Song Lyric Sunday – Walking In Memphis

Welcome to another Song Lyric Sunday. This week we are prompted to find songs about towns, counties, cities, states and countries and my journey took me to some far flung places. We all have an affinity to where we are born and I found many songs about my home town of London. Although I was tempted, I decided to keep on searching and found myself hopping all over the world. In the end I opted for a song that I have always enjoyed listening to and we don’t hear it very often – “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.I like the story behind this song and hope you like it too.

Cohn wrote this song after traveling to Memphis to check out Graceland, which is Elvis Presley’s mansion and a kitschy tourist destination. He made sure to see an Al Green sermon when he was there, but it was a trip out of Memphis along Highway 61 where the meaty part of his journey took place. In the desolate Delta, he saw a sign that said “Hollywood,” which turned out to be the Hollywood Cafe, which is a small diner/music joint in Tunica County, Mississippi. This is where Cohn smelled the catfish and encountered a black woman in her 70s named Muriel who was at the piano. After watching Muriel play a variety of spirituals and Hoagy Carmichael songs for about 90 minutes, he spoke with her when she took a break.

Cohn’s mother died when he was just 2 years old, and he lost his father at age 12. He spent a lot of time reconciling his childhood, which often comes out in his songs. Speaking with Muriel, he got maybe the best therapy of his life. Cohn described this conversation in his 1992 interview with Q magazine, saying: “She was real curious, she seemed to have some kind of intuition about me, and I ended up telling her about my family, my parents, how I was a musician looking for a record deal, the whole thing. Then, it must have been about two in the morning, she asks me up to sing with her and we do about an hour, me and this lady I’d never met before, hardly a song I knew so she’s yelling the words at me. Then at the end, as the applause is rising up, she leans over and whispers in my ear, she’s whispering, “You’ve got to let go of your mother, child, she didn’t mean to die, she’s where she’s got to be and you’re where you have to be, child, it’s time to move on.”

The Hollywood Cafe is still there – you drive right past it to go to several of the casinos now located in Tunica. Muriel and Cohn kept in touch, and she attended his wedding in New York. Cohn saw her again when he took another trip down south and played her some of his new songs, but Muriel died in 1990. >>

This was the first single for Cohn, who was discovered by Carly Simon in the mid-’80s when he was with a 14-piece band called The Supreme Court. Atlantic Records signed him in 1989, but the first attempts to record his debut album with Tracy Chapman’s producer David Kerschenbaum failed. Ten months later, he tried again, producing the set himself with help from the little-known Ben Wisch, who had helped him with his demos. Finally released in 1991 when Cohn was 31 years old, his self-titled debut album was a huge hit, thanks to the massive success of “Walking In Memphis.” Cohn won the 1991 Grammy for Best New Artist award, beating out both Boyz II Men and Seal. Cohn never matched the chart success of this song, but like his musical heroes Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, he remained a critical and artistic success as a songwriter and performer.

Cohn has explained that this song is a journey to be baptized in the world of blues music. He said it is about “Spiritual Awakening.”

The lyrics, “Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” refers to Beale Street, an actual street in Memphis. Riley B. King became known as the “Beale Street Blues Boy” shortly after he first arrived in Memphis. Later, the nickname was shortened to B.B., and the rest is history.

Cohn wrote this song after traveling to Memphis to check out Graceland, which is Elvis Presley’s mansion and a kitschy tourist destination. He made sure to see an Al Green sermon when he was there, but it was a trip out of Memphis along Highway 61 where the meaty part of his journey took place. In the desolate Delta, he saw a sign that said “Hollywood,” which turned out to be the Hollywood Cafe, which is a small diner/music joint in Tunica County, Mississippi. This is where Cohn smelled the catfish and encountered a black woman in her 70s named Muriel who was at the piano. After watching Muriel play a variety of spirituals and Hoagy Carmichael songs for about 90 minutes, he spoke with her when she took a break.

Cohn’s mother died when he was just 2 years old, and he lost his father at age 12. He spent a lot of time reconciling his childhood, which often comes out in his songs. Speaking with Muriel, he got maybe the best therapy of his life. Cohn described this conversation in his 1992 interview with Q magazine, saying: “She was real curious, she seemed to have some kind of intuition about me, and I ended up telling her about my family, my parents, how I was a musician looking for a record deal, the whole thing. Then, it must have been about two in the morning, she asks me up to sing with her and we do about an hour, me and this lady I’d never met before, hardly a song I knew so she’s yelling the words at me. Then at the end, as the applause is rising up, she leans over and whispers in my ear, she’s whispering, You’ve got to let go of your mother, child, she didn’t mean to die, she’s where she’s got to be and you’re where you have to be, child, it’s time to move on.”

