Better late than never! At least that's what I've been telling myself as I waited patiently for my poorly laptop to be mended so that I could download all my photos of Memphis and write my next installment!
Thanks so much for all your lovely comments and suggestions as to what my mystery photo may have been…! I think Sue Radford was probably closest when she said "no smuggling in said area via the boot". It was actually a little pulley that hung from the boot lid so that if you were ever shut in there you could open the boot from the inside by pulling it! A little worrying to think this is clearly a regular occurance in the US but quite amusing with the little stick man running away at high speed 🙂
So, on to Memphis! As I think I mentioned, I had only booked five days at the hotel in Nashville with the idea/hope that we would be able to cross the state and get to Gary in Texas to see Colin's friends who live there. We had considered taking an internal flight or possibly driving.
The first option was too expensive, and we'd still have needed to hire a car when we got there. The second idea to drive all the way there was appealing, but neither of us had realised how huge Tennessee was and it would have taken at least 11 hours! Colin had forgotten to bring his driving licence too, so we couldn't share the journey and we both agreed it was just too far.
However…Memphis – the birthplace of Blues, Rockabilly and Rock N' Roll – was only three hours drive away. And so, we packed our bags, hired a car and headed out on the Interstate Route 40 in bright sunshine towards the city of dreams.
Actually, when I nonchalantly write about the car, I should mention this wasn't just ANY car, this was a bright Grabber Blue Mustang Convertible!!! Car hire and petrol are as cheap as chips in the US, and once you get the hang of driving on the right, their roads are marvellous. As soon as I was behind the wheel I became Mustang Ali and we sailed through all the Interstates, passing the huge trucks that use this road and stopping for a fabulous American breakfast of waffles, toast, coffee and bacon at a diner.
The temperature soared and by the time we parked up outside our motel it was 105 degrees!!! We only got a little lost once, but the diverson took us alongside the Mississippi river, so I thought you may like to see this little bit of film to get a feel for the hugeness of this mighty stretch of water.
Arkansas is just over the bridge to the left. The Native Americans chose this part of the river as the site for the city because it's above the high water mark and therefore safe from flooding.
Having put our bags in the room and had a refreshing shower, we took advantage of the motel's taxi service, which for $3 would take us into Beale Street in Memphis town – the ONLY place to be on a sizzingly hot sunny evening 🙂
You can smell the barbeque smoke as soon as you step out of the car and it's apparently known as the pork-barbeque capital of the world! Add to that a fabulous mix of traditional South American foods and you were spoilt for choice. We decided to opt for Rice N' Beans (which is like chilli but without the beef) Corn Cakes and Award-winning Gumbo (stew with 'gator, shrimp, chicken, peppers, tomato and gravy – delicious!)
Every bar and restaurant has live music playing but, unlike Nashville, this is Blues country with some Jazz and Rockabilly thrown in…I LOVED it :) The taxi picked us up at 11pm. Early I know, but we had a big day planned and needed our sleep after the drive. I think the heat made us a tad tired too – 54% humidity is a little heavy!
Bright blue skies greeted us and the temperature was already at 95 degrees when we climbed into the car at 9am! Our day was to start with a visit to Graceland – the home that Elvis Presley bought for himself when he was just 22 years old, and lived in until he sadly died there in 1977.
Having worked out how to get onto the correct route we realised we had left our tickets back at the motel, and so had to negotiate some pretty tricky intersections before getting back on course.
We planned to follow Graceland with a tour of the Gibson Guitar factory in Memphis town – Colin's pride and joy is a Gibson J200 and he wanted to see where it had been made 🙂 We'd pencilled in Sun Studio – the place where Elvis recorded his first hits – for the following morning on our way home.
Graceland is a beautiful house and, unlike many of the mansions that the A-list celebrities buy for themselves, was very much a home. Hard to believe that in spite of his enormous success, Elvis didn't ever move on and up…he did though get first dibs on this property, even though Frank Sinatra had apparantly wanted to buy it 🙂
You're not allowed to look upstairs but every other room is open to the public, as are the grounds, and a chance to see not only his vast collection of cars, but also the jet and aeroplane he bought for his daughter, Lisa Marie!
Of course the place is filled with memorabilia from that extraordinary time, and you get a real sense of the man and his life after just a short while within those walls. I did buy a rather lovely mug as a memento of our trip which I thought you might like, so I'll be setting a competition at the end of the blog for you to win it!
By the time we reached the Gibson Factory it was 108 degrees and still. The humidity was exhausting, and any hot flush I had was purgatory! Luckily there was pretty powerful air conditioning blowing through the workshops there and Colin found the whole experience fascinating, so well worthwhile. That night we headed for Midtown Memphis and had a lovely meal in a bar that reminded me of the TV series, Cheers! Everyone is just so friendly there, it makes every occasion fun 🙂
The blisteringly hot weather stayed with us for our trip to Sun Studio the following morning but as with most buildings in this part of the US, the air conditioning is always on. It was a tiny building with a huge history that began in the 1950s when Sam Philips, a local radio DJ, set up his studio and started recording the likes of BB King, Howlin' Wolf and Little Milton.
In 1954, a young truck driver called Elvis Presley stopped by to cut a record for his mum's birthday. Sam wasn't there but Marion, his PA, made sure he heard the recording although it was almost a year before Elvis was called back. With two other musicians they'd been playing for about an hour and Sam wasn't impressed. He left the studio for a cigarette break and it was then that Elvis picked up the guitar and started fooling around with his version of 'That's Alright Mama'. Sam Philips rushed back in and the rest as they say, is history 🙂
Of course, after Elvis came Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash – all of them bringing a mix of Country and Blues, all of them making hits at this tiny studio, and consequently paving the way for the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2 and even Justin Timberlake! With our heads full of harmony we set off towards the highway, stopping only at Madison County to see if we could find any of the covered bridges, but were unlucky, although our detour took us through some beautiful countryside.
The temperature dropped down to the mid 90s as we checked back into our Nashville Hotel and spent the next couple of days relaxing by the pool and doing a little souvenir shopping; a pair of cowboy boots and a hat were of course on the list :) As our plane took off late Friday evening Colin said it had been one of the best holidays of his life and I had to agree that, considering a lot of it had been last-minute planning, it had all come together perfectly 🙂
Q. Where was Elvis Presley born?
A winner will be drawn at random from all of the correct answers and I'll let you know who that is next week!
I must run though as Colin has a gig in Leicester Square tonight and I have to be there with my boots on!
Back to work tomorrow with the first of our regular Diamonique shows at 8pm, and then a REALLY busy day on Super Sunday.
Take care, have a great weekend and enjoy the promised sunshine. I will look forward to gathering your answers and reading your replies.
With my love, Ali xxx
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