Se ha denunciado esta presentación.
Utilizamos tu perfil de LinkedIn y tus datos de actividad para personalizar los anuncios y mostrarte publicidad más relevante. Puedes cambiar tus preferencias de publicidad en cualquier momento.

*TRAVEL

220 visualizaciones

Publicado el

  • Inicia sesión para ver los comentarios

  • Sé el primero en recomendar esto

*TRAVEL

  1. 1. MATTHEW S. ROBINSON 62 Brookline Street, Needham, MA 02492 617 877 6264 / matthewsrobinson@mac.com The following piece appeared in Travel Weekly: Bringing the Music Back New Orleans is already rising from the hurricanes and looking to party! By Matt Robinson Though Katrina and Rita took a big bite out of the Crescent City, New Orleans is on its way back. According to New Orleans City Council, 1,270,000 of the metro area’s 1,417.000 have already returned and normalcy is beginning to poke its head out. The city’s world-famous festival of Mardi Gras was a huge success this year, with an estimated crowd of 800,000 and area hotels reporting a 95 percent occupancy rate throughout the last weekend of the pre-Lenten bacchanal blowout. As tourism accounts for 35 percent of the city’s annual operating budget, it is more important than ever that people come back to the Crescent City. Fortunately, there is plenty for them to do when they =get there! On the weekend of April 27-29 and May 4-6, 2007, hundreds of local artists, chefs, craftspeople and revelers and thousands of visitors from all over the world will gather at the famed New Orleans Fair Grounds for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (www.nojazz.org) - a week of music, muffaletta and merriment. From local legends like Dr. John, Pete Fountain, Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, Harry Connick, Jr., Rebirth Brass Band, and Allen Toussaint and Tab Benoit (who were both recently featured in the IMAX documentary “Hurricane on the Bayou”) to imported stars like George Thoroughgood, Bonnie Raitt, Steely Dan, Ludacris, Norah Jones, and an even newer New Edition, ‘Fest will show off all New Orleans has to offer while drawing talent from all corners of the music world. “A lot of the artists who come from other places may not have that soul connection,” says Festival associate producer Louis Edwards, “but they have all played here before and have helped the Festival gain the prominence it has. So it is all good!” Whether you like old-fashioned Gospel, down-home Blues, native Cajun or good old Rock n’ Roll, ‘Fest has all you need for a good time! “It is overwhelming how our musical family has rallied to our cause,” says Festival producer Quint Davis. “They are all committed to returning to be a part of the renewal of our spirit.”
  2. 2. With all this entertainment, it is hard to believe that tickets to Fest are only $45 ($35 if purchased ahead of time)! For those who wish to make their Fest experience extra special, Big Chief VIP packages offer admission, program guides, access to special viewing areas (most of which offer their own private Southern “comfort stations”), and, perhaps most importantly, access to an air-conditioned lounge with its own restrooms. In addition to the “all good” music, Fest also offers scores of local artists who work in all manner of media to create Folk, African, and Contemporary art. “The Festival is a celebration of Louisiana culture,” Edwards explains. “We want to let people know that New Orleans is back and that the culture is back and that they can come have a great time in a great city.” That ‘Fest did not miss a season despite the destruction all around the fabled Fair Grounds Race Course on which it has been held year after year since 1972 demonstrates the strength of this beautiful city and the spirit of the people who live and work there. “It marks the hard-earned comeback of the city,” Edwards suggests. Though numbers were down last year, the spirit of Fest was high, as 350,000 music and culture fans and literally thousands of local and international artists, and artisans gathered at the Fair Grounds and throughout the rebuilding city for two weeks of music, food and laissez-faire fun. In the process, they brought over $200 million of desperately- needed business and support to the area. “Some people like to go from stage to stage getting all the variety from Cajun and Zydeco to Gospel to Blues to Rock and Roll,” Edwards observes. “Other folks know exactly what they want to see. They wait all year for this and they love every minute of it!” And for those minutes when you are not at the Festival, New Orleans has plenty of other things to offer. From the Audubon Zoo to Zydeco bands all over town, New Orleans is an alphabet soup (or is that gumbo?) of activities for young and old. When not at the festival site, many tourists and locals gather in the French Quarter to listen and dance at the historic Preservation Hall (www.preservationhall.com), or just to take in the post Mardi Gras glories of the neighborhood’s storied streets where Jazz and Zydeco can be heard at nearly every hour of the day and night. If you’ve had too much dancing (too much dancing?!), you can travel through the historic neighborhood in the back of a horse-drawn carriage or on a Gray Line bus (www.graylineneworleans.com). When the sun begins to set, take one of Marie Laveau’s famous “Voodoo tours” (www.neworleansvoodoocrossroads.com). And if you are feeling really adventurous, book a trip on an airboat through the Bayou (www.louisianaswamp.com) or climb on board the historic Natchez for a steamboat ride down the mighty Mississippi (www.steamboatnatchez.com). If the animals on Bourbon Street are a bit too wild for your tastes, check out the world-famous Audubon Zoo or the Aquarium of the Americas (www.auduboninstitute.org). Hungry? New Orleans is one of the best places to find yourself in such a state, for in addition to being one of the nation’s (and the world’s) musical Meccas, New Orleans is also one of the greatest dining cities in the world. As such, the Big Easy is an easy place to pack on the pounds…and love it!