The Hollywood Cafe is still there – you drive right past it to go to several of the casinos now located in Tunica. Muriel and Cohn kept in touch, and she attended his wedding in New York. Cohn saw her again when he took another trip down south and played her some of his new songs, but Muriel died in 1990. >>

This was the first single for Cohn, who was discovered by Carly Simon in the mid-’80s when he was with a 14-piece band called The Supreme Court. Atlantic Records signed him in 1989, but the first attempts to record his debut album with Tracy Chapman’s producer David Kerschenbaum failed. Ten months later, he tried again, producing the set himself with help from the little-known Ben Wisch, who had helped him with his demos. Finally released in 1991 when Cohn was 31 years old, his self-titled debut album was a huge hit, thanks to the massive success of “Walking In Memphis.” Cohn won the 1991 Grammy for Best New Artist award, beating out both Boyz II Men and Seal. Cohn never matched the chart success of this song, but like his musical heroes Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, he remained a critical and artistic success as a songwriter and performer.

Cohn has explained that this song is a journey to be baptized in the world of blues music. He said it is about “Spiritual Awakening.”

The lyrics, “Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” refers to Beale Street, an actual street in Memphis. Riley B. King became known as the “Beale Street Blues Boy” shortly after he first arrived in Memphis. Later, the nickname was shortened to B.B., and the rest is history.

LYRICS

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy, won't you look down over me
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
But I'm as blue as a boy can be

Then I'm walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Saw the ghost of Elvis
On Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through
Now security they did not see him
They just hovered 'round his tomb
But there's a pretty little thing
Waiting for the King
Down in the Jungle Room

When I was walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

They've got catfish on the table
They've got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green be glad to see you
When you haven't got a prayer
But, boy, you've got a prayer in Memphis

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
She said
"Tell me are you a Christian child?"
And I said "Ma'am, I am tonight"

Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
Was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
(Walking in Memphis)
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

Writer/s: Marc Cohn 
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, DistroKid
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

  19 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – Walking In Memphis

  1. May 29, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    Beautiful song Christine.

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks Jim. I’m happy you liked it ☺️

  2. May 30, 2021 at 3:34 am

    I love the story behind the song <3

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:08 pm

      Yes it’s a good one isn’t it Janis? Thanks so much ☺️💕

  3. May 30, 2021 at 6:17 am

    I loved listening to this song on my radio back in the day – I used to sing it all the time. Love it!

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      Yes, I always loved it too Mel. Thanks so much ☺️💕

  4. May 30, 2021 at 7:38 am

    Christine,
    I generally don’t read the lyric sunday post, but this one caught my eye, probably because I was born and raised in Chattanooga,Tennessee and Memphis has always kind of intrigued me. What great lyrics! I don’t eat catfish, but I love the blues and it’s not Friday night without fried fish and pork and beans with slaw and sweet tea, almost syrup. Thanks for the memories you brought into my mind today.

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:06 pm

      Oh I’m so happy you stopped by to read the post Regina ☺️ Good memories for you 💕

  5. May 30, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Really loved this post and song, Christine!! Thanks so much for sharing this!! 😘
    Chuck
    😊🎁💕💖🌹

  6. May 30, 2021 at 9:48 am

    Love this song and wish my feet were 10 feet off the ground

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks Coach. Happy you liked it ☺️

  7. May 30, 2021 at 10:11 am

    One of my favorite songs, thanks for the rewind! Marvelous!

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks Mel! ☺️ I’m happy you li’ed it.

  8. May 30, 2021 at 10:50 am

    I love this song, thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 12:14 pm

      Sure thing Angie. I’m happy you liked it ☺️

  9. May 30, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for picking this song and for the lovely write up. I almost used it myself but know I wouldn’t have done it justice.

    • Christine Bolton
      May 30, 2021 at 2:51 pm

      Oh I’m sure you would have Jilly ☺️ Thank you so much 💕🌺

  10. May 30, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    What a great story to go with the song! Thank you for sharing it.🎶🌻

    • Christine Bolton
      May 31, 2021 at 2:54 pm

      Aww thanks so much. I’m happy you enjoyed it ☺️

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: