Crusin' Through Memphis
Brandon Cunning '99
Brandon Cunning ’99 cruises in his 1955 Chevy Bel Air, listening to Elvis Presley on the radio, taking in the sights of downtown Memphis, Tenn.
It’s all in a day’s work.
Cunning is co-founder of Rockabilly Rides, a Memphis tour company focusing on nostalgia, history and music. He drives visitors through the city in classic cars such as a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a 1955 Plymouth Belvedere or a 1959 Ford Skyliner.
Cunning, who’s originally from Washington, Pa., discovered his rockabilly roots while hosting an oldies and blues show on WVCS, then Cal U’s campus radio station, where he learned to edit, produce commercials and write for a radio audience.
The former communication studies major also recalls playing ’50s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll with his band at the Underground Café.
After graduation, his love for Elvis and rockabilly music steered his career from radio DJ to Beale Street entertainer to tourism entrepreneur.
“When I worked as a radio disc jockey, I realized that the music I loved came from Memphis,” Cunning says. “There’s something special about this city, and I like sharing it with others.”
Rockabilly Rides offers guests three distinctive tours: Red, Hot & Blue Elvis; Memphis 101; and Million Dollar Quartet. The Red, Hot & Blue tour provides the ultimate Elvis experience, taking fans to Memphis hot spots once frequented by The King.
“One of the most popular tour spots is Levitt Shell, formerly Overton Park Shell, the very spot where Elvis performed the first rock ’n’ roll concert in the United States,” Cunning says.
“When guests stand on the Levitt Shell stage, they become overwhelmed with emotion.”
Rockabilly Rides preserves the 1950s Memphis experience for visitors of all ages.
“Guests book tours with us because it allows them to relive their past with their own families. They remember growing up and driving 1950s cars,” Cunning says.
“When we’re cruising through town, we always get people waving and honking. It’s like we have our own paparazzi.”
By Kayla Kuntz, social media manager at Cal U