  3. 3. According to a recent study by The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), 1,650 of the roughly 3,400 restaurants in the metro area are open, including 65 brand new openings! If you want just a li’l sum’n, drop by for beignets at Café du Monde (www.cafedumonde.com) - an open-air coffee shop where you can watch the fried dough delicacies being made and eat them hot off the rack! In the mood for lunch? Then grab a Po’Boy at Napoleon House (www.napoleonhouse.com) - a corner café that was once lived in by you-know-who. The French Quarter is also home to a great farmer’s market where local produce, shellfish, coffee and other treats await. As some of the world’s best chefs make their home in New Orleans, there is always a sensation to savor, whether it be at Paul Prudhomme’s K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (www.kpauls.com), Emeril Lagasse’s similarly eponymous place (www.emerils.com), or the original Ruth’s Chris Steak House (www.ruthschris.com). If you want more of a taste of old New Orleans, reserve a table at Brennan’s (www.brennansneworleans.com), the birthplace of bananas foster (see the website for the recipe!), celebrate the first 100 years of Galatoire’s (www.galatoires.com) or take a pre-meal tour of Antoine’s (www.antoines.com). For a lighter bite (perhaps a mid-afternoon snack), try Po’Boys at Domilise’s or Guy’s or for a breakfast-y kind of meal, you can’t beat The Bluebird Café (www.bluebirdcaferi.com). After dinner, you might want to head back to Bourbon Street to catch the leather- clad dueling pianos (and world-famous Hurricanes) at Pat O’Briens (www.patobriens.com) or to witness the legendary entertainer Chris Owens (www.chrisowens.com). For those who just can’t get enough music, there is the legendary Tipitina’s and Tip’s Uptown (www.tipitinas.com), The Howlin Wolf (www.howlin-wolf.com), and New Orleans’ take on the House of Blues (www.hob.com). With last year’s successful campaign by the Saints and the return of professional basketball to the area, this hub of the sportsman’s paradise of Louisiana has also reclaimed its placed as a place to watch or play your favorite sports. Of course, the jewel of the city is the completely rebuilt and refurbished Superdome (www.superdome.com), but there are plenty of other parks and venues. One noted sportsman who made sure to come back to New Orleans was boxing champion Bernard Hopkins, who trained last year that the Sheraton New Orleans. “My conditioning coach Mackie Shilstone is from there,” Hopkins explains, “and I thought it would be great to be there for him and to uplift the spirits of the New Orleans people. The publicity New Orleans received by having me train there for one of the biggest fights of my career helped the rest of the country know that New Orleans is alive, vibrant and making its way back to what it used to be.” Another grand attraction that has already brought thousands back to the city is the completely refurbished 357,500 square-foot Morial Convention Center (www.mccno.com). After a $60 million renovation, the Center is once again ready to welcome visitors from around the world and is already gearing up for the city’s largest convention ever- the 25,000-person National Association of Realtors convention that will take place from November 10-13, 2007. From the American College of Cardiology (March 23-27) to the American College of Sports Medicine (May 29-June 2) to the
  4. 4. International Association of Chiefs of Police (October 13-17) to scores of other events, the Center is already nearly fully booked for the rest of the year! For the more culturally minded, the nation’s only museum dedicated to WW II (www.ddaymuseum.org) offers a stirring historical perspective on the second Great War and is currently mounting an exhibit on famed Jewish author Anne Frank. The world- renown New Orleans Museum of Art (www.noma.org) features local artists like Clarence John Laughlin and international stars like Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Manet, and Toulouse-Lautrec. On a slightly less serious tip is the new musical “Hats” at Harrah’s Casino (www.harrahs.com). As for getting around, the 28 bus lines and the world-famous streetcars are running, providing an average of 23,000 rides daily. As such, Fest-ers and other visitors can still get from the Fairgrounds to the French Quarter (and many other places as well) with little trouble and, if they want to live in the bliss of ignorance, little evidence of the storm. However, opportunities abound for those who wish to combine the nation’s most important business with their pleasure, as organizations like Habitat for Humanity (www/habitat.org), Hands-On Gulf Coast (www.handsongulfcoast.org) and The American Red Cross (www.usa.redcross.org) can easily put you in touch with people and places in need, if only for a soul-cleansing day. “A weekend or a day is not too little,” says Jeanne Ellinport, director of communications for the American Red Cross’s hurricane recovery program. “There is a lot to be done, but every little bit helps.” “Volunteers that come to New Orleans to volunteer with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity [can] commit as much or as little time as they want,” adds New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity’s communications director Aleis Tusa., noting that a “typical” day with Habitat runs from 7:30 Am to 2:30 PM. “This gives volunteers time to rest, clean up and enjoy the city and all the area has to offer.” With nearly 50 homes in production, there is plenty to do and opportunities for people of every ability and skill level. “On the construction site,” Tusa explains, “volunteers are organized based on their interest. We have some who want to do more physical work and they usually are committed to roofing, raising walls, or building floor systems. Some prefer to paint, hang sheetrock or work on the interiors. Whatever their interest, we usually can find a task for them to work on.” No matter what you do to help, though, the experience will benefit not only the people who will eventually move back to the area but those who helped them do it as well. “I will say the best thing about volunteering on your vacation is that you get to give back and help out and still enjoy all the area has to offer,” Tusa says. For those who have stayed in the city or returned after their hurricaned exile, there are also efforts underway to rebuild from the inside. Among these is the Musician’s Village, a rebuilding project that is being spearheaded by local sons Harry Connick, Jr. and the Marsalis family. “Music is as much a part of the fabric of life in New Orleans as the cuisine and Mardi Gras,” says Branford Marsalis. “It is central to the city’s culture...and to the city’s infrastructure.”
  5. 5. “Since music is what we know,” Connck adds, “we felt we could be most effective by helping musicians.” And help they are! From housing to a music school, Marsalis, Connick, and such legendary friends as Clint Eastwood and members of the Dave Matthews Band are band-ing together to help their friends and colleagues. “A true community…is the model that works,” says NFL star and Musician’s Village participant Andy Lee. “The Village sends a message that, musician or…citizen, it is safe to come back!” Though the levees are broken, the spirit of the city is not. After a temporary exile, thousands of native N’awlins are coming back and invite you to join them, either for ‘Fest or any time! “I worked from the levees breaking until now to return to my home,” says Mark Samuels of New Orleans’ own Basin Street Records. “Although this is a very frustrating place to try to live right now, it is still a lot of fun, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else!”
  6. 6. The following piece appeared in The San Antonio Express-News: A City for the Ages From students to seniors- Austin has what you want By Matt Robinson As I recently entered my mid-30’s, you can imagine the surprise when I received a card not from my mom or dad, but from the American Association of Retied Persons, otherwise known as AARP. Retired?! I’m a freelance writer! I don’t even have a job! But I did have an idea! A few months back, I had heard about a great tour to Austin that was hosted by an organization called Road Scholar (www.roadscholar.org). Though it is a unit of acclaimed educational travel organization ElderHostel, the new group is intended for people who are not quite ready to retire yet who want to see the world at a comfortable pace. Having just gotten off hernia surgery, a slowed-down tour of this capital city seemed to be a smart move. Boy was it ever! From top notch hotels to meals at all the best places, to guided tours of the “Austin City Limits” studio and the University of Texas, to live performances and private concerts by some of the area’s most legendary musicians, this tour gave a solid taste of Austin at a pace that even a new AARP card carrier could handle! For the Yung’uns Despite my injury, I wanted to get out and explore Austin as much as possible. So the first night of the trip, after my fellow travelers had gone to bed, weary from two-stepping at The Broken Spoke, I ventured back out of our plush digs at The Driskill Hotel to the world-famous wilds of Sixth Street. As I strolled along the club-clogged thoroughfare, I met coeds and recent grads from all walks (or stumbles) of life. Passing such venues as The Chuggin’ Monkey (made famous from its appearances on MTV’s “The Real World”) and Austin’s version of the dance-on-the-bar chain Coyote Ugly, I was overwhelmed by the mix of sights, sounds and smells (some more pleasant than others) that wafted down the seven-block stretch of paved party. From Jazz to Punk to Country to Blues to Rock, Sixth Street had something for everyone. And even if you didn’t want to dance,
  7. 7. the bars and restaurants were more than enough to keep the hundreds of college students who flooded the famed party lane each night fueled and lubricated. Growing Up As the University of Texas has over 50,000 students (making it the second largest student population in the nation, next to Boston), it is easy to see why so many venues would cater to this demographic. As Austin is also the home of such corporations as Dell and Whole Foods (the flagship store of which weighs in at over 80,000 square feet!), I knew there had to be places for people who were between graduation and retirement. Whereas Sixth Street is a straight shot, the nearby Warehouse District consists of a series of blocks of (you guessed it!) renovated warehouses. While the vibe is a bit more mature, the choices are no less abundant. From quiet coffee shops to swanky martini bars to legendary music venues like Antone’s (the long-time home base for the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and other Blues greats), the District offers a more sophisticated yet no less fun set of drinking, dining, and entertainment options. Instead of ball caps and ripped jeans, the apparent dress code for the District was silky dresses and starched shirts. Though few venues require them, as Austin can tend to cool off at night (weather-wise, that is), your boyfriend/husband’s sportcoat can come in handy for both of you. But keeping the night hot is no problem in this active party block, as the music spills through nearly every door, making it easy to scoot from place to place late into the night…which I did! Feeling My Age By the third morning, I was a bit bleary-eyed, but coherent enough to appreciate lectures by local historians like Larry Willoughby and John Wheat, who explained how Austin came to be the “live music capital of the world” and how the capital of the Republic of Texas had encouraged such great cultural and musical diversity. “Lines really get blurred in terms of genres,” commented tour leader Gavin Garcia, a music professor and school at administrator at UT. In addition to daily discussions with area scholars and residents, the Road Scholar trip offered in-hotel performances by Grammy-winning pianist Floyd Domino and conjunto artist Rodolfo Lopez, bringing to the sounds of the city to us! Not that getting around is such a challenge, however. Thanks to the ‘Dillo trolleys and the Capital Metro bus system, tourists and locals alike can get to many popular places for free or, in the case of the busses, for $.50 per ride. Another benefit of the great Austin music scene is that, as there are so many talented performers in town, many clubs offer music starting much earlier than in other cities. Where else can you see Merle Haggard’s favorite guitarist Redd Volkaert at 3 PM on a Saturday or Blues legend W. C. Clark in full jam at 7 PM? Even for the early bird set, Austin has plenty to offer! Extra-musical Activities While Austin may be known for its music scene, there are plenty of things to do either before, after or instead of catching a band.
