Memphis, New Orleans and Nashville are home to centuries of American music history, from soulful spirituals to Dolly Parton and, of course, Elvis Presley. Music fan Carmel, who produces our brochures, discovered these charismatic cities on our tour.
This holiday makes you feel like you’re living through music history. You can “Put on your blue suede shoes” and go “Walking in Memphis” with Springsteen, follow the route the devil took down to Georgia or tap along to ‘Duelling Banjos’ as you pass by the Appalachian Mountains and ‘Deliverance’ country.
Foodies won’t be disappointed either. There’s New Orleans for Gumbo and Jambalaya, Memphis for THE best ribs (smothered in smoky Deep South sauce) and the obligatory, mouth-watering Nashville steak. And all washed down with a lethal ‘Hurricane’ cocktail, frozen margaritas and/or lashings of ice cool beer!
Most of all, this tour is a must for music lovers – whether you love Jazz, R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Gospel, Bluegrass, or my personal favourite, Country (yee haw!). From the French quarter of New Orleans, straight through Mississippi State, to Tennessee – home to both Memphis and Nashville – music is everywhere, including the streets. The only drawback is that you can’t possibly visit ALL the bars/clubs/honky tonks. You can step straight into music history, though, at the legendary pilgrimage spots for all serious music fans – Sun Studio, Studio B, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium (original home of The Grand Ole Opry) and, of course, Graceland.
Elvis’s home reveals some fascinating facts, such as his penchant for using different lighting to record different genres. Gospel was always recorded under bright white lights, R&B under blue, and perhaps most telling of all was recording ‘Are you Lonesome tonight?’ in total darkness. In fact, the sound right at the end of the one-take recording is Elvis hitting his head on the microphone.
Graceland itself is quite a modest sized building (although the furnishings are anything but!). Rooms such as The Jungle Room – full of animal prints and wooden jungle animals – have to be seen to be fully appreciated. Elvis used this room as a recording studio and had it carpeted throughout (even the walls) to help with the acoustics. Visiting the house is on the ‘bucket list’ of every true Elvis fan, and it’s a poignant experience because Elvis is also buried in the grounds.
Another poignant note is touching on the US Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 60s. You can follow the progress of Martin Luther King from the Montgomery bus boycott (sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks) through to his assassination at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis. During time in Memphis we visited The National Civil Rights Museum, where the history of the struggle to end segregation is also very well documented.
There’s something for everyone on this trip – from amazing food to fascinating history – but for many, it will all be about the music. Time to go? “It’s now or never”!