Culture of Memphis, Tennessee

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Culture of Memphis, Tennessee Memphis, Tennessee has a long history of distinctive contributions
to the culture of the American South and beyond. Although it is an important part of the culture
of Tennessee, the history, arts, and cuisine of Memphis are more closely associated with
the culture of the Deep South (particularly the Mississippi Delta) than the rest of the
state. For example, the city's influence on 20th century music has had worldwide impact.
Memphians have had an important role in founding or establishing several important American
music genres, including Blues, Gospel, Rock n' Roll, and "sharecropper" country music.
As of the census of 2000, there were 650,100 people, 250,721 households, and 158,455 families
residing in the city. In 2003, the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was the
42nd largest in the United States, with a population of 1,239,337. Memphis in May is
an annual, month-long festival that promotes many aspects of Memphis' cultural heritage.
Each year a different nation is partnered as a theme of the festival. Once the featured
nation is announced, there is an open call for poster design, and the selected official
festival poster becomes a treasured collectible, prestigious for the collector and the artist/creator.
Memphis has long been home to persons of many different faiths. An 1870 map of Memphis shows
religious buildings of the Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational,
and Christian denominations and a Jewish congregation. Demographics As of the census of 2010, there
were 646,889 people and 246,495 households in the city. The population density was 2,053.3
people per sq mi (898.6/km²) spread over 291,883 housing units. The average household
size was 2.58 and the home ownership rate was 53.7%. 79.1% of Memphians have lived at
the same house for at least 1 year. The racial makeup of the city was 63.3% African American,
29.4% White, 1.6% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 1.45% from other races, and 1.14% from two
or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.5% of the population. Foreign born
persons comprised 6.1% of the population. Ethnically, Memphis' population consists of
a variety of immigrant groups. In addition to a sizable Hispanic (mainly Mexican-American)
population, major ethnic backgrounds include Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, and Persian.
Historically, many residents identify themselves with African, English, Irish, Italian and
German ancestry. Memphis is also home to a large Jewish community of 9,000, most of whom
are Ashkenazi Jews with Central and Eastern European ancestry. 26% of Memphis' population
is under the age of 18, 10.3% are 65 years of age or older. Children under the age of
5 are 7.6% of the city's population. Women made up 52.5% of the population. The median
income for a household is $36,473 The per capita income was $21,007 with a Median Household
Income of $36,473. 25.4% of the population is below the poverty line. The Memphis Metropolitan
Statistical Area (MSA), the 42nd largest in the United States, has a 2003 population of
1,239,337, and includes the Tennessee counties of Shelby, Tipton, and Fayette, as well as
the Mississippi counties of DeSoto, Marshall, Tate, and Tunica, and the Arkansas county
of Crittenden. Crime While in 2004, violent crime in Memphis was at a record low for more
than a decade, that trend has changed. In 2005, Memphis was ranked the 4th most dangerous
city with a population of 500,000 or higher in the U.S. Crime in Memphis increased in
2005, and has seen a dramatic rise in the first half of 2006. Nationally, cities follow
similar trends, and crime numbers tend to be cyclic. Local experts and criminologists
cite as possible causes to the rise in crime in Memphis to gang recruitment, and to a reduction
of federal funding by 66% to the Memphis Police Department. In the first half of 2006, robbery
of businesses increased 52.5%, robbery of individuals increased 28.5%, and homicide
increased 18% over the same period of 2005. The Memphis Police Department has responded
with the initiation of Operation Blue C.R.U.S.H. (Crime Reduction Using Statistical History),
which targets crime hotspots and repeat offenders. Memphis ended 2005 with 154 murders, 2006
ended with 160 murders. In 2006, the Memphis metropolitan area ranked second most dangerous
in the nation. In 2006, Memphis ranked number one in violent crimes for major cities around
the U.S according to the FBI's annual crime rankings, where it had ranked 2nd in 2005.
