Monday, May 16, 2011

Memphis and the beaty of the blues

Westbound, Highway 70, Nashville, Jackson and Memphis,  Greyhound Schedule 1539, October 7.