Memphis Music Hall of Fame Set to Induct 100th Member, Celebrates Musical Legacy

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Nestled within the heartbeat of Tennessee, the City of Memphis, renowned for birthing the soulful notes of blues music, is known for paying tribute to its musical heroes. Twelve years ago, a special ceremony marked the inauguration of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, a grand spectacle where the city’s musical heritage was personified in the form of 25 luminaries that were inducted in its first class. The seminal event hosted greats like Elvis Presley, ZZ Top, and Three 6 Mafia, a testament to the city’s extraordinary musical diversity spanning genres and generations.

In subsequent years, this hallowed Hall of Fame blossomed, while also documenting a sonic timeline of music. It greeted dozens of musicians who had etched their mark on Memphis with their records, teachings, and performances. Icons such as Justin Timberlake, Tina Turner, and Carla Thomas found their names etched onto the prestigious list.

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Fast forward to this year, the museum prepares to celebrate a milestone as it looks forward to inducting its 100th member. In a class sprinkled with nine multi-faceted talents, soul singer Wilson Pickett, rapper Jazze Pha, and Jack Soden stand out.

Interestingly, in 1982, a mere half a decade after the untimely death of Elvis Presley, Jack Soden, along with Presley’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, achieved the improbable. Together, they opened Graceland, Elvis’s residence, as a must-see attraction for tourists. Today, Graceland shines a beacon onto Memphis’s musical legacy as it attracts hordes of tourists by the hundreds of thousands each year.

The Hall of Fame’s declaration of its 2024 class was laced with respect for Soden. The man, hired in 1981, was entrusted with executing Graceland’s public opening despite prevailing opinions urging for its sale to avoid potential bankruptcy. Under Soden’s stewardship, Graceland has blossomed from a modest museum resting on a 13-acre plot to a sprawling entertainment complex encompassing a soundstage, exhibition spaces, restaurants, and a 450-room hotel. The Hall of Fame lauded how all this had unfolded under Soden’s “watchful eye”.

To illustrate its gratitude and respect, the Hall of Fame released a statement, “Under Soden’s leadership, Graceland has kept Memphis’ music profile strong with an annual economic impact of $200 million.”

Graceland was close to being a financial burden to the Presley Estate in the early ’80s, courtesy of looming estate and inheritance taxes. Accountants and bankers considered selling off the home, while Priscilla Presley harbored the idea of opening the house to tourists as a means to solve the financial conundrum and to conserve Elvis’s legacy. Conviction in this belief led her to secure a $500,000 investment. Along with Soden, she toured various facilities such as the Hearst Castle, Will Rogers’ residence, and even Walt Disney World to glean inspiration. Eventually, on June 7, 1982, Graceland welcomed visitors, selling out its full offering of 3,024 tickets on the inaugural day.

Admitting their initial trepidation, Soden reminisced in a 2012 interview about Graceland’s 30th anniversary, saying, “We had no idea whether 30 people were coming, or 300, or 3,000 that first day. Fortunately, it was the latter.”

Graceland has since acted as a custodian of Elvis Presley’s legend, constantly keeping him alive in the hearts of his fans. Compilations of his music and cultural references in films like “Elvis” (2022) and “Priscilla” (2023) have also played instrumental roles in this regard.

Expressing his gratitude, Soden said, “Music is the soul of Memphis and draws millions of visitors from about the world each year who want to immerse themselves in the story — from Graceland to Beale Street and everything in between.”

In a shared honor, Soden now joins a cohort that includes Wilson Pickett, famed for his recording of “In the Midnight Hour” at Stax Records in Memphis, home to some of the most enduring soul music hits.

The Memphis Music Hall of Fame will honor these legends in a special ceremony slated to take place on September 27.