Lifestyle In 2007, Forbes recorded Memphis as the most sedentary city in America. Although
Memphis has a slightly lower statistic on the BMI than the national average of 66% of
Americans being overweight or worse off, Memphis holds other records that combine to make it
the most inactive city in the United States. When asked, 30% of people had not exercised
regularly. Forbes also cited Memphis having only 16.1 acres (0.066 km²) of parkland
per 1,000 residents, as well as having a higher television watched per week per person amount
at 41 hours (as opposed to the national average of 30 hours). A mention was also made of "favored
Southern cuisine". Cultural events and fairs Carnival Memphis is an annual series of parties
and festivities held in early summer to salute various aspects of Memphis and its industries.
Begun in 1931 as the Memphis Cotton Carnival, it is organized by the Carnival Memphis Association
and its member krewes, private societies similar to those of the New Orleans Mardi Gras. A
secretly selected King and Queen of Carnival reign over the festivities. Memphis in May
promotes Memphis' musical and culinary heritage. The month-long celebration is largest annual
series of public events put on in Memphis. Each year it features a different country,
highlighting aspects of the honored nation's history and culture. Each spring since its
founding in 1977, Memphis in May has had a significant economic and educational impact
to the city. The celebration includes a diverse mix of events, beginning during the first
weekend of the month at Tom Lee Park on the Mississippi River, the site of the Beale Street
Music Festival. During International Week, the city focuses on its honored country, part
of a larger program in coordination with area schools to broaden cultural awareness among
students, as well as a good deal of business linkage. Other signature events of Memphis
in May include the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (the largest pork barbecue
cooking contest in the world) and the closing event of the month — a performance of the
Memphis Symphony Orchestra on the river called the Sunset Symphony, also featuring a performance
by musicians from the honored country. Memphis in May sprang from the Cotton Carnival festivities,
which began holding big musical events at the Fairgrounds. In the early 1980s the idea
of Memphis in May got started. Germany and Japan were the first two nations to be honored.
Events were scattered around the city. A barbecue contest was held in tents in downtown parking
lots. The contest proved very popular and has grown substantially, with a dedicated
volunteer corps, corporate sponsorship, school involvement, and general citizen attendance.
Contestants travel from afar to compete in the barbecue contest and to enjoy the Beale
Street Music Fest—originally held in vacant lots on that storied street. An arts festival,
the Cooper-Young Festival, is held annually in September in the Cooper-Young district
of Midtown Memphis. The event draws artists from all over North America, and includes
art sales, contests, and displays. Since the late 1980s the Cooper-Young Festival has grown
into one of Memphis' most anticipated events, with over 50,000 guests in recent years enjoying
a mix of art, music and crafts presented by over 300 artisans from around the country.
The festival celebrates the arts, people, culture and Memphis heritage. In addition
to art, the festival includes sales of clothing, jewelry, live music, and gay novelty items.
As a result of Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005 Memphis co-hosted the Voodoo Music Experience,
normally the centerpiece of Halloween festivities in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2006 the annual
musical event returned to New Orleans, Louisiana. Music and the arts After the Yellow Fever
epidemics of the 1870s, Memphis' population was very low, and it slowly started being
replenished by country people from the Mid-South. Farmers and freed slaves alike brought their
musical roots here, and the commercial hurly-burly created a polishing of this talent and heritage,
best exemplified by bandleader and composer W. C. Handy. Memphis is the home of founders
and establishers of various American music genres, including Blues, Gospel, Rock n' Roll,
and "rockabilly" country music (in contrast to the "rhinestone" country sound of Nashville).
Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and B. B. King all got their starts in Memphis in the 1950s.