  8. 8. Among these are Austin’s many museums. From the scale-model us in the lobby of The Austin Children’s Museum to a rare Gutenberg Bible, Vivien Leigh’s “curtain” dress from “Gone with the Wind” and what is claimed to be the first ever photograph at The Harry Ransom Center to the five-story, IMAX-equipped Museum of Texas History to LBJ’s official library (which is open and free to the public 364 days a year), there is a wide array of artistic and archival offerings in Austin. Even the capital building (the largest in the nation) is fun to walk through, if only to see a painting of W. in his younger If the outdoors are more your scene, Austin offers Pease Park and a long and winding bike path along the Colorado River that passes by the Stevie Ray Vaughan memorial statue and under the nation’s largest urban bat colony. If you hit it right, you can see over 1.5 million bats rushing out for their sunset feed. It is truly a sight to behold- and you can see it and be back to the hotel (or the club) in time for bed (or the next set). No matter how old you are or how old you may feel, Austin has plenty to do and plenty of beautiful places to not do. So whether you are a Spring Breaker or a Road Scholar, a trip to Austin is a capital idea! If you go: Where to stay: The Driskill Hotel Built in 1886 by its namesake cattle baron, this one-of-a-kind hotel features alabaster chandeliers, a “forest” of cast iron columns, and 189 uniquely-designed rooms - all in the heart of downtown! How to get around: The ‘Dillo is a FREE trolley service provided by the city. Routes vary. The Capital Metro also offers bus service to many popular locations, including the airport, all for $.50 a ride! Who can show you around: www.roadscholar.org
  9. 9. The following piece appeared in The Epoch Times: Sweet Routes Old Town Trolley Co. provides delicious fun for lovers…and others By Matthew S. Robinson From the Freedom Trail to the MBTA, Boston has lots of ways for locals and visitors to get around. Come Winter, however, many of these routes become as congested as the new Big Dig tunnels and many folks become even more discouraged to venture out. Fortunately, there is a new reason to come out of hibernation a little bit early next year. Hosted by the Old Town Trolley company (www.historictours.com/Boston), The Boston Chocolate Tour is a narrated trolley and walking tour that takes participants to some of Boston’s most delicious destinations. Along the way, OTT’s knowledgeable tour guides and costumed hosts also explain Boston’s unique place in the history of the world’s favorite sweet. “This area has such an identification with candy,” says OTT GM Matthew Murphy. “From Toll House Cookies being created in Whitman and the NECCO Company in Cambridge, there is so much about the Boston area that links to chocolate.” From the birthplace of Boston Cream Pie (The Omni Parker House Hotel) to Boston’s loftiest restaurant (The Prudential Center’s famed Top of the Hub) to the biggest all- chocolate buffet around (The Langham Hotel), the unique tour allows guests to sample some of the most historic chocolate desserts ever assembled. And as most of the tour is conducted in the climate-controlled trolleys or in the restaurants themselves, the Tour serves as a comfortable and coddling vacation from even the coldest New England Winter day. Murphy goes so far as to suggest the Chocolate Tour as an alternative to going to a matinee or a big dinner in one of Boston’s other famed gastronomic venues. “It is unlike any other dining or theatrical experience you can have in Boston,” he says, “or anywhere else!” As such, Murphy says, it is a great event for tourists and locals alike. “As it started around Valentine’s Day, we get plenty of couples,” Murphy says, “but we also get a lot of groups of women who do it together as a girl’s day out. We even had one person propose marriage on the tour!” And while it may not be as academically-minded as some of OTT’s other offerings (such as the Sons and Daughters of Liberty tour, which is intended for school-age children), the Chocolate Tour is at least as much fun! “It’s an amazing afternoon,” Murphy says. “And it really helps Winter go by faster!” The Boston Chocolate Tour runs from January through April. For more information, go to www.historictours.com/Boston or call 6 1 7 - 2 6 9 - 3 6 2 6.
