Our Musical Journey to Tennessee: Part 1 – Memphis, Home of the Blues, Birthplace to Rock ‘N’ Roll

July was an action packed music month for us. The month started with our vacation trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Stay tuned for other music posts about more music events we experienced in July.

I brought along an essential music book to read on the plane, Mystery Train (Sixth Edition) by authoritative music journalist, Greil Marcus. The synergy of this book fit perfect with the music mission. The first chapter was about Harmonica Frank, 1951 (the year of my birth), Sam Phillips and Sun Studio. The book set the stage for the first leg of the music journey, Memphis. There was also a chapter about Elvis Presley but more about the King of Rock and Roll in Memphis later in this saga. ūüôā

The path of American music discovery

A major goal in the music of our heart has been to visit the four homes (birthplaces) of American music, blues, country, jazz and rock n roll. We had previously visited the birthplace of jazz, New Orléans, Louisiana where we saw Preservation Hall on St. Peters Street.

We journeyed first to Memphis, Tennessee to learn more about the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock n roll. We stayed at the Hampton Inn at 175 Peabody Place a half block away from Beale Street.

The music on Beale Street spirited us out of the  hotel and around the block like a pied piper. We saw two blocks of motorcycles lining the pedestrian thoroughfare.

Bikes on Beale

“I’m walking in Memphis,¬†Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” Marc Cohn ¬©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Beale Street is a majestic street. We took note of B.B. Kings Blues Club at the top of Beale. We decided to have dinner and catch a show there the next night. We had to pay our respects to the King of the Blues.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Memphis Minnie, B. B. King, Rufus Thomas, Rosco Gordon and other blues and jazz legends played on Beale Street and helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues. As a young man, B. B. King was billed as “the Beale Street Blues Boy”.

We had a fantastic dinner at the Flying Fish¬†the first night. It was rated 4.5 stars. The fish was deeeelicious as my great-nephew Blake loves to say ūüôā

The next day we signed up for a day tour of Memphis at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. We had a wonderful tour guide.¬†Our first stop was Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland. I kept hearing the song, “Graceland” by Paul Simon in my head as we drove to the tourist attraction.

Graceland was a sight to behold. What knocked me out the most about Elvis’s estate was The Jungle Room and the sheer amount of awards he received in his lifetime for music and movies. Truly we were witnessing the King of Rock N Roll’s palace. What an honor it was to see it all.

The next stop on the Memphis tour was Sun Studio. A momentous place where Sam Phillips recorded, Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We didn’t take the studio tour as the place was mobbed. We looked around, took some pictures, bought some souvenirs and got back on the shuttle. Finally got to witness the birthplace of rock n roll.

(RoadTripSports.com photo by Kendall Webb)

I preordered the book that Peter Guralnick has been writing about Sam Phillips for 25 years. My goal is to learn more about Sam Phillips from his close friend. ¬†Peter Guralnick is the definitive Memphis music historian. I can’t wait to get back to Memphis and continue the music discovery.

sphillips

Nashville Skyline ¬†will be Part 2, stay tuned….

Music Journalism A-Z – Greil Marcus

File:Mystery Train single cover.jpgTrain I ride, sixteen coaches long

Train I ride, sixteen coaches long

Well that long black train got my baby and gone

Mystery Train , Written By Junior Parker, 1953

I have greatly admired Greil Marcus‘s writings for 45 plus years. He has stamped an indelible¬†impression on my musical taste and interpretation. I thank him from the bottom of the music of our heart for all he has shared and communicated.

I first discovered Greil Marcus in the record review section of Rolling Stone in the folded newspaper days (1968). His reviews contained an innate sensibility of the artist’s musical intent. He immediately understood what the music was accomplishing and communicated that knowledge directly to the reader. He transitioned the audio experience to the printed word effortlessly which has never been easy to articulate.

I bought his first book, Rock and Roll Will Stand in the summer of 69. He initiated my rock music book collection. I found his writing frank, honest and compelling. He cultivated my interest in the live concert idiom. I have been to 400+ concerts since that time. You might say he was a strong early influence for me.

The Greil Marcus book I treasure the most is Mystery Train. The first edition was published in 1975.  I continue to marvel even after the fifth edition (2008) how well the author informs the reader with its focused range of subjects from Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Band, Randy Newman, and Sly Stone.

I wrote about Greil Marcus in December of 2011 when he published The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years (2011) . Here is that earlier blog post.

The Doors