to find it warm and muggy – a happily faint echo of the sweaty furnace of the last time I was in the South – and took a cab to our salubrious lodgings. “The King’s Court Motel?” said our incredulous driver. “Lemme just say, if it was just you sir, you’d hear a knock on your door at midnight askin’ what kind of woman you be wantin’. Short or tall, blond or brunette. Or what drugs you be after.”

Happily neither came to pass, although it wasn’t the most opulent place I’ve ever stayed. We dropped our things, made damn sure that the door was locked and walked the two blocks to Beale Street. On this particular evening the street was closed off and given over to hordes of bikers: on one block, bloated Hell’s Angels-types reclining against massive chromed hogs and on the other, home boys revving neon-lit Japanese racing replicas. We found a street-side bar and took in the scene for a while and then stumbled back home, jet lagged to the hilt.

The next day was clear and cold, and the streets were devoid of life to match. We got some breakfast and then caught a bus (complete with garrulous and faintly menacing nutter) to Graceland, taking us through a grey and dreary sprawl. A sign on the road in from the airport had hailed Memphis as “America’s Distribution Center” and this moniker was, on the surface at least, a damn sight more apt than “The Home of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. The Memphis that rolled past us in the gathering rain was boxy and concrete, frayed with weeds around the edges.

Graceland hove into view, and we bolted from the bus. Ash elected to sit out the tour, having already been there a few years back, so I jumped lonesome on the mandatory shuttle bus for the hundred yard journey across Elvis Presley Boulevard, slipped on my electronic tour guide headphones and crossed the hallowed threshold.

The tour was great! I knew nothing about the King before it other than he’d had some excellent tunes and had ignominiously died on the bog, and while I didn’t become an instant Elvis fan or scholar, it was consistently intriguing nonetheless. The mansion was a shag-pile ’70s time capsule, the cars satisfyingly bloated and the planes just jaw-droppingly extravagant. The weirdest thing was the nature of the tour itself: with everyone listening to a personal voice-over through their headphones, the house was mostly silent when you took them off and it felt more like a pilgrimage than a tourist attraction.

We took the free shuttle to Sun Studio after that (a bit of co-operative marketing that would have seemed opportunistic had not both tours been genuinely worth the money), this time for a guided tour by a Jack White-lookalike called David. The studio is only two rooms in size, but again the tour was flawless and this time our guide’s enthusiasm – and the revelation that the studio is still active at only $75 per hour (Coba Fynn, do you read me?) – made it seem far more relevant than Graceland had ever been.

The next day we picked up our rental…vehicle. Having run out of compacts, or intermediates or whatever it was we’d originally reserved, the woman at the desk “upgraded” us to a Chevy HHR, a faux-gansta exercise in retro ugliness and reputedly a complete vacuum of driving enjoyment. I pleaded with her but to no avail; it was the HHR or nothing. I bitched and moaned all the way to the motel where we loaded up our gear, backed up and headed towards the exit, crawling past as we did so a distinctly real gangster type who threw me a gesture that seemed to say, “Word. I respect your choice of transport, yo.”

I nodded helplessly and we got the hell out of Dodge.