They are respectively dubbed the "King" of Country, Rock n' Roll, and Blues. Other famous
musicians who either grew up or got their starts in the Memphis area include the Box
Tops,with Alex Chilton, the Gentrys, the Grifters, Nights Like These, Carl Perkins, John Lee
Hooker, Justin Timberlake, Howlin' Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Charlie Rich,
Lucero (band), Al Green, Muddy Waters, Big Star, Tina Turner, Roy Orbison, Willie Mae
Ford Smith, Sam Cooke, Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Arthur Lee, The Blackwood Brothers,
Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers, Sam and Dave, Three 6 Mafia,
8 Ball & MJG, Yo Gotti, Elise Neal, Shawn Lane, Terry Manning, The Sylvers, Aquanet,
Steve Cropper, and Anita Ward. Memphis is also a haven for classical music, and has
produced such opera singers as Ruth Welting and Kallen Esperian. The city has its own
opera company, Opera Memphis, which performs in the Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Memphis.
The New York Metropolitan Opera first visited around 1910 and played to packed houses until
recently when they quit doing 3-day stands. The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music at the
University of Memphis plays a critical role in music and performance in the city. Ballet
flourishes here as well, with Ballet Memphis, now in its 22nd season, striving to interpret
the South's cultural legacy through dance. Ballet Memphis presentations feature both
classical and modern dance choreography. The Highland Strip is an area located near the
University of Memphis and is known as a haven for the college crowd. Venues such as Newby's
showcase local musicians as well as national touring acts on a weekly basis. But Beale
Street in Downtown is the mecca for live performance. Well known musical groups vie for work in
this popular venue, crowded by tourists and locals alike. Well-known writers from Memphis
include Civil War historian and novelist Shelby Foote, made famous by his contributions to
The Civil War series on Public Television, and playwright Tennessee Williams, who wrote
his first play on Snowden Street and saw it performed on Glenview Street. Novelist John
Grisham grew up in nearby DeSoto County, Mississippi and many of his books, such as The Firm, The
Client and The Rainmaker, are set in Memphis. Many works of fiction and literature use Memphis
as their setting, giving a diverse portrait of the city, its history, and its citizens.
These include The Reivers by William Faulkner (1962), September, September by Shelby Foote
(1977), The Old Forest and Other Stories by Peter Taylor (1985), the Pulitzer Prize-winning
A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor (1986), The Firm by John Grisham (1991), Memphis Afternoons:
a Memoir by James Conaway (1993), Cassina Gambrel Was Missing by William Watkins (1999),
The Guardian by Beecher Smith (1999), and The Architect by James Williamson (2007).
Theater flourishes at Playhouse on the Square and Theatre Memphis. The Midtown-based Voices
of the South is a non-profit, ensemble based theater company whose mission is to create,
produce, and perform theatre from diverse Southern perspectives. Memphis has also had
a significant impact in the world of photography. William Eggleston, the pioneer of color photography
as a serious artistic medium and considered one of the greatest photographers of all time,
still lives and works in Memphis. A number of younger photographers, including Jeanne
Umbreit and Huger Foote, are Memphians. Some other notable Memphis photographers were fashion/celebrity
photographer Jack Robinson and civil rights-era documenter Ernest C. Withers. In the last
two decades, the art scene in Memphis has exploded. Art galleries were first established
at Overton Square but have moved farther east. The independent art scene has had some success
on South Main, on the trolley line in downtown Memphis. Several art galleries have moved
into the neighborhood, stimulating a real estate boom that expanded into new residential
construction. One interesting conversion was the Power House, a former power plant near
Central Station that was transformed into contemporary art space by Delta Axis, a Memphis
contemporary arts organization. The Power House closed in August, 2009, citing economic
concerns. The Cooper-Young neighborhood in Midtown Memphis has also been home to several
art galleries. The Edge is an art studio neighborhood, located at the edge of downtown near Madison
Avenue, Marshall, and Union Avenue. The Edge is home to Memphis' Black Repertory Theater,
world-famous Sun Studios, and Delta Axis, among others. The old commercial strip on
Broad Avenue in the Binghampton area is home to a cluster of artists and craftsmen. Quality
