join in the joyous gospel music with rev. Al Green. Yes, that Al Green. The church is at 787 Hale Road; services are at 11:30AM and 4PM.

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Sun Studio is often referred to as the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Founded in 1950, Sun recorded blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, but switched gears after Ike Turner's song "Rocket 88" introduced the sound of rock and roll. 18-year-old Elvis Presley made his first recording there in 1953. Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash all recorded with Sun in the 50s.

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After Elvis made a name for himself, he bought a mansion in 1957 and named it Graceland. He lived there with his parents and later his wife Pricilla, and died there in 1977. Elvis and his parents are buried at Graceland. Now, 600,000 fans visit the mansion every year! If you don't want to deal with the crowds, you can take a virtual tour online.

But Memphis is much more than music. Wednesday, we'll take a look at the many other world-famous Memphis landmarks.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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