buddy holly impersonators and tribute artistes , chris king
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Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, USA .

This was my trip of a lifetime . I went to visit Graceland .
I'd wanted to do this from as far back as schooldays and it was awesome !
I flew into Atlanta , Georgia for the beginning of my trip .
Walked along Peachtree Road and saw CNN News and the old Coca Cola HQ .

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Found a great shopping area called Atlanta underground and had a burger at Johnny Rockets.
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Next day I picked up my rental car , a white Chrysler Sebring .

Headed thru Atlanta (8 lanes) , drove up to South Carolina - took a scenic route.
This was Table Rock National Park.

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Then on to North Carolina aiming for Tennessee. With the Appalachian mountains for company I arrived in Gatlinburg Tennessee and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe .
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Next day drove thru the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to Pigeon Forge .

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Then I made my way to Chattanooga which is lovely and found the Choo Choo and Track 29 .
The old station is now a Holiday Inn .
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After Chattanooga I went to Lynchburg Tennesse, the home of Jack Daniels whisky.
Did the distillery tour, here with my guide David.
He was fun and the tour was fantastic.
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Next day, Saturday, I drove into Nashville ,
Music City.
My first visit was to the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum - 3 floors explaining the story and history of Country Music , from early beginnings ,
to present day .
Part of Chet Atkins' personal guitar collection on display , which also includes his Standell Amplifier
of which only 50 were ever made .
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My entrance ticket also included
The Ryman Auditorium , the
"Mother Church of Country Music" and also
the original home of the Grand Ol' Opry .

Inside The Ryman Auditorium , and the original stage where, in 1945, Bluegrass was born.
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Studio B RCA Victor Studios celebrating 50 yrs , 1957 - 2007. The home of 1000 No1 hit songs .
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Elvis recorded over half of his entire workload in this studio .
Also associated with RCA were Chet Atkins ,
The Everly Brothers , Dolly Parton , Roy Orbison ,
Jim Reeves , the list of major names is endless .

It was amazing to stand in the studio and look around and gaze on the Steinway Grand Piano where Elvis would hold impromptu Gospel song sessions with the various musicians and The Jordanairres , and others , until way past the early hours .

Found my way out to Opryland, about 8 miles from centre of Nashville.
Checked into the Fiddler's Inn Motel .
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A very kind lady at the recpetion of The Fiddler's Inn got me in that night to the GRAND OL' OPRY, there was a spare seat 12 rows from the front - WOW!!

VINCE GILL live on stage .
THE OAKRIDGE BOYS on stage live .

Also watched MARTY STUART and special guest JAMES BURTON and loads more acts .
Fantastic !
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View of the new stage at The Grand Ol' Opry House after the show when the lights came up .
The Grand Ol' Opry House, Opryland ,
Nashville , Tennessee .
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Sunday went exploring . Went up to Bowling Green ,Kentucky .
On the way stopped in Hendersonville to visit Hickory Lake and the house of Johnny Cash . Sadly it had been burned to the ground, some renovation accident. Owned by Barry Gibb, bet he was devastated !!

Returned to Nashville, went out to BELLE MEAD , an old plantation house famous for the breeding of many top racehorses .

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Cruised around Music Row , which includes
The Orbison Building , houseing the offices of
Roy Orbison's musical empire .

 

Then hit the bars on Broadway !
Acoustic sessions till dark then electric takes over. Bars included TOOTSIE'S LEGENDS and my favourite THE SECOND FIDDLE , here picturing one of the many house bands featured on stage there .
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On my last day , I visited The Gibson Guitar Showcase Centre in Opryland .
The Centre displays the largest collection of handmade Gibson musical intruments on sale anywhere in the world , and also includes a theatre where visiting musicians hold masterclasses and give concerts .
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Back into town and went to the Musicians Hall Of Fame and Museum .
It's all about the instruments that were played by
the session musicians on all the hit records out of Nashville in the last 40 yrs ., a good many of which were recorded at RCA Victor Sound Studios on
Music Row .
The next day was a beautiful day so I walked around town . Visited the Willie Nelson Museum ,
and the Charlie Daniels Shop and Museum .
The Earnest Tubb Record Store on Broadway , where years ago , from a stage at the back of
the store , they used to broadcast live
Country and Western on a Saturday night after the Grand Ol' Opry at The Ryman ,
had closed for the night .
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Walked up onto The Shelby St pedestrian footbridge over the Cumberland River , then had a late lunch in
The Hard Rock Cafe , the best one I've been in .
You can just see The Hard Rock
Cafe behind my left shoulder .