  10. 10. The following piece appeared in Natural Traveler: Natural Traveler No particular place to go: An American musical tour A musical tour of America. By Matt Robinson Sounded like a good idea at the time. Go to places where the scene is hot and see what I can see (or hear, I guess). But why was I really going? By the time I got back, I would have been freelancing full- time for four months, I'd be almost halfway to 29 and I would hopefully still have a job offer from D.C. and another one brewing closer to home. Home. Boston. Massachusetts. I had lived in this state nearly all of my life. Sure, I had traveled, but not as much as I wanted to. And certainly not through my own country. It was time to take that rite of passage. To get out of town and go! This was to be my personal, hopefully musical odyssey. Day 1: A sort of homecoming I hadn't been back to Penn since my stepfather's 40th reunion in 1997. That this was also my first reunion was a bit of icing, but spoiled by the fact that I was literally the only member of my class to attend. Campus had changed a lot, or so I had heard. What better place to start my journey? After all, the Philly Sound was easily argued to be the source of rock and American Bandstand had corralled Jersey kids by the truckload into the City of Brotherly Love for years. Sure! Philly was to be step one. Unfortunately, Philly don't swing much on a Monday. There was a Labor Day block party setting up, but not much in the way of live music. Neither The Electric Factory nor TLA were open. Simply put, the city was as dead as the brass plaques commemorating the heroes of that all-but-forgotten Philly Sound. As is often the case, however, I found what I was looking for in an unexpected place. During my revisit to Penn's campus, I discovered a slice of musical history that had laid dormant during my four years there. Throughout my time at Penn, Irvine Auditorium
  11. 11. (http://www.upenn.edu/curtisorgan/irvine.html) was infamous for its poor acoustics and never quite finished aesthetics. Now, after I had been gone a few years (of course), it had been reborn as part of the new multi-building conglomerate known as the Perelman Quadrangle. As part of its rebirth, Irvine had been finally painted, reappointed and acoustically righted and now shone like the spired beacon it was meant to be. Or had it always been that way? When I was at Penn, Irvine was rarely used. A few drafty film screenings and the occasional academic event and that was it. During my visit, however, I discovered that Irvine had long had a storied history as one of Philadelphia's preeminent music halls. From Duke Ellington to Roxy Music, they had come to wow Penn alums and local music fans alike. Though all that was left of these inspiring performances were the newly displayed posters, that even they had returned hinted at future promise. O that Irvine might shine again! But enough sentimentality, I was on a voyage and could not afford to get stuck on the first step. Day 2: Pitt Pop Heading due west, I stopped briefly at Hershey, PA (a guy's gotta eat!) before crossing one of the three rivers into Pittsburgh. Though it was still too early in the week to shake the rust off the Steel City, there was a stop to be made which was of significant importance. Significant enough, at least, to warrant sitting through a Pirates game afterwards, in an effort to while away the hours until it was time to hit the road again. Who was this amazing artist? Well, while perhaps not so much of an "artist" in the musical sense (though he certainly had a hand and foot in that realm too) local boy Andy Warhol is undeniably one of the most significant shapers of the Pop aesthetic. And while most may know Andy (or claim to know him) as the Campbell's Soup can guy, his musical aspirations and innovations were impressive to say the least. As producer, cover artist and impresario, Warhol made a mark that has lasted for much longer than his own 15 minutes. And at the Andy Warhol Museum (http://www.warhol.org), much of his work was on display for his fans to cherish and for the uninitiated to learn from. From a platinum album from The Cars to his (in)famous cover to the Stones' "Sticky Fingers," the Museum offered a solid glimpse into Warhol's extra-palette-ular activities. Throughout the permanent collection were photos of Andy with musical friends like Deborah Harry, Rick Ocasek and, of course, The Velvet Underground, with whom he worked closely and on many levels. Though there may have been no official soundtrack to the exhibit, the music was loud and clear. Day 3: On the road again Originally, I had planned to make my way towards Nashville, but to take my time and stop along the
  12. 12. way, so as to not drive too long or too hard. This was, after all, my first trip of this magnitude, and I was still getting used to what I was up for. However, when I heard that John Mayall was giving a free show in Music City, I dropped the clutch (okay, so it's an automatic) and headed for Music Row East (or was it West?). While passing through Cincinnati, I came upon a surprising musical find. No, I did not discover the true home of WKRP. Instead, I found what I thought I would have found in Philadelphia. Rising out of the trees on a highway embankment were those two unmistakable letters, "AB," as in American Bandstand. It was not the famed warehouse, but it was as close as I was going to get on this trip. Dick Clark's American Bandstand Café is a theme restaurant similar to The Hard Rock Café. Loaded with concert paraphernalia, much of which belonged to Mr. Clark himself, the Café offered the typical standard fare at slightly exorbitant prices, all in the name of commercialized nostalgia. From Billy Joel's blazer and Madonna's derby hat to a golden 45 presented to Richard Pryor, the collection was impressively diverse. Unfortunately, there was not a bobby-soxer in sight. Instead, tourists and local business folk were eating and talking in relative radio silence, largely unaware of the history around them. When I got to Nashville (http://www.nashvillecvb.com), the streets were hopping. I had finally hit a sweet spot and was ready to drink it all in! The outdoor show was part of Nashville's Uptown Mix series which has also brought the likes of Delbert McClinton and Tom Hambridge down from Music Row. Tonight's triple bill was opened by Ron La Salle, a thumping, acoustic-led country act, whose Gregg Allman-y twang was a bit too much for my northern ears but whose music was very danceable, even for someone who had been almost eight hours on the road. During the middle act, I took a break to get to know my local host and some of the many fine people (read women) of Nashville. Sure are a friendly bunch! Unfortunately, it was easy to tell that I was in the Tobacco Belt because, even at an outdoor venue, the smoke was somethin' else! When Mr. Mayall and his latest Bluesbreakers took the stage, however, the smoke cleared (poetically speaking, at least) and the Nashville night rang with the sounds of real live Blues. To see a legend of Mayall's stature up close (not to mention for FREE) was absolutely a treat! I had found what I had come for, and I had only been in town a few hours! Day 4: Opry-land The next day, I got up early and hit the town. First stop Hatch Print Shop (http://www.halloffame.org/hatch/today). What a place! From Johnny Cash to Morphine, these guys have done it all, and all BY HAND! Under the watchful (silhouetted) eye of Bruce Springsteen, the original presses were still there and still humming, to the tune of 600 individually carved posters a
  13. 13. year and to the delight of over 25,000 visitors. Around the corner is the Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry (http://www.ryman.com). Though the Opry has since moved across town to a larger and much more contemporary establishment, the Ryman still shone with the history and grace that made it one of the world's great music halls. As people stood on the stage to have their pictures taken with a replica of the original mike used since 1891, when Captain Thomas Ryman opened the hall as a tabernacle for his friend and religious leader Sam Jones, I walked along the perimeter, checking out the artifacts from the likes of Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff and . . . Tony Bennett? A block away was the brand new, $37 million Country Music Hall of Fame (http://www.halloffame.org). Though the admission seemed a bit steep ($15 for adults with no breaks for traveling journalists) considering I only had about an hour until it closed that day, I did take a moment to marvel at the three-story-high collection of gold and platinum albums, arranged chronologically in the well-stocked gift shop. Just walking among the books, CDs and historical dioramas, which had been taken from the original Hall on Music Row was an education for a Yankee such as me, but the offering of a two-day pass confirmed my suspicions that, for many people, this place was Mecca. My second night in Nashville was to be a whirlwind tour of music. I started off at the 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill (http://www.3rdandlindsley.com). Though located in a strip mall in a neighborhood populated by adult entertainment establishments, the local talent club had an impressive roster, including the Wooten Brothers of Flecktone fame, who play there on Wednesdays. This being Thursday, we were treated instead to Lauren Lucas, a soul-educated rocker, who seemed as if she would be more at home in Memphis, yet who was still able to put out a passable cover of "Angel From Montgomery" as we headed out. Next stop- Printer's Alley. Once known as the hub of the music publishing trade, the Alley was now home to a number of theme-y honkytonks. Though most of the hosts/barkers were friendly, our hand- holding invitation into the newly opened Congo Square was too hard to resist. After winding through a carefully researched replica of New Orleans (so convincing that the mayor of The Big Easy officially authorized the club to host a Mardi Gras parade in Nashville), we came upon the submerged main stage where Toronto transplant Anthony Gomes was laying down some happy Blues. Though we came into the house band's version of another overplayed song (this time, "Lady Marmalade"), when the slender Strat slinger took the mic, his bright, soulfully pained licks and surprisingly rich Bolton-esque (but authentic) vocals reached out to the far corners of the drastically under-attended room. I headed across the Alley to Congo's longer-established sister club, The Bourbon Street Blues &
