Memphis magazine turns 39 this month, which means we’ve celebrated a few anniversaries (yes, in the typical five-year increments). Print, it turns out, is hardly dead. Thanks to the support of a growing advertising community — particularly those who have been loyal to our brand for several anniversaries — Memphis published more pages in 2014 than in any year since 1988 (when words like Internet, Twitter, and even Fox News were not to be found on the journalism globe).
I’ve been a part of four anniversary milestones. As we begin the journey through our 40th year, those issues are worth a brief return to the spotlight. After all, you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t consider where you’ve been.
20th (April 1996)
This issue culminated a 10-part series — “The Making of Modern Memphis” — directed by veteran writer John Branston. We presented lengthy interviews with five prominent Memphians (Shelby Foote, Fred Smith, Benjamin Hooks, Pat and John Tigrett), exploring the developments that made Memphis a better city in 1996 than it was in 1976 (or at least a vastly different city). When asked about the new casinos between Memphis and Greenville, Foote said, “Made me want to cry.” Three of these Memphis icons are no longer with us, making that series — later published as a book — among the most significant regional collections of the late twentieth century.
25th (April 2001)
Checking in at 244 pages, this remains one of the largest issues we’ve ever published, topped only by a couple of City Guides in the late Eighties. We republished 17 of our most popular features, a “greatest hits” for your coffee table. Included were Joan Beifuss’s account of the night Martin Luther King was killed (originally published in our July 1977 issue), a two-part profile of Henry Loeb from 1980 (by Jackson Baker), and Peter Barrosse’s stirring tale of his own battle with AIDS (September 1987). We added heft to our silver anniversary with a year-by-year chronicle of the stories that filled our pages, including three covers from each year. Honestly, it will be hard to top this when we turn 50.
30th (April 2006)
We had fun with the cover of this issue, creating a mosaic out of hundreds of tiny covers from our first three decades. (Where’s Marlo?) The backbone of our anniversary package was a feature on thirty moments (since 1976) that, for better or worse, shaped the Memphis we’ve come to love. From Elvis Presley’s death in 1977 (hello, Jungle Room!) to the opening of the Cannon Center in 2003. From the re-opening of the Peabody in 1981 to the Grizzlies’ first game at The Pyramid in 2001. From the first Wonders exhibition in 1987 to the demolition of the gigantic Baptist Hospital building in 2005. It’s all there, a descriptive timeline for three decades of transformative moments.
35th (April 2011)
Imagine one of those fantasy cocktail parties, where you can invite anyone you choose (alive or dead), for the conversation(s) of a lifetime. That’s essentially what we did upon turning 35, selecting the 35 Memphians we considered to have made the most lasting impact since we arrived in 1976. We presented a gallery of full-page photographs, Al Green on one, Justin Timberlake on another, Harold Ford on a left page, Steve Cohen oddly on a right. As for our cover subject, the selection of a single person proved be too much. So we split the press run evenly among four Bluff City legends: Pitt Hyde, Maxine Smith, Henry Turley, and A C Wharton. A modern-day Memphis Rushmore, if you will.
Consider this a teaser as our 40th anniversary nears. And thank you for reading. Wouldn’t have seen 39 without you.