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Did the bars again on Broadway 'til late.

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On the Tuesday morning I am leaving Nashville with some sadness, heading down the I 40 " Music Highway " to Memhpis , Tennessee , and to the birthplace of Rock n Roll and also The Blues.

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On my way I stopped off at Jackson and took in some railroad history at the museum of Casey Jones ,
the famous railroad engineer .

The original house where Casey Jones lived
with his family .
This is not the original site because the house was painstakingly moved and reassembled here on this site for public viewing .

I also drove round Jackson , which was the birthplace of the legendary Carl Perkins ,
who wrote and recorded the original version of
"Blue Suede Shoes"
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I arrived in Memphis and headed for
GRACELAND 3764 , on Highway 51 South .
Then I saw it for the first time oh , Wow!!!!!!.
The Elvis Presley Memorial Plaque at the entrance to Graceland .
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Just across the road is Heartbreak Hotel ,
down the bottom of Lonely St .

I checked in for 3 nights and bought my entire Memphis package , it was a great deal .

That night used the hotel shuttle service to go into Memphis and Beale Street.
Its so vibrant and exiting down there .

Spent my first evening in B.B. King's Blues Club.
The house band were awesome.
Had a beer and some catfish and caught the last shuttle bus back to Heartbreak Hotel .

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Wednesday ,and I was driving into GRACELAND in one of these buses and up to the front of the house.
I had upgraded my pass to Elvis V.I.P. and it was well worth it and meant I could stay there all day and come and go as I please.
I could also walk in and around the house and gardens at leisure and didnt have to just go thru and out again .

The front of the house is so beautiful . I took lots of pics from all angles .
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I never thought the day would come when I would be either sitting or standing on Elvis' front steps into Graceland !!

When I went inside the house it was lovelier than I had imagined. The main thing I felt was that it was still a home . I am sure he knows when musicians come calling.

The lounge area in Graceland with the
Music Room just visible through the archway .
Note the 10 foot long coffee table and the
15 foot long settee !
Elvis used to change the drapes from dark blue to red ones every Christmas .
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Elvis' dining room in Graceland . He always sat in the same chair at the head of the table , facing towards the Music Room .
The kitchen in Graceland .
Just imagine Elvis sitting on that stool watching his cook Pauline preparing his favourite food
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The "Jungle Room" .
Elvis loved furnishing this room over a period of time and the room also included a waterfall .
The Pool Room .
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Elvis' bar area and TV room .
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The "Trophy Room" .
There are 2 corridors full of Elvis' Gold and Platinum hit records , also featuring his gold lame stage suit and his black leather
'68 " Comeback Special" stage suit .

The Squash Court is full of various catsuit stage costumes , and awards for films and other events fill the walls .

Shown on the left in this picture is the Eagle suit and cape from the 1973 "Aloha Concert" from Hawaii .
Also in this room is the Aztec suit , the last suit Elvis wore in his final weeks .

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Moved on to the Meditation Garden , where Elvis is buried , along with his Mother , Father
and Grandmother .
The gardens at Graceland are beautifully kept and the entire grounds cover 14 acres .
It's really beautiful and adorned with flowers and bouquets which arrive daily from all over the world .

Note Elvis' grave with "The Eternal Flame" at the head of it , a gift from his closest friends .
The middle picture shows the Memorial headstone which originally stood at his Mother's grave .
It was a really quiet day and I could move around easily with not many people and no queues .
I think I struck lucky !
I left at the end of the day at 5:30pm , in fact , the last one to leave .