  14. 14. Boogie Bar (http://bourbonstblues.citysearch.com/1.html). Smaller and with far more of a forced theme feel, the heavily populated (and highly smoky) club rocked to the familiar covers and White Man Soul originals of Stacy Mitchhart and the Blues-U-Can-Use Band. Fronted by a sexy ebony sax and a full-lipped flugelhorn, the BUCU Band was supported by a crashy rhythm section and an almost acrobatic keyboard player. When Mr. Mitchhart brought his spangly Flying V to the stage, the room got a bit crazy, with some patrons going so far as to earn their beads in true Mardi Gras style. By way of a cool-down, I headed out of town a bit to another strip mall. There, in what had once been a drug store and popular teen hangout, sat The Bluebird Café (http://www.bluebirdcafe.com), a licensed but smoke-free coffee house which has been visited by everyone from Kim Carnes and Peter Case to Christine Lavin and Bonnie Raitt. Tonight, four local singer/songwriters faced off in a song swap in the round (er- square) as friends, family and fans looked, laughed and sang on. Though I may never hear of, or from, any of these four troubadours again, you never can tell. Day 5: How-dee! I still had a bit more time to explore Nashville, so after a quick run up and down Music Row, I headed out of town a ways to see The (new) Opry (http://www.opry.com). Though the hall itself was closed, the nearby museum gave a solid idea not only about the history of the Opry and its hundreds of talented members, but also about how the country music scene has shifted and grown over time. There was an exhibit about studio technology and how it has changed and the jukebox was set on endless play! Next door, the Opryland Hotel (http://www.oprylandhotelnashville.com) offered the largest enclosed garden in . . . well, they weren't quite sure. Let's just say it had its own river, made from 1,700 "flasks" of water (funny how they use that term) from over 25 countries. "It's an international river," said the friendly man in the maroon polyester blazer. As I wandered more or less lost through the expansive atrium, I met people from all over the world, all of whom had come to Nashville on their own pilgrimages, or perhaps for a convention. If nothing else, the hotel made for a great morning walk, and by the time I left, I felt invigorated and ready to continue my meandering quest. Day 6: Walkin' in Memphis Put on my brown leather shoes and I got in the car. Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues. And I didn't have to drive that far. Okay, so paraphrasing Marc Cohn's song "Walkin' in Memphis" was unavoidable as I pulled into Memphis (http://www.memphistravel.com). But in so many ways, he was right. Though I missed the woman who played piano every Friday at the Hollywood (a casino, as far as I could tell), when I hit Beale Street, I did seem to float a bit. Maybe it was just the relief after an aggravating ride in (route 240 is a pain in the ass), but I did feel something.
  15. 15. Before I got there, though, I had to make a couple of stops. Sun Studios (http://www.sunstudio.com). Founded by the legendary producer, Sam Phillips (the first man to record The King). The real birthplace of Elvis (and Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.). When I put my hand on that original doorknob and lead my tour group into the tiny but perfectly preserved one-room recording studio, a chill ran through me. There before me was the organ used by U2 for "When Love Comes to Town," the dusty Danelectros used by the likes of Paul Simon and Def Leppard and, in the corner, the original microphone used by a nervous young man named Elvis Aron Presley. Though it had been closed for nearly 30 years, even the smell remained. It was a special place indeed! Down the street a ways (again, after a few traffic-snarled attempts), I found Sam Phillips Recording Services (often referred to as "Sun II"). Unfortunately, nobody was recording that day, so all I got was a photo and some gum on my shoe. Ah well, off to Beale Street. My first stop on this magical half-mile of pedestrian paradise was the recently opened Rock and Soul Museum (http://www.memphisrocknsoul.org). In this rare partnership between the Gibson Guitar Company (whose factory houses the museum) and the Smithsonian, this not-just-for-tourists exhibition traced the history of Memphis music from sharecropper shouts to Hi Records hits. Along the way, the collection boasted authentic displays of Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" piano, The King's "Indian" jumpsuit and Isaac Hayes's hand-painted Oscar night cape. It was quite a trip! Downstairs, I was treated to a semi-private tour of the Gibson factory (http://www.gibson.com). Though not all stages of production have been moved from Nashville to Memphis, it was easy to see the hard work and personal pride that went into every new guitar, including a very rare blue "Lucille" model made expressly for another King, B.B. himself. Back out on the street, I was literally surrounded by juke joints, blues clubs and the sound of joyful music. From Elvis impersonators to local folks strumming guitars they had bought at Schwab's general store, you literally could not walk a block without being called in to hear a band. When it got time to eat, I found a real live soul food shop in "the bad part of town" and treated myself to some of the best eats I had ever had. (Sorry, Mom!) By 10 p.m., I was bluesed out and blissed out and decided to retire for the evening. Even as I drove away, though, I began to feel a bit of melancholy. I was really going to miss Memphis. Day 7 - The pearly gates Sunday morning in Memphis means one thing: Church. But not just any church. I was off to (hopefully) hear the Rev. Al Green. Yes- that Al Green! After getting lost (again), I found my way to the sacred parking lot on the honorary Rev. Al Green Road. As I entered, a public Sunday school session was just finishing and the congregation was
  16. 16. asking for its members and guests (who at the time outnumbered the congregants) to volunteer stories and thoughts. As this large group of guests, including people from as far away as Albania, few were up for being first. So after a spirited speech from one of the church's "missionaries," the choir took to their pews and the real service began. Coming from puritanical Boston, I was not used to much personal expression during a religious service. As a result, this Sunday morning concert was quite a shock to my sacred system. But let me tell you, it was one of the greatest concerts I had ever been to. The band was tight and the people were loose and at the end of each and every number, even the New England stiff deacon was up and dancing (or some attempt thereat). After a few rousing and rocking religious numbers, the news finally came that Rev. Green was not in the building. There was only one place to go to assuage my disappointment: Graceland (http://www.elvis.com/graceland). Whereas Rev. Green's church had been a site for music in its purest form, The King's church had become more of a musical factory. Though a prohibition on flash photography had preserved the body (or at least the trappings thereof), the home of Elvis Aron Presley had lost a great deal of its soul. Even the famous Jungle Room seemed tame. However, there were moments of real human intimacy amidst the lucite-cased artifacts. To see Elvis's devotion to his family and, if not his wife, his daughter (for whom he named his private 727) and to see remnants of the man behind the rhinestones did flesh out the story of a talented young man who was already quite fleshy when I became aware of him. And when I heard that one of The King's favorite films was "Blazing Saddles," I really felt a connection. As I pulled out of Memphis to the sound of The Allman Brothers on the radio, I knew that I was leaving a magical place, a place I would hope to return to someday. Day 8 - Finding a thrill It had been a long, hot week on the musical road and I needed a drink BAD! Where else to go but St. Louis; home of Anheuser-Busch? The brewery tour was quite an experience (http://www.budweisertours.com). I had visited the Sam Adams brewery in Boston a number of times, but nothing could prepare me for the millions of cans of Bud that literally surrounded me. When it was all over, I was treated to all the pretzels and lemonade I could drink. Did I miss something here? Anyhow, my next stop was the Jefferson Memorial Arch (http://www.stlouisarch.com). Though a bit claustrophobic, the tram ride up the south leg was an amazing trip and the view from the top was gorgeous! When I got down, however, I was a bit at a loss as to what to do next and began to debate the relative merits of pushing on to Chicago. After all, it was a Monday and even the bar-laden district by the River was pretty dead. The National Video Game Museum was closed and the local wax museum was very still indeed.
