|Mary Beth Best
Mary Beth was born in the north, but she “got to the south as soon as she could,” though it was in a round-about way. As a child, she moved with her missionary parents to Nigeria, West Africa, where she first heard the rhythms that she later learned were the forerunner of the blues. Those years piqued her interest in African-American history and heritage in which she specializes along with music tours and school tours. She owned her own tour company, Rivertown Tours, before joining the See Memphis roster of guides. When not conducting tours, she is a performance artist and works as a professional clown – you never know who’s behind that white make-up! Mary Beth’s husband is an artist as well. They have a son in college in Colorado and a daughter who’s a nurse in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Anna Lee Burkle
Anna Lee Burkle is one of our most-requested guides. She is a descendant of the Burkle Family who lived at the Burkle Estate (now Slavehaven) and started the famous Burkle’s Bakery that served Memphis familes for many years. She is passionate about St. Jude Hospital and shared an interesting story with us. Early this year a woman on her tour said that she has sponsored a child at St. Jude for many months and never heard what had happened to the child – not even whether she had lived or not. When Anna Lee heard the child’s name, she told her the happy news – not only had the child lived, but she now works for St. Jude and had just greeted the group as they arrived on the bus. Sponsor and patient met each other for the first time and had a happy reunion!
Shelby grew up in Memphis close to the First Assembly of God Church where both Elvis and the Blackwood Brothers worshipped. She remembers riding the streetcar and watching the iceman deliver ice in a horse-drawn wagon. She remembers one night at Rainbow Skating Rink when she refused to skate with a boy from Humes High because his hair was slicked back and he wore a leather jacket. Guess who that was! Even though she wouldn’t skate with him, Elvis later dated two of her friends. On a more serious note, she remembers Memphis on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and how that changed Memphis forever. Shelby is the quintessential southern belle with a sense of humor – she’ll charm your socks off!
If you’re an Elvis fan, Jane’s the guide for you. She’ll be happy to tell you all about her “Elvis sightings” – like at his homecoming concert at Russwood Park where her dance group was part of the pre-show entertainment – or the night when Elvis and his Memphis Mafia pulled into Fortune’s Jungle Garden right beside them (bet you don’t even know what Fortune’s Jungle Garden was!) She danced behind Eddie Fisher when he was the headliner at the Memphis Cotton Carnival while Elvis, who was still a hometown boy at the time, drew the crowds with his appearance at the city auditorium. Jane has spent her entire life in Memphis and remembers how exciting those early concerts were!! She has lots of “non-Elvis” memories as well. She loves her hometown and you’ll love it too after seeing it through Jane’s eyes.
Jeannette grew up in Mississippi, but has been in Memphis for most of her life. She works with our city’s Visitor Information Center when not conducting tours, so she is doubly qualified to give you the low-down on what’s happening in the city. She is active in the Memphis Heritage Foundation and has been a docent at Brooks Museum of Art. Memphis history, especially as told through its art and architecture, holds a special fascination for her. You’ll be fascinated as well when you hear about our city from Jeannette.
Nell Rodgers has been a tour guide for over 20 years and has been with See Memphis since we started back in 1990. She is a "genteel Southern lady with a distinctive southern drawl" and can tell you all about the rich agricultural history of our area. Nell is also related to Ellen Davies Rodgers, whose family settled in Shelby County in the early 19th century with the help of the Native Americans. The Davies two-story log house, one of the oldest, fully-furnished houses in the county, is still a popular historical site on the outskirts of Memphis.