Memphis, Tennessee (song)

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"Memphis, Tennessee"
Single by Chuck Berry
A-side "Back in the U.S.A."
Released 1959
Format 7" single B-side
Genre Rhythm and blues, rock and roll
Label Chess 1729
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Almost Grown" "Back in the U.S.A."
"Broken Arrow"
Single by Johnny Rivers
from the album At the Whisky à Go Go
B-side "It Wouldn't Happen with Me"
Format 7" single A-side
Label Imperial 66032
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Johnny Rivers singles chronology

"Memphis, Tennessee" is a song by Chuck Berry. It is sometimes shortened to "Memphis". In the UK, the song charted at #6 in 1963,[1] at the same time Decca Records issued a cover version in the UK by Dave Berry and the Cruisers, which also became a UK Top 20 hit single.[2] "Memphis, Tennessee" was most successfully covered by Johnny Rivers whose version of the song was a #2 US hit in 1964.

Chuck Berry later composed a sequel, "Little Marie", which appeared in 1964 as a single and on the album St. Louis to Liverpool.


The song has been covered by many artists, including The Who (as The High Numbers), Hasil Adkins, The Animals, Paul Anka, Count Basie, The Beatles, Dave Berry, John Cale, Riblja Čorba, Don Covay, The Dave Clark Five, Bo Diddley, Faces, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Fotheringay, Al Green, The Hollies, Jan and Dean, Tom Jones, Sammy Kershaw, Fred Knoblock, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lonnie Mack, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions (a predecessor of Grateful Dead)[3] Mrs. Miller, Roy Orbison, Buck Owens, Elvis Presley, Johnny Rivers, The Rolling Stones, Del Shannon, Silicon Teens, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, The Statler Brothers, Izzy Stradlin, Rod Stewart, Gene Summers, George Thorogood, Ernest Tubb, Conway Twitty, The Ventures, Danny and the Fat Boys (Danny Gatton), Hank Williams Jr., Faron Young and most recently Toby Keith on the Clancy's Tavern (Deluxe Edition) album and Irish singer-songwriter Eleanor McEvoy in her album "Stuff".

In 1963, guitarist Lonnie Mack recorded a fast-paced, full-length instrumental improvisation inspired by Berry's melody, and named the tune "Memphis". Mack's instrumental went to #5 on Billboard's Pop chart and #4 on Billboard's R&B chart. Mack's version does list Chuck Berry as being the author of the song.[4] In 1964 singer Johnny Rivers recorded another version of the tune (which he, following Mack, called "Memphis"), copying Mack's pacing and some of his instrumental improvisations, and reinstating the vocal line from Berry's original.[5] That version hit #2 on Billboard's Pop chart.

After that, Berry's own live performances of the tune resembled the Mack and Rivers versions as much as his own original recording. In the years following, many other artists (see names above) covered the tune, and it became one of Berry's most commercially successful compositions.

In Wim Wenders' 1974 film Alice in the Cities, there is a brief scene where the main character stops at a Chuck Berry concert where "Memphis" is played.

The song is traditionally played at University of Memphis Tigers home games by the school's marching band, the Mighty Sound of the South.


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