  17. 17. Before I could leave town, however, I got a call from my friend Laura Cohen, with Virgin Records in LA. When I told her where I was, she gave me some names and numbers of local contacts, all of whom directed me to one place. Right past the campus of Washington University is a funky pub called Blueberry Hill (http://www.blueberryhill.com). Hosting the personal collection of Joe and Linda Edwards, this restaurant/museum contains one of the most eclectic collections of music, sports and Simpsons paraphernalia I had ever seen. From the six Wurlitzer jukeboxes to a Chuck Berry autographed guitar, The Hill's collection put many Hard Rock Cafés to shame. As I sat in the front window typing away, I met a bunch of really nice local folks and ate a very tasty (and reasonably priced) Hill-burger. One woman even invited me to stay with her if I couldn't find any other places. I was surely not in Boston anymore, but that was the point! I was on my way back there, on that most musical of byways, Route 66. And as I passed that first lonely service station, bereft of billboards, vending machines or even asphalt, I knew I was on my way. Day 9 – The record skips The first plane hit at 7:55 Central Time. Day 10 – One last stop I was now in a race to get home. The world had been turned upside-down and Route 66 would have to wait. I had one more stop that I had to make, however. Rising like a crystal beacon on the edge of Lake Erie was I.M. Pei’s musical masterpiece _ The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. From Aerosmith’s induction film to ZZ Top’s Eliminator car, the Museum was a sight to behold. Four hours later, I emerged with a new appreciation of the music I had grown up with and loved and a head full of new songs to sing on my long drive back to Boston. All told, it was 3516 miles and nearly 63 hours in the car. But it was so much more. I had skipped a few towns and missed a few gigs, but that’s the thing about music- there’s always more. MATTHEW S. ROBINSON 62 Brookline Street, Needham, MA 02492 617 877 6264 / matthewsrobinson@mac.com The following piece appeared in Natural Traveler: Natural Traveler
  18. 18. No particular place to go: An American musical tour A musical tour of America. By Matt Robinson Sounded like a good idea at the time. Go to places where the scene is hot and see what I can see (or hear, I guess). But why was I really going? By the time I got back, I would have been freelancing full- time for four months, I'd be almost halfway to 29 and I would hopefully still have a job offer from D.C. and another one brewing closer to home. Home. Boston. Massachusetts. I had lived in this state nearly all of my life. Sure, I had traveled, but not as much as I wanted to. And certainly not through my own country. It was time to take that rite of passage. To get out of town and go! This was to be my personal, hopefully musical odyssey. Day 1: A sort of homecoming I hadn't been back to Penn since my stepfather's 40th reunion in 1997. That this was also my first reunion was a bit of icing, but spoiled by the fact that I was literally the only member of my class to attend. Campus had changed a lot, or so I had heard. What better place to start my journey? After all, the Philly Sound was easily argued to be the source of rock and American Bandstand had corralled Jersey kids by the truckload into the City of Brotherly Love for years. Sure! Philly was to be step one. Unfortunately, Philly don't swing much on a Monday. There was a Labor Day block party setting up, but not much in the way of live music. Neither The Electric Factory nor TLA were open. Simply put, the city was as dead as the brass plaques commemorating the heroes of that all-but-forgotten Philly Sound. As is often the case, however, I found what I was looking for in an unexpected place. During my revisit to Penn's campus, I discovered a slice of musical history that had laid dormant during my four years there. Throughout my time at Penn, Irvine Auditorium (http://www.upenn.edu/curtisorgan/irvine.html) was infamous for its poor acoustics and never quite finished aesthetics. Now, after I had been gone a few years (of course), it had been reborn as part of the new multi-building conglomerate known as the Perelman Quadrangle. As part of its rebirth, Irvine had been finally painted, reappointed and acoustically righted and now shone like the spired beacon it was meant to be.
  19. 19. Or had it always been that way? When I was at Penn, Irvine was rarely used. A few drafty film screenings and the occasional academic event and that was it. During my visit, however, I discovered that Irvine had long had a storied history as one of Philadelphia's preeminent music halls. From Duke Ellington to Roxy Music, they had come to wow Penn alums and local music fans alike. Though all that was left of these inspiring performances were the newly displayed posters, that even they had returned hinted at future promise. O that Irvine might shine again! But enough sentimentality, I was on a voyage and could not afford to get stuck on the first step. Day 2: Pitt Pop Heading due west, I stopped briefly at Hershey, PA (a guy's gotta eat!) before crossing one of the three rivers into Pittsburgh. Though it was still too early in the week to shake the rust off the Steel City, there was a stop to be made which was of significant importance. Significant enough, at least, to warrant sitting through a Pirates game afterwards, in an effort to while away the hours until it was time to hit the road again. Who was this amazing artist? Well, while perhaps not so much of an "artist" in the musical sense (though he certainly had a hand and foot in that realm too) local boy Andy Warhol is undeniably one of the most significant shapers of the Pop aesthetic. And while most may know Andy (or claim to know him) as the Campbell's Soup can guy, his musical aspirations and innovations were impressive to say the least. As producer, cover artist and impresario, Warhol made a mark that has lasted for much longer than his own 15 minutes. And at the Andy Warhol Museum (http://www.warhol.org), much of his work was on display for his fans to cherish and for the uninitiated to learn from. From a platinum album from The Cars to his (in)famous cover to the Stones' "Sticky Fingers," the Museum offered a solid glimpse into Warhol's extra-palette-ular activities. Throughout the permanent collection were photos of Andy with musical friends like Deborah Harry, Rick Ocasek and, of course, The Velvet Underground, with whom he worked closely and on many levels. Though there may have been no official soundtrack to the exhibit, the music was loud and clear. Day 3: On the road again Originally, I had planned to make my way towards Nashville, but to take my time and stop along the way, so as to not drive too long or too hard. This was, after all, my first trip of this magnitude, and I was still getting used to what I was up for. However, when I heard that John Mayall was giving a free show in Music City, I dropped the clutch (okay, so it's an automatic) and headed for Music Row East (or was it West?).
