Sunday, June 25, 2017

Music of the South

Over the last several months we have noticed developing themes.  Beginning in New Orleans through Memphis and on through Nashville we have been drawn to the music.  Much of it interconnects these cities.  You wonder if any of the music in one place could have happened if not for all the other places.  The other strong connection, and an observed theme is Liquor.....but I'll save that for another post.

Once in Memphis we headed to Graceland.  We felt that it was more about the man than the music.  To understand the music, you need see where it all happened.  Downtown Memphis.  While some of these places are still working recording studios, most offer a museum showcasing the history and the impact that their artists had on the world.  The written tour guides suggests allowing an hour or two per visit.  Somehow that didn't work for us as we found ourselves staying much longer.

Sun Records

Our first stop was Sun Records "Where Rock and Roll was Born"..  The studio was where Sam Phillips was the first to record the likes of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash.  It is where Elvis recorded "That's Alright Mama".  Where the million dollar quartet, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, met one afternoon.  Where you can sit at the drum set U2 used when they recorded "When Love Comes to Town" with BB King.

In this museum you tour the original recording studio where these guys worked.  You can also see the broadcast booth where Dewey Phillips would make rock stars by getting them AirPlay on WHBQ in Memphis.

The Million Dollar Quartet

The Mic Elvis Used

STAX Records

Started on a shoestring by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton, it is where Southern or Memphis
Soul began.  While the label featured mostly black artists, the founders where white.   Founded in 1957, the label successfully integrated not only their acts, like Booker T & the MG's, but also their staff.  It was a remarkable achievement in the South.  Key artists for STAX were, among many others, Otis Redding and Issac Hayes.

Soul Man

Records on the Wall

STAX Sound Board

STAX Studio

Issac Hayes Golden Ride

Memphis Rock and Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock and Soul Museum,  just off of Beale Street, tied much of this all together for me.  So many of these early Rock, Soul, and Blues artists where influenced by Gospel and Country music.  Time and again you would read how a young artist would spend their Saturday nights huddled around the radio listening to the Grand Ole Opry.  All of this music we hear, even today, was influenced by the roots music they listened to on their front porches, and the gospel the choirs sung on Sunday.  It becomes clear that none of it could have happened without the other.

Gospel. From the pulpit to the stage.

Beale Street

Album Cover Art


Yes.  Lucille!

Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry

In Nashville, we parked AIROSMITH virtually right next door to the Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry.  We couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit, though we don't see ourselves as Country Music fans.  I doubt that I could name a current country music star.....Slim Pickens....Little Jimmy Dickens....Jimmy Dean?  See!
The Grand Ole Opry

Though it presents the opportunity to recount a favorite music joke.

Two men are taken hostage by a notorious group of desperadoes.  One hostage a country fan.  The other a Blues fan. Uncharacteristically, the  group allowed their captives one final wish.  The country fan said, "Just play me a little of Garth Brooks, and then shoot me through the head".  The Blues fan said, "Shoot me first".

But I digress.  Believing as I do, that all this great music influences each other, and being in town, we got tickets to the Grand Ole Opry.  I confess that the only artist I really knew was Rickey Skaggs, and he plays Bluegrass.  We had a wonderful evening while listening to some very fine music.

The Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman was the home of the Grand Ole Opry between 1943 and 1974.  A lot of music history has been made on its stage.  Take the backstage tour.  It gets you into some of the dressing rooms used over the years.  Then spend some time in the museum that traces the history of the building from a turn of the century mega church to the long time home of country music.  A circle from the origional stage of the Ryman was put center stage of the new Grand Ole Opry when they moved in 1974.  History lives on.

The Ryman

Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum

A final museum we visited in Nashville was the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.  I know, you will ask why we didn’t venture into the County Music Hall of Fame.  I will refer you above to my favorite joke….also, from credible reports one can spend many days in that museum.  With our track record, I feared that we might never come out.

The MHFM is very comprehensive covering rock, soul, blues, funk, country and venues from Muscle Shoals to LA.  A stroll through here provided a number of pleasant surprises.

Nipper The RCA Dog

Caribou Ranch Steinway  

Caribou Ranch Baby Grand Piano

You can not leave Nashville without taking a stroll down Broadway and Honky Tonk Row to sample both the food and the music.  Or to ride along Music Row, a former residential neighborhood where house after house houses some of the finest music agents, producers and recording studios in the world.

Lunch at the Acme

Hot Chicken Sandwich

No Steff......

......this one belongs to Jack!

