Elvis, Beale St, barbecue... these are all amazing things that the world should be thanking us for. But Memphis has offered up a lot more to our planet, and it's about time our planet takes notice -- and no, it's not just our musical achievements (although there are many). So, for this list, we decided to use some broad strokes to detail the truly wonderful contributions Memphis has made. To wit:
1. Color photography as an art form
William Eggleston didn't invent color photography; he just turned it into a formally recognized art form. How many people walked past that tricycle and saw nothing but a tricycle? Lots, probably.
Everybody loves proprietary eponyms like "Xerox" and "Band-Aid" and "Kleenex", right? Well, you can thank Memphis for adding to that list and thereby making it possible to say, "Just FedEx the damn thing," instead of, "Please be so kind as to have the item sent via overnight courier". FedEx is one of many major corporations headquartered in Memphis and continues to save people's butts for missed-deadlines and forgotten birthdays.
3. St. Jude Hospital
Founded in 1962 by comedian Danny Thomas, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a world-renowned facility for the treatment and care of children's fatal diseases. Discoveries made at St. Jude's research center have completely changed how doctors treat children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for childhood cancers has risen from 20 percent to 80 percent, while the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has increased from 4 percent to 94 percent. Major win.
4. Rock 'n' Roll
Sam Phillips + Howlin' Wolf + Carl Perkins + Jerry Lee Lewis + Johnny Cash + Elvis Presley = that powerful little thing the whole world needs to thank Memphis for over and over and over again. You're all very welcome.
5. Court rulings that saved communities
It was called Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402 (1971). And it was where three little old ladies in tennis shoes blocked the US Department of Transportation from building an expressway through the middle of a beautiful city park. Did the work of those same ladies help establish a US Supreme Court precedent enabling future grassroots activists all over the country to stop bad government ideas from ruining local communities? You betcha.
6. More bibs and moist towelettes
Originally designed and produced exclusively for small children, bibs and Wet-Naps are now THE requisite accessories for rib lovers everywhere, thanks to world-famous -- and seriously messy -- Memphis BBQ.
Affordable and tolerable roadside accommodations were hard to find in the pre-Yelp days of 1952. Jokingly named for a Christmas cinema classic starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, Holiday Inn was founded by esteemed Memphian and hard-core travel junkie Kemmons Wilson. As Holiday Inns popped up across the country, frugal families could relax a bit, knowing that long road trips no longer had to include sleeping in a ditch en route. Interesting side note: one of Holiday Inn's early investors was another esteemed Memphian -- one Sam Phillips.
8. Unisex salons
Barber/entrepreneur Sam Ross created the world's first unisex hair salon in Memphis in 1974. Sam came up with the idea for "Fantastic Sams," a barber shop/hair salon where the whole family could get their ‘do on, and then proceeded to franchise the living hell out of it. Suburban blow dryer and crimping iron sales volumes have been on the rise ever since (not really).
9. The comedy classic I'm From Hollywood
Memphis in general, and local entertainer Jerry Lawler in particular, were the perfect foils Andy Kaufman needed to play off of in order to create his comic masterpiece I'm from Hollywood. The film is a must-see for all fans of Andy's singular take on performance art, but perhaps a bit too upsetting for those who actually experience some kind of emotional connection to that epic silliness curiously referred to as "professional wrestling."
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