  20. 20. While passing through Cincinnati, I came upon a surprising musical find. No, I did not discover the true home of WKRP. Instead, I found what I thought I would have found in Philadelphia. Rising out of the trees on a highway embankment were those two unmistakable letters, "AB," as in American Bandstand. It was not the famed warehouse, but it was as close as I was going to get on this trip. Dick Clark's American Bandstand Café is a theme restaurant similar to The Hard Rock Café. Loaded with concert paraphernalia, much of which belonged to Mr. Clark himself, the Café offered the typical standard fare at slightly exorbitant prices, all in the name of commercialized nostalgia. From Billy Joel's blazer and Madonna's derby hat to a golden 45 presented to Richard Pryor, the collection was impressively diverse. Unfortunately, there was not a bobby-soxer in sight. Instead, tourists and local business folk were eating and talking in relative radio silence, largely unaware of the history around them. When I got to Nashville (http://www.nashvillecvb.com), the streets were hopping. I had finally hit a sweet spot and was ready to drink it all in! The outdoor show was part of Nashville's Uptown Mix series which has also brought the likes of Delbert McClinton and Tom Hambridge down from Music Row. Tonight's triple bill was opened by Ron La Salle, a thumping, acoustic-led country act, whose Gregg Allman-y twang was a bit too much for my northern ears but whose music was very danceable, even for someone who had been almost eight hours on the road. During the middle act, I took a break to get to know my local host and some of the many fine people (read women) of Nashville. Sure are a friendly bunch! Unfortunately, it was easy to tell that I was in the Tobacco Belt because, even at an outdoor venue, the smoke was somethin' else! When Mr. Mayall and his latest Bluesbreakers took the stage, however, the smoke cleared (poetically speaking, at least) and the Nashville night rang with the sounds of real live Blues. To see a legend of Mayall's stature up close (not to mention for FREE) was absolutely a treat! I had found what I had come for, and I had only been in town a few hours! Day 4: Opry-land The next day, I got up early and hit the town. First stop Hatch Print Shop (http://www.halloffame.org/hatch/today). What a place! From Johnny Cash to Morphine, these guys have done it all, and all BY HAND! Under the watchful (silhouetted) eye of Bruce Springsteen, the original presses were still there and still humming, to the tune of 600 individually carved posters a year and to the delight of over 25,000 visitors. Around the corner is the Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry (http://www.ryman.com). Though the Opry has since moved across town to a larger and much more contemporary establishment, the Ryman still shone with the history and grace that made it one of the
  21. 21. world's great music halls. As people stood on the stage to have their pictures taken with a replica of the original mike used since 1891, when Captain Thomas Ryman opened the hall as a tabernacle for his friend and religious leader Sam Jones, I walked along the perimeter, checking out the artifacts from the likes of Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff and . . . Tony Bennett? A block away was the brand new, $37 million Country Music Hall of Fame (http://www.halloffame.org). Though the admission seemed a bit steep ($15 for adults with no breaks for traveling journalists) considering I only had about an hour until it closed that day, I did take a moment to marvel at the three-story-high collection of gold and platinum albums, arranged chronologically in the well-stocked gift shop. Just walking among the books, CDs and historical dioramas, which had been taken from the original Hall on Music Row was an education for a Yankee such as me, but the offering of a two-day pass confirmed my suspicions that, for many people, this place was Mecca. My second night in Nashville was to be a whirlwind tour of music. I started off at the 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill (http://www.3rdandlindsley.com). Though located in a strip mall in a neighborhood populated by adult entertainment establishments, the local talent club had an impressive roster, including the Wooten Brothers of Flecktone fame, who play there on Wednesdays. This being Thursday, we were treated instead to Lauren Lucas, a soul-educated rocker, who seemed as if she would be more at home in Memphis, yet who was still able to put out a passable cover of "Angel From Montgomery" as we headed out. Next stop- Printer's Alley. Once known as the hub of the music publishing trade, the Alley was now home to a number of theme-y honkytonks. Though most of the hosts/barkers were friendly, our hand- holding invitation into the newly opened Congo Square was too hard to resist. After winding through a carefully researched replica of New Orleans (so convincing that the mayor of The Big Easy officially authorized the club to host a Mardi Gras parade in Nashville), we came upon the submerged main stage where Toronto transplant Anthony Gomes was laying down some happy Blues. Though we came into the house band's version of another overplayed song (this time, "Lady Marmalade"), when the slender Strat slinger took the mic, his bright, soulfully pained licks and surprisingly rich Bolton-esque (but authentic) vocals reached out to the far corners of the drastically under-attended room. I headed across the Alley to Congo's longer-established sister club, The Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar (http://bourbonstblues.citysearch.com/1.html). Smaller and with far more of a forced theme feel, the heavily populated (and highly smoky) club rocked to the familiar covers and White Man Soul originals of Stacy Mitchhart and the Blues-U-Can-Use Band. Fronted by a sexy ebony sax and a full-lipped flugelhorn, the BUCU Band was supported by a crashy rhythm section and an almost acrobatic keyboard player. When Mr. Mitchhart brought his spangly Flying V to the stage, the room got a bit crazy, with some patrons going so far as to earn their beads in true Mardi Gras style.