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The Stutz Blackhawk , Elvis' very last car , housed in the Car Museum , along with many other top of the range motor cars and Harley Davidson motorbikes .

Elvis' first car , bought for his Mother ,
the classic 1956 Pink Cadillac .
Elvis loved anything on wheels , even golf carts !
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Quite by chance , while browsing the car museum ,
I bumped into James Burton , Elvis' guitar player for 7 years during the Vegas period , and his wife Louise , got autographs and some great pics .
We talked guitars and all about his days with Elvis .
Past various shops and onto the airplanes,
Houndog 2 and The Lisa Marie .
Elvis called it his flying Graceland ,
complete with showers ,dining and lounge area
and double bedroom.
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I spent the evening winding down in Heartbreak Hotel , with Elvis on the big screen , some food and a couple of beers . Truly an unforgettable day !!

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Thursday caught the 9pm shuttle from Heartbreak Hotel to downtown Memphis .

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First stop was SUN STUDIOS , 706 Union Avenue . There is a guided tour which is very good , but to stand in the studio itself and to almost place your feet where Rock n Roll was born is spine tingling .
The first ever sounds from Elvis , Carl Perkins , Johnny Cash , Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison .
It's not very big or grand, but that's it ,
that's where it all started
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Then back onto the shuttle bus and a few minutes later into Memphis . Just off Beale Street is the
Rock 'n' Soul Museum .
Very informative on all aspects and itdoesn't disappoint. Well that took care of the next 2-3 hours !

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On finishing that, the Gibson Guitar Factory is just across the road and the tour again is superb .
You almost see each stage of making the guitars from body and neck shaping, glueing, spraying, fitting electrics, testing etc .
Just imagine the guitar testers go into work each day and play guitar all day long and get paid for it !
Had some lunch in Beale Street, and went to the Peabody Hotel , the finest hotel in Memphis .
That night I went back down to Beale Street and took in live Blues in WC Handy park .
This is the street where the Blues was born .
These guys play for hours and for tips ,
great just to sit and listen .
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In with my Memphis package was a meal at the Memphis Hard Rock Cafe , just across the street .

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Friday I am moving to a motel in downtown Memphis .

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After checking in I'm making my way to
926 McLemore Avenue, the home of Memphis Soul
" STAX ".

Having been a lifelong fan of Otis Redding , I just couldn't wait to get there .

The Stax studio has a great history with the likes of
Booker T & The MG's , Rufus and Carla Thomas ,
Sam And Dave , The BarKays and Isaac Hayes ,
The Staple Singers , Ike And Tina Turner ,
Aretha Franklin , Al Green , The Memphis Horns
and more , all recorded on this label .

The original instruments on classic Soul hits like
" Time is Tight "and "Green Onions "
are preserved and sealed in perspex cases in the main recording studio .

This was the first recording studio I have ever been in to have a sloping floor , as previously it had been a cinema .

I found it so hard to leave !


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Just around the corner is Mulberry Street, and the Lorraine Motel , plus The National Civil Rights Museum , scene of the assasination of Dr Martin Luther King .
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I went into the museum and it told the story of the beginnings of slavery to the civil rights movement ,
it was all very moving .

In the right hand picture below you can see the wreath at the spot where Dr Martin Luther King
was shot , from a window in a house opposite .

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Later I went back to Sun Studios and found it empty so I went to the shop and got some merchandise and
had a coke .
I am now only a mile from Beale Street and that night ate at Dyers . They deep fry their burgers , bun and all , with fries , in a large cooking pot of boiling hot , seasoned fat . It's very greasy but very tasty .


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Saturday I went back up to Graceland for a last look round .
I would have gone in again but it was very Disney !! . Huge crowds and party hats . Not my kind of thing .
I didnt want to spoil my precious quiet memories of the previous Wednesday .
I did some shops then drove back down to Memphis and had a walk round .
Looked at the trams on Main Street and River Front . I caught the monorail out to Mud Island , right on the Mississippi River, museum shops and more info .

