When Brad Birkedahl and Brandon Cunning decided to take Memphis tourists back in time, they skipped on doing it in a DeLorean. Under the banner of their company, Rockabilly Rides, Cunning and Birkedahl drive guests on intimate jaunts around the Bluff City in either a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air or 1959 Ford Fairline 500 Skyliner Galaxie.
Both Birkedahl and Cunning showcase Memphis-made melodies for a living by performing regularly in venues along Beale Street. It’s the same legendary stretch of real estate where W.C. Handy helped popularize the blues and B.B. King blazed on his ax Lucille. So it makes sense Cunning and Birkedahl would translate their passion for the city’s tonal legacy into specialized tours.
Their Red, Hot & Blue tour, an Elvis-centric experience, replicates the treks Presley would take his Hollywood pals on when they visited the king in Memphis.
The two-hour cruise visits Presley’s high school, the outdoor stage of his first professional performance and more. It includes pointing out the legendary Sun Studio on Union Avenue, the site of Presley’s first recordings and worth a visit all of its own.
The Memphis 101 tour drives through history with a focus on downtown. The guides explain Memphis during the Civil War, the cotton industry, the yellow fever epidemic and the Civil Rights movement. It wraps at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
Rockabilly Rides also offers limousine-style service in Memphis. Pro wrestling legend Jerry "The King" Lawler, a lifelong Memphian, reached out to Rockabilly Rides to drive he and his fiance to Valentine's dinner. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Lawler plans to open a wrestling-themed restaurant on Beale Street.
The folks at Rockabilly Rides say they’ll be fueling up with an additional tour in the future focusing on the city’s soul music heritage.
Here's a look at their promo video:
126 Beale St., Memphis. 901-264-0819, rockabillyrides.com.