  22. 22. By way of a cool-down, I headed out of town a bit to another strip mall. There, in what had once been a drug store and popular teen hangout, sat The Bluebird Café (http://www.bluebirdcafe.com), a licensed but smoke-free coffee house which has been visited by everyone from Kim Carnes and Peter Case to Christine Lavin and Bonnie Raitt. Tonight, four local singer/songwriters faced off in a song swap in the round (er- square) as friends, family and fans looked, laughed and sang on. Though I may never hear of, or from, any of these four troubadours again, you never can tell. Day 5: How-dee! I still had a bit more time to explore Nashville, so after a quick run up and down Music Row, I headed out of town a ways to see The (new) Opry (http://www.opry.com). Though the hall itself was closed, the nearby museum gave a solid idea not only about the history of the Opry and its hundreds of talented members, but also about how the country music scene has shifted and grown over time. There was an exhibit about studio technology and how it has changed and the jukebox was set on endless play! Next door, the Opryland Hotel (http://www.oprylandhotelnashville.com) offered the largest enclosed garden in . . . well, they weren't quite sure. Let's just say it had its own river, made from 1,700 "flasks" of water (funny how they use that term) from over 25 countries. "It's an international river," said the friendly man in the maroon polyester blazer. As I wandered more or less lost through the expansive atrium, I met people from all over the world, all of whom had come to Nashville on their own pilgrimages, or perhaps for a convention. If nothing else, the hotel made for a great morning walk, and by the time I left, I felt invigorated and ready to continue my meandering quest. Day 6: Walkin' in Memphis Put on my brown leather shoes and I got in the car. Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues. And I didn't have to drive that far. Okay, so paraphrasing Marc Cohn's song "Walkin' in Memphis" was unavoidable as I pulled into Memphis (http://www.memphistravel.com). But in so many ways, he was right. Though I missed the woman who played piano every Friday at the Hollywood (a casino, as far as I could tell), when I hit Beale Street, I did seem to float a bit. Maybe it was just the relief after an aggravating ride in (route 240 is a pain in the ass), but I did feel something. Before I got there, though, I had to make a couple of stops. Sun Studios (http://www.sunstudio.com). Founded by the legendary producer, Sam Phillips (the first man to record The King). The real birthplace of Elvis (and Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.). When I put my hand on that original doorknob and lead my tour group into the tiny but perfectly preserved one-room recording studio, a chill ran through me. There before me was the organ used by U2 for "When Love Comes to Town,"
  23. 23. the dusty Danelectros used by the likes of Paul Simon and Def Leppard and, in the corner, the original microphone used by a nervous young man named Elvis Aron Presley. Though it had been closed for nearly 30 years, even the smell remained. It was a special place indeed! Down the street a ways (again, after a few traffic-snarled attempts), I found Sam Phillips Recording Services (often referred to as "Sun II"). Unfortunately, nobody was recording that day, so all I got was a photo and some gum on my shoe. Ah well, off to Beale Street. My first stop on this magical half-mile of pedestrian paradise was the recently opened Rock and Soul Museum (http://www.memphisrocknsoul.org). In this rare partnership between the Gibson Guitar Company (whose factory houses the museum) and the Smithsonian, this not-just-for-tourists exhibition traced the history of Memphis music from sharecropper shouts to Hi Records hits. Along the way, the collection boasted authentic displays of Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" piano, The King's "Indian" jumpsuit and Isaac Hayes's hand-painted Oscar night cape. It was quite a trip! Downstairs, I was treated to a semi-private tour of the Gibson factory (http://www.gibson.com). Though not all stages of production have been moved from Nashville to Memphis, it was easy to see the hard work and personal pride that went into every new guitar, including a very rare blue "Lucille" model made expressly for another King, B.B. himself. Back out on the street, I was literally surrounded by juke joints, blues clubs and the sound of joyful music. From Elvis impersonators to local folks strumming guitars they had bought at Schwab's general store, you literally could not walk a block without being called in to hear a band. When it got time to eat, I found a real live soul food shop in "the bad part of town" and treated myself to some of the best eats I had ever had. (Sorry, Mom!) By 10 p.m., I was bluesed out and blissed out and decided to retire for the evening. Even as I drove away, though, I began to feel a bit of melancholy. I was really going to miss Memphis. Day 7 - The pearly gates Sunday morning in Memphis means one thing: Church. But not just any church. I was off to (hopefully) hear the Rev. Al Green. Yes- that Al Green! After getting lost (again), I found my way to the sacred parking lot on the honorary Rev. Al Green Road. As I entered, a public Sunday school session was just finishing and the congregation was asking for its members and guests (who at the time outnumbered the congregants) to volunteer stories and thoughts. As this large group of guests, including people from as far away as Albania, few were up for being first. So after a spirited speech from one of the church's "missionaries," the choir took to their pews and the real service began.
  24. 24. Coming from puritanical Boston, I was not used to much personal expression during a religious service. As a result, this Sunday morning concert was quite a shock to my sacred system. But let me tell you, it was one of the greatest concerts I had ever been to. The band was tight and the people were loose and at the end of each and every number, even the New England stiff deacon was up and dancing (or some attempt thereat). After a few rousing and rocking religious numbers, the news finally came that Rev. Green was not in the building. There was only one place to go to assuage my disappointment: Graceland (http://www.elvis.com/graceland). Whereas Rev. Green's church had been a site for music in its purest form, The King's church had become more of a musical factory. Though a prohibition on flash photography had preserved the body (or at least the trappings thereof), the home of Elvis Aron Presley had lost a great deal of its soul. Even the famous Jungle Room seemed tame. However, there were moments of real human intimacy amidst the lucite-cased artifacts. To see Elvis's devotion to his family and, if not his wife, his daughter (for whom he named his private 727) and to see remnants of the man behind the rhinestones did flesh out the story of a talented young man who was already quite fleshy when I became aware of him. And when I heard that one of The King's favorite films was "Blazing Saddles," I really felt a connection. As I pulled out of Memphis to the sound of The Allman Brothers on the radio, I knew that I was leaving a magical place, a place I would hope to return to someday. Day 8 - Finding a thrill It had been a long, hot week on the musical road and I needed a drink BAD! Where else to go but St. Louis; home of Anheuser-Busch? The brewery tour was quite an experience (http://www.budweisertours.com). I had visited the Sam Adams brewery in Boston a number of times, but nothing could prepare me for the millions of cans of Bud that literally surrounded me. When it was all over, I was treated to all the pretzels and lemonade I could drink. Did I miss something here? Anyhow, my next stop was the Jefferson Memorial Arch (http://www.stlouisarch.com). Though a bit claustrophobic, the tram ride up the south leg was an amazing trip and the view from the top was gorgeous! When I got down, however, I was a bit at a loss as to what to do next and began to debate the relative merits of pushing on to Chicago. After all, it was a Monday and even the bar-laden district by the River was pretty dead. The National Video Game Museum was closed and the local wax museum was very still indeed. Before I could leave town, however, I got a call from my friend Laura Cohen, with Virgin Records in LA. When I told her where I was, she gave me some names and numbers of local contacts, all of whom directed me to one place. Right past the campus of Washington University is a funky pub called Blueberry Hill (http://www.blueberryhill.com). Hosting the personal collection of Joe and Linda Edwards, this restaurant/museum contains one of the most eclectic collections of music, sports and
  25. 25. Simpsons paraphernalia I had ever seen. From the six Wurlitzer jukeboxes to a Chuck Berry autographed guitar, The Hill's collection put many Hard Rock Cafés to shame. As I sat in the front window typing away, I met a bunch of really nice local folks and ate a very tasty (and reasonably priced) Hill-burger. One woman even invited me to stay with her if I couldn't find any other places. I was surely not in Boston anymore, but that was the point! I was on my way back there, on that most musical of byways, Route 66. And as I passed that first lonely service station, bereft of billboards, vending machines or even asphalt, I knew I was on my way. Day 9 – The record skips The first plane hit at 7:55 Central Time. Day 10 – One last stop I was now in a race to get home. The world had been turned upside-down and Route 66 would have to wait. I had one more stop that I had to make, however. Rising like a crystal beacon on the edge of Lake Erie was I.M. Pei’s musical masterpiece _ The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. From Aerosmith’s induction film to ZZ Top’s Eliminator car, the Museum was a sight to behold. Four hours later, I emerged with a new appreciation of the music I had grown up with and loved and a head full of new songs to sing on my long drive back to Boston. All told, it was 3516 miles and nearly 63 hours in the car. But it was so much more. I had skipped a few towns and missed a few gigs, but that’s the thing about music- there’s always more.

×