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My last night in Memphis it had to be Beale Street and BB Kings Blues Club . The picture on the left shows Beale Street , such an exciting street , and the picture on the right shows 2nd Avenue ,
with Beale Street crossing it .

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Sunday I am leaving Memphis .
I went across the Mississippi Bridge into Arkansas for breakfast , then back into Memphis for an unforgetable Gospel service at The Temple Of Deliverance .
I had always wanted to witness live Gospel singing at first hand , complete with band and a wonderful choir .

One more look at Sun Studios , and a drive down Union Avenue , then I am leaving Memphis ,
heading for Tupelo , Mississippi ,
the birthplace of Elvis Presley .
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Sunday afternoon I arrived in Tupelo , Mississippi ,and spent a lovely couple of hours or so visiting the birthplace of Elvis Aaron Presley .
It is of course a humble little two room shack built mostly from wood .
The birthplace is well laid out with nice gardens, a statue of Elvis at 13 , a chapel , and of course,
a gift shop.
In the gardens themselves there are plaques on the walls with various stories from the people who knew him first ,ie, his school teacher, and an Uncle who was also a preacher.
Also a man named Guy Harris. They grew up together and the friendship lasted all their lives .
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Tupelo was a welcome break from the hustle of Memphis . I had a nice meal that evening and a good night's rest in a nice motel .

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Monday I am heading for Huntsville Alabama, when I drive into a town called Tuscumbia , and just there on the right hand side I see "The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame " !!
Well I couldnt believe it ! I had made plans for my trip , but I really hadn't planned for this !!
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The history of Alabama music is sensational .
So many well known stars , Hank Williams,
Nat King Cole , Sam Phillips , Lionel Richie ,
The Commodores , The Temptations ,
Emmy Lou Harris , Dr Hook , and the list goes on .
Unlike any where else I had been , cameras and video were allowed ! Wow , a nice change !
As I left Tuscumbia ( named after a Red Indian chief ) I drove to the next town of Muscle Shoals where they have an extensive area of recording studios .
I visited Fame Studios , where Wilson Pickett,
Percy Sledge, Eddie Floyd and Authur Conley,
had all recorded .
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I then went to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios , at
3614 , Jackson Highway, where The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon , Rod Stewart , Millie Jackson and loads more have all recorded .
Not forgetting the famous Muscle Shoals Horns .

That night stayed in a Super 8 right beside I85 at Huntsville and ate at Ruby Tuesdays next door .

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Tuesday I'm off towards Birmingham and Montgomery , Alabama . I didnt stop at Birmingham and so headed for Montgomery instead .

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I wanted to find the grave of Hank Williams and after a little while found the cemetery .
I got directions to the gravesite although it is so resplendent I think I would have found it anyway .

After, I went into the centre of Montgomery. I was really impressed . The State Capitol Building was huge, and the downtown area was very nice .
I noticed museums and an area of the oldest buildings in the town which were obviously being well preserved .


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Later that afternoon I drove up toward Atlanta . I had to be at the airport next day for 12 midday .

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Wednesday , my last day ! On leaving my motel I heard people talking of Jonesboro . As I was driving to the airport I saw a sign for Jonesboro in Clay County, just south of Atlanta . A quick stop off and found myself in " Gone With The Wind " country .
Jonesboro is a little town with a museum in the old Railway station .
I had of course most of my trip been travelling "through the cradle of the American Civil War " and I was told that one of the worst battles was fought here at Jonesboro , on the railway tracks .

On the right side of the picture below , you can see the local doctor's house that was transformed into a field hospital for the wounded soldiers during that epic battle .

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I picked up a few bits of info , but I had gone to see and feel the roots and birthplace of
American Rock 'n' Roll , The Blues and Country Music, and "Oh Boy" did I !!!!
Sadly , after handing in my Chrysler Sebring , this time I headed for my plane home .
What a trip !!!!!

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