I simply love Memphis, so it doesn’t take much to get me to visit the birthplace of rock and roll. And although my latest stopover had little to do with music, it had everything to do with the famous Peabody ducks. Quite frankly, when I was invited to be Honorary Duckmaster at this Memphis institution, I just couldn’t resist.
If you’re not familiar with the Peabody ducks, then here’s a little primer. Back in the 1930s Peabody General Manager Frank Schutt went on a weekend hunting trip with his pal Chip Barwick. As the story goes, a little Jack Daniels was involved, and at the end of the trip the duo decided to bring home their live decoy ducks and place them in hotel lobby fountain. Much to their surprise the ducks were a hit with the guests, so they became a standard fixture at the hotel. Years later Edward Pembroke, a hotel bellman, volunteered to take care of the ducks and became the first Duckmaster. Today, the ducks are still marched to and from their rooftop digs to the strains of John Phillips Sousa, promptly at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
And that’s where I came in as the Honorary Duckmaster. After a proclamation was read, and I received an official Peabody rubber ducky, Duckmaster Doug Weatherford handed me my duck cane and we were off. Fortunately the ducks were on their best behavior and I expertly herded them out of the fountain, down the red carpet and into the waiting elevator. The only hold up was a guest that blocked the elevator entrance (don’t do that folks), but Duckmaster Doug promptly took care of that.
After the ducks were settled in for the night in their penthouse, Doug (who is also the hotel historian) pointed out some Memphis landmarks from our rooftop vantage point, and regaled us with a little musical history – including the origins of Sweet Caroline and Proud Mary, both of which were penned in Memphis.
Although this impromptu tour was great, Doug also does daily hotel history tours at 11:30 and noon (call 901-529-4108 for reservations); and if you’d like a historical city tour, he can arrange that too. Just give him a call on his cell phone at (901) 491-2531. Both tours are wheelchair-accessible, but if you do one of Doug’s city tours let him know about your access needs in advance so he can choose the most appropriate route. He’s very accommodating, and very knowledgeable about the musical history of Memphis.
And although everyone can’t be an Honorary Duckmaster, you can watch the whole procession from the lobby bar. There’s good wheelchair access throughout the bar, but arrive early to enjoy an adult beverage and get a good seat.
So next time you’re in Memphis don’t miss the 3 D’s – the Peabody ducks, Duckmaster Doug and a little Jack Daniels sipping whiskey from the lobby bar. It’s the perfect combination for a truly memorable Memphis visit! And if you want to overnight at The Peabody, they have very nice accessible rooms; in fact I was so impressed with them that I included the property in my latest book, Resting Easy in the US; Unique Lodging Options for Wheelers and Slow Walkers.