11 Memphis Nicknames and the Reasons for Them

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City buildings near a park with benches during the fall
Memphis is called by many alternate names that have interesting origins

Memphis, Tennessee, is a vibrant destination known for its musical connections, especially in the blues and rock 'n' roll genres. What you may not know is that there are quite a few alternate names for the city. This list delves into the 11 most unique and well-known Memphis nicknames.

From the reasoning behind the interesting Bluff City name to the numerous Memphis music monikers that exist, there's a lot to learn! So, keep reading to discover the top names for the city of Memphis and their fascinating origins.

11 Nicknames for Memphis

Home of the Blues is one of the popular Memphis nicknames
Memphis played a vital role in the growth of blues music

Home of the Blues

As one of the cities most connected to the creation of the blues music genre, Memphis is unquestionably the Home of the Blues. While the genre was developed in a few places, its beginnings are thought to date to 1912, when WC Handy wrote the first blues song in Memphis.

Legendary musicians such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters are connected to the area, and you can still find an array of blues clubs across Memphis. Notably, the Beale Street Historic District is a Tennessee landmark with a strong connection to blues music. The street is home to numerous blues clubs as well as landmarks like a statue of WC Hardy, the W.C. Handy Home and Museum, and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum.

Bluff City

The Memphis name of Bluff City came about due to the city's picturesque setting along the Mississippi River's steep bluffs. This topography protects from severe flooding and provides spectacular river vistas from places like Mississippi River Park and Tom Lee Park.

This moniker is well-known throughout the city; many non-locals will recognize it. Bluff City is frequently used in local news articles and may be seen on souvenirs and other Memphis merchandise. It was even used in the name of a TV show that's set in Memphis, Bluff City Law.

A facade of a building with glass panels and a sign saying "FedExForum"
Memphis' name Grind City is often connected to the Memphis Grizzlies

Grind City

Another well-known moniker is Grind City. This alternate name reflects Memphis' unwavering determination and work ethic, additionally representing the city's dedication to prosperity and community.

You can see the name in many places around the city, including on souvenirs and in business names, like Grind City Brewing. Memphis' NBA team, the Memphis Grizzlies, often use this nickname as well. For example, the team's in-house media company covering Grizzlies news is called Grind City Media.

Blues City

Blues City is another moniker connected to the area's music history. The reasons for this name being created are the same as the Home of Blues nickname.

Because Memphis has a large blues music scene and a long history in relation to the genre, it has become a city of blues, with the music forming part of the area's identity. Memphis is also known nationally and even globally as a significant cultural and musical destination for blues enthusiasts.

Buildings and trees under a blue sky with white clouds
The city of Memphis is also called M-Town


M-Town is a slang nickname for Memphis, TN. It's simply an abbreviation, used by many other large US cities, that takes the first letter of the city name and combines it with "town." Using the "town" name can also highlight how Memphis has somewhat of a small-town feel with welcoming and friendly locals despite being a large city.

Music City

While Nashville is most well-known as Music City, Memphis has its own strong musical history. One of the top Tennessee facts relating to music in Memphis is that Elvis Presley's magnificent mansion, Graceland, is found in the area.

That's not the only musical connection Memphis has, though. It's often regarded as the place where the rock 'n' roll and blues music genres were created. You can also find an array of live music venues across the city, including many blues clubs. Numerous music landmarks can be found in the city as well, like the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, Sun Studio, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

You probably won't see many souvenirs with this moniker (if you want Music City merchandise, head to Nashville). However, exploring the city, its music venues, and attractions will make it clear why Memphis also deserves the name of Music City.

A white and red riverboat with a "Queen of the Mississippi" sign on a river
As it's a prospering city near a river, Memphis is known as River City on the Rise

River City on the Rise

Memphis is on an exciting upward trend, with a thriving and growing economy and restored neighborhoods. This economic growth has led to the nickname River City on the Rise being associated with the area. The name is often used in relation to cities located on rivers that are prospering economically.

Memphis' growth is mainly connected to a 17 billion dollar investment in the city. This saw a brand new convention center being built, modernization of the city airport, increased hotel construction, and much more.

A view over a city with buildings, a pyramid, trees, and a river
Memphis has a nickname after its area code, the 901

The 901

A Memphis nickname that's quite easy to understand is the 901. It comes from the region's area code and has been used since 1947. You may hear residents refer to their city as the 901, and it's often used online and on social media in reference to Memphis. A local soccer team, Memphis 901 FC, also uses the moniker.

BBQ Capital of the World

Memphis is known as the BBQ Capital of the World due to its array of barbeque joints and delicious dishes. Some of these dishes are unique to the area, and the city has its own style of BBQ, Memphis-style barbecue.

Every May, Memphis even hosts the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. This event is one of the largest of its kind in the world and brings together pitmasters from around the world to display their skills.

Chad Robertson Media/Shutterstock.com
An empty road near colorful buildings with neon signs
The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll is one of the well-known Memphis nicknames

The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll

As discussed, Memphis has a rich music history and culture. Along with the prevalence of the blues genre, Memphis goes by the name of the Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll. While Cleveland also uses this moniker, Memphis has many claims to it.

The primary reason is that the city is home to the famous Memphis landmark Sun Studio. Many call this recording studio the official birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, among numerous others, have recorded songs at the studio. Countless other rock 'n' roll landmarks are also spread across the city, like Graceland and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum.

The Cotton Capital of the World

Memphis was once known as the Cotton Capital of the World because it played an important role in the history of the cotton industry. Due to its excellent location along the Mississippi River, the city became a thriving cotton trade center in the 19th century.

While the cotton industry has waned in the area, its history lives on through landmarks such as the Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange. At this attraction, you can discover more about Memphis' cotton history and the industry's economic significance.

In Conclusion

Having read this article, you should have a good grasp on what other names for Memphis exist. Alternate names include modern monikers, like the BBQ Capital of the World, and those related to the region's past, such as the Cotton Capital of the World.

You can also discover those connected to the area's geography and rich music history and culture. After learning these nicknames, you may have even been inspired to plan a trip to the city. Just don't forget to impress the locals with one of these 11 Memphis monikers!

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

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