commercial art galleries in the east Memphis area include the David Lusk Gallery, Perry
Nicole Gallery, L Ross Gallery and Lisa Kurts Gallery. All are on or near Poplar Ave., the
main east-west thoroughfare. The Memphis College of Art and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
are neighbors inside Overton Park, along with The Shell, a 1930's outdoor performing arts
venue recently renovated and reopened in September 2008. More informally, art intersects with
entrepreneurship in many traditionally African American neighborhoods through hand-painted
signs. Artists like James "Brick" Brigance, an Orange Mound native, paints lettering,
logos and images on the brick facades of many neighborhood buildings. Cuisine Since its
founding, Memphis has been home to persons of many different faiths. An 1870 map of Memphis
shows religious buildings of the Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian,
Congregational, and Christian denominations and a Jewish congregation. Today, places of
worship exist for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. Baron Hirsch Synagogue,
which was founded in Memphis in the late 19th century, has the largest congregation of Orthodox
Jews in the United States. Bellevue Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist megachurch in
Memphis that was founded in the early 20th century. Its current membership is approximately
27,000. For many years, it was led by Adrian Rogers, a former three term president of the
Southern Baptist Convention. The international headquarters of the Church of God in Christ,
one of the fastest growing sects of Christianity and the largest Pentecostal denomination in
the United States, is also in Memphis. The headquarters, Mason Temple (named after the
denomination's founder, Charles Harrison Mason), is where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous
I've Been to the Mountaintop speech the day before he was killed. The denominational headquarters
of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church are located in Memphis. Memphis is also home to
the main Cumberland Presbyterian seminary, the Memphis Theological Seminary. The Cumberland
Presbyterian church maintains a library and archival facility at the headquarters. The
Roman Catholic Diocese of Memphis has its seat at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
in Memphis, founded as a parish in 1921. The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee has its
cathedral, St. Mary's in Memphis. Media The Memphis regional market is the forty-fourth
largest designated market area (DMA) in the nation, with 657,670 homes (0.597% of the
total U.S.). Several media outlets in print, broadcast and internet cover varying segments
of the market. The Commercial Appeal — daily (Sunday-Saturday); general news. The Commercial
Appeal is Memphis' largest and most widely circulated newspaper. The Daily News — daily
(Monday-Friday); legal records. Memphis Business Journal — weekly; business and economic
news. The Memphis Flyer — weekly; politics, arts and entertainment, lifestyles. The Shelby
Sun-Times — weekly; East Memphis and eastern Shelby County community news with Cordova
and Germantown editions. The Tri-State Defender — weekly; African-American community news.
La Prensa Latina — weekly; Hispanic community news, Spanish-English bilingual. Memphis Downtowner
- monthly; community interests; focus on the downtown area. Main Street Journal - monthly;
news, entertainment and politics. Memphis Magazine - monthly; general community interest,
arts and entertainment, lifestyles. Memphis Parent - monthly; family issues and interests.
RSVP Magazine — monthly; society and philanthropy events. Memphis Sport - bimonthly; local sports
and recreation. Number - a visual arts quarterly

[edit] Television

A wide variety
of local television stations also serves the market area. The major network television
affiliates are WMC 5 (NBC), WREG 3 (CBS), WPTY 24 (ABC), WHBQ 13 (FOX), WLMT 30 (CW)),
and WPXX 50 (MyNetworkTV). The area is also served by two PBS stations: WKNO 10 and WLJT
11. Diverse formats can be found on the radio dial throughout the Memphis area. Two of the
several stations of note include WMC-FM (99.7 FM, popularly known as FM 100), a leading
Hot AC station; and the historic WDIA-AM (1070 AM), the first African-American-operated radio
station in the US. WHER the first "All-Girl" radio station was founded in Memphis by record
producer Sam Phillips in 1955. WHBQ-AM and WMPS-AM broadcasting personalities Rick Dees,
Wink Martindale, and Scott Shannon are now nationally known. WEVL (89.9 FM) is a volunteer-run-and-supported
station where the many DJs are expert collectors in their musical provinces.