I am left with the feeling that music could very well be the common language we can all speak, and could bring us together.  Rock On! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Memphis Tennessee

The main reason to visit Memphis was to connect with good friends Jill and Scott.  They were wonderful hosts while we were in town, and we had the additional benefit to visit with both Jill and Scott's Mom's. Every time we see them, which isn't nearly often enough, we understand just how important your close friends are. This really is one of the core reasons we wanted to travel.  Taking opportunities to see friends and family along the way.

One afternoon Jill picked us up and we met Scott who had spent the morning golfing at his club.  After lunch we collected fishing gear, out of Scott’s clubhouse locker, ordered up a golf cart, and headed off to fish the water hazards on the golf course.  Scott has caught some very large Bass from out of these lakes.  We spent the next hour or so, avoiding players on the fairways, and casting for Bass, Bluegill, and Crappie!  Scott tends to keep a fishing rod with him, as he plays golf.  I can see why! 

We're going to Graceland!

We did have one specific goal while we were in Memphis.  Visit Graceland!  Over the years, we have visited Memphis several times, but have never made it to Graceland.  It really is something you have to do at least once in your life.  And once would be enough for us.

Living Room

Modern Kitchen - for the 1970's
Down in the Jungle Room

The Den

The Back Yard

Everyone should have a shooting range!

It is a fine tuned, and well oiled operation.  You can spend quite a lot on your day there, especially if you want the FULL Elvis experience.  That includes seeing all of the jumpsuits and cars.  We chose only the mansion tour and (for $5 dollars extra) the custom airplanes.

The other must see in Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum. Housed in the Lorraine  Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 it is a compelling reminder of the courage and sacrifice those brave souls undertook to fight for the rights that I have taken for granted for my entire life.

Rosa Parks
Focused on the Memphis Sanitation workers strike, which had brought Martin to Memphis, it is a wonderful compliment to the similar museum in Birmingham.  After visiting each of these, and pausing to listen and look around to what is happening today, I am reminded that we are not yet where we should be.  And I begin to wonder if we all have the courage, and are willing to make the sacrifices needed to make sure that everyone enjoys the same rights that many of us take for granted.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Parchman Prison

Segregated Diner Sit In's

March on Washington
Mississippi 1964

Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
Sanitation Workers Strike

Dr. King's Legac

While in Memphis we stayed at the Agricenter International, which is a part of the Shelby Farms Park.   This is a large RV park that hosts many people who are living there full time.  You can tell by the way stuff builds up around the trailers and motorhomes, many of them look to have been parked there for some time.  

One of our neighbors was Luis, a pipeline worker from Dallas.  He would always offer me a beer which then led to a nice conversation.  Luis had been working and living here for 3 months.  He was headed off to Dallas, and then on to visit family in Mexico before moving onto his next job.

Road Hazards
One morning we had an unpleasant reminder of what living on the road can be like.  I stepped out of AIROSMITH to see dark black smoke billowing into the sky, a dozen spaces down, and two rows across from us.  Grabbing my phone, and running toward the smoke, I was just dialing 911 when I heard the sirens of the approaching fire trucks.  The family was already out of the fully engulfed motorhome, but with very few of their possessions.  The fire destroyed the one motorhome, and damaged the trailer parked next to it.  We watched over the next week as they slowly salvaged what ever they could from the wreck.  I began thinking about what I  would, or could do if that happened in the next space to you.  How quickly can we hook up and move?  Maybe we should conduct drills!

The park also hosts travelers like us who stay for several nights and move on.  This time we stayed nearly two weeks.  We stayed here in Rocinante, our previous travel trailer, in the fall of 2010.  The park has changed much since our last visit.  It is a 4,500 Acre park with hiking and biking trails, and a pond for kayaking.  Additionaly the Wolf River flows through the park, and along that a Greenway path where one could ride a bicycle all the way to the Downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River.

Hyde Lake Paddle

Memphis Sunset

Wolf River Bridge

Memphis Mtn Biking

The Greenway Trail

Big River Crossing
On a nice morning we drove into Memphis, and rode our bikes across the Big River Crossing, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that spans the Mississippi, ending up in Arkansas.  

The path connects on the west side, and you can ride along the river in both directions.  Unfortunately the path was closed due to flooding.  The Big River is running high.  Coming back over the bridge we watched from above as a river “Pushboat” maneuvered about 30 cargo barges up the river.

Memphis from the Mississippi

State Line


For lunch, we bicycled over to the Peabody Hotel, and entering off of an alley, dined on some famous Rendezvous Barbecue.

Memphis good friends, great memories and wonderful experiences.

Beale Street