Discover the Hubs of Jazz and Blues: Nashville and Memphis
|January 22, 2014||Posted by under Places|
If any one state can be called the musical heartland of America, then it’s Tennessee. Here, visitors are able to enjoy a variety of genres and see for themselves where history was made, and nowhere is this more the case than in the wonderful cities of Memphis and Nashville – which you can visit with TrekAmerica.co.uk.
Memphis is undoubtedly one of the most important cities in the world when it comes to the history of modern music. After all, what other place can lay claim to giving birth to a wide range of genres, including soul, gospel and, above all, blues.
Indeed, music is what put Memphis on the map. Once a trade and commerce hub, with its position on the Mississippi River allowing it to prosper from the cotton trade, its fortunes changed following the Second World War when the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and, of course, Elvis Presley, started recording at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio. The 60s may have seen soul music brought to the fore, thanks in no small part to Stax Records and its impressive roster of artists such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, but the Memphis blues never went away. So much so, in fact, that culture vultures taking backpacking tours of America are still able to see the places where the scene first took off while also getting a taste of contemporary Memphis blues.
No musical tour of the city is complete without a visit to Sun Studio, now a National Historic Landmark as well as a fully-functioning recording studio. Here, guided tours show visitors the exact spot where Elvis stood to record his first single, or the booth where B.B. King recorded the guitar parts that would make him a musical legend.
Following an afternoon touring the most famous music studio in the whole of America, head to Beale Street, in downtown Memphis. As well as being a National Historical Monument, it’s a vibrant cultural centre, and a great place to get a true appreciation of the place of the blues in this city. Here you can stop into one of the many blues bars that have played host to the likes of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf or Junior Parker, and enjoy some of the city’s freshest talent. Establishments such as The New Daisy Theatre, A Schwab’s and Coyote Ugly all get packed to the rafters, so be sure to get there early or, if you’re visiting in summer, try and catch an outdoor show on Beale Street itself.
Nashville may well be better-known for being the hub of American country music, but it’s always been a jazz town, too, with the tradition continuing to this day. Indeed, just as the city once boasted some of the world’s finest jazz groups, among them the Nashville Jazz Machine and the Francis Craig Orchestra, these days acts such as the Nashville Jazz Orchestra carry on this rich tradition. The orchestra give regular concerts at venues across the city, so if jazz is your thing, look them up and try and catch a show.
Alternatively, if you really want to get under the skin of this buzzing city and have a little extra time to spare on your trip backpacking in America, then check out the Nashville Jazz Workshop, who give classes and put on shows and performances for music lovers of all abilities. Or, if you just enjoy listening rather than playing, head downtown and spend a lazy, luxurious evening in F Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar, a high-class venue in the midst of countless country music bars.