In the Beginning - City Guide

Memphis magazine’s annual “City Guide” has now been a Memphis tradition for well over a quarter of a century. Every August, we’ve pulled together for our readers, both long-time residents and newcomers, our distinctive overview of who’s who, what’s what, and what we’re all about here in one of America’s most distinctive cities. 

Travel where you will, there is no place quite like Memphis. Whatever else it may be, ours is certainly a one-of-a-kind kind of place. We are smack-dab in the middle of one of country’s great agricultural heartlands. We really are America’s distribution center. And we make magnificent music, spectacularly special food, and know how to party perhaps better than anybody else anywhere. 

Elvis Presley said it best long ago, back in 1960. Returning from his stint in the Army, Elvis was asked what he had missed most about Memphis. “Evry-thing,” he replied. For those who have moved away, there’s a lot to miss these days, and for those living here, there’s a lot to like still about the Bluff City. Hopefully we’ve managed to highlight a goodly portion of all that in the pages that follow.

Perhaps the most popular feature of our annual all-about-Memphis issues is our “Who’s Who.” Every year the staff gets together and selects somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred individuals (this year’s exact total is 120; see page 50) who we think are worth knowing about. Needless to say, our choices never manage to please all our readers; every year we get a couple of dozen e-mails about our selections, most of which chastise us for leaving this or that worthy individual off our list. Nobody’s perfect, and we always include these suggestions in our discussions the following year. So don’t hesitate to respond!

This year’s “Who’s Who” is in fact our twenty-ninth such compendium. And as a special treat for long-time Memphians and newbies alike, we are featuring our very first list, the 1984 Memphis magazine “Who’s Who,” in pdf format on the magazine’s website ( all during the month of August. So be sure to check it out!

Reviewing the 1984 list provides quite the trip down Memory Lane. The “Who’s Who” that year featured local cultural icons like Carroll Cloar, Shelby Foote, Roy Harrover, and, yes, even way back then, Jackie Nichols. The list included distinguished musicians like Al Green (looking a bit younger than he does in this year’s “Who’s Who”!), Edwin Hubbard, Charlie Rich, and Rufus Thomas, along with well-known sports figures such as Bill Dance, Anthony Elmore, Cherie Ganong, Keith Lee, and Melanie Smith.

The Eighties were a time when Memphis religious leaders like J.O. Patterson Sr. and Adrian Rogers played dominant roles on the national stage, and our 1984 list also featured a host of entrepreneurs who helped shaped the face of modern Memphis: Jack Belz, Billy Dunavant, Avron Fogelman, Allen Morgan Jr., Abe Plough, Michael Rose, Rudi Scheidt, Fred Smith, Ron Terry and, last alphabetically but certainly not least, Kemmons Wilson. And lest we forget them, a whole host of local politicians then as now were represented on our 1984 list: former Mayor Wyeth Chandler, Congressman Harold Ford (senior, not junior), then-Mayor Richard Hackett, and future mayor Willie Herenton, then Memphis City Schools superintendent. 

So go to our website to see who was who in the Memphis of 1984. And in the meantime, stay focused on the present and enjoy everything this year’s “City Guide” has to offer.

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