Following the Blues Highway
Clarksdale (home of the Blues) free concert on the street; Blues museum; Rock and Blues museum; Red's Juke Joint jam night
Memphis Sun Studios; Graceland; Stax Studios;
|The Man in Black|
Nashville Ryman Theatre; the Grand Ole Opry; Emmylou Harris concert at the Ryman; Johnny Cash Museum; Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
|Emmylou Harris at the 125 year old Ryman theatre|
If all the hours we've spent following the Highway 61 Blues Trail through to the home of Country music were laid end to end, they would add up to the number of different Southern craft brewed IPAs we've drunk. I would add that those hours have been exceptionally well spent and the IPAs very well drunk. Though Amanda insists I note some IPAs are only wheat beer masquerading as IPA.
Without exception the museums are interesting, informative and absorbing.
|Stage at the Grand Ole Opry|
At Sun Studio we had an enthusiastic Zac walking us through the history of the label and sharing rare musical gems, such as the first recorded rock and roll song - Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats with Ike Turner on vocals - released in 1951. Sun has other premises but the original studio is still functional, recording everyone from Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis on through to U2, Def Leppard, Bennie Raitt and Ringo Starr.
Satellite records was established in 1959 and in 1961 became Stax, owned and run by the white brother and sister team of Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. It's situated in what was, and still is, a largely black area of Memphis. Jim and Estelle saw no colour and welcomed all comers.
The label's house band was Booker T and the MGs (two white artists and two black) and Stax recorded what is essentially the history of rockabilly and country through rhythm and blues. I mention race and colour as snippets of video show artists talking about there being no black and white at Stax, even though there was still a divide in the commumity. Remember this before the any civil rights legislation. After the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis on April 4th 1968, things changed, and many attribute the subsequent closure of Stax in 1974 to this event.
Aside from the huge range of music memorabilia (and history lessons!) the display includes Isaac Hayes' gold plated 1972 Cadillac, complete with fur lined interior, fridge and tv. Who da man? Can you dig it?
|Isaac Hayes gold plated Cadillac|
|The future of blues guitar|
For all the excellence of the museums, we are unanimous in voting the night at Red's Juke Joint in Clarksdale the best night ever. We had arrived in Clarksdale at the tail end of the annual Juke Joint festival (http://www.jukejointfestival.com/) which attracts Blues fans from all over the world. Accommodation for 2019 is already booking out, though to be fair Clarksdale is tiny (pop 16,000) and there's not a lot of options. So the Sunday night sees Red's host the Juke Joint Jam, where musicians in town come in, put their names down and jam the night away.
Red's is run down and has a down at heel charm; there's so much cigarette smoke and beer in the fabric of the walls it's like that's all that's holding it together. Punters ($7 at the door) are jammed in, beer is $5 and the only choice, you grab a bit of space where you can, settle in and buckle up for the best music you've heard since Jim Hendrix and Eric Clapton hit the scene. Standing there in his striped t-shirt, cap on, too young to drink, a 16 year old still with braces on his teeth blows the room apart. This is what we came for.
|Red's jam session|