I’m a huge music fan, I spent my childhood and youth listening to anything I could get my hands on. Growing up in a small part of Australia, however, there was so little connection to the music of Tennessee. That music that changed the world through Blues, Soul, Country and of course, Rock and Roll. Sure we all knew the chords and lyrics to every song, some were even part of the soundtrack to our lives, but it was so hard to feel these songs and understand what they really meant. The Music in Tennessee completely changed me, after vagabonding the world for ten years these kind of experiences are few and far between. For the first time in a long time I felt the music.
Elvis is King. I was never a fan before I visited Graceland, but obviously knew all of his songs. A tour through Elvis’ home is a tour through his life, from country boy to an icon that will live forever. Everything has been kept exactly the same way as he had it, the excessive and luxurious life of the first rock star. This was not what he had set to become though, he did it for the love of music and the burning desire to play on stage to make girls scream. He fell in love, raised a family and later on succumbed to the sins of fame and fortune. All the while, his music told the story of his life, right up until his death. On the way out of Graceland you pass his grave, and that of his parents and grandmother. However you don’t leave his home with a sense of sadness of the first fallen rock star, you leave one thing, Elvis Lives.
2. Sun Studio
Sun Studio is the birth place of Rock and Roll. Under the guidance of the legendary producer Sam Phillips, Sun Studio changed the world. It’s where Elvis broke out with his recording of ‘That’s Alright’, where Carl Perkins sung ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, where Jerry Lee Lewis hammered out ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and then put out his cigar on the piano, and where a new type of the blues were born through B.B. King. Nothing has changed in Sun Studio in the fifty years since those watershed moments in music history.
3. Beale Street, Memphis
From the 1920s to the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and B.B. King and other blues and jazz legends played on Beale Street to develop the style known as Memphis Blues. Today, some of these legends and their descendants still play on Beale Street. A night here is huge, you crawl from venue to venue inhaling the vibe of each band or musician as you go. The neon signs give an aura and a sense of soul to each step along this historic strip.
4. Country Music Hall of Fame
Before visiting Nashville I knew nothing of Country Music, when I left, I left with playlists full of albums I had never heard of, but now loved. The Country Music Hall of Fame takes you through the tales of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and all of the inducted legends. It walks you through the roots of Country Music through to how it became perfect art of story telling.
5. The Grand Ole Opry
This is the show that made Country Music famous, more than that, it’s one of the longest running live radio broadcasts in world history. Since 1925 the Grand Ole Opry has run a stage show of acts ranging from the legends of Country Music to up and coming acts. The night I was there Little Jimmy Dickens performed, who at 94 is the oldest living Opry member and inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The atmosphere as he played and then the standing ovation of ten thousand people was all encompassing. I was swept into, what was for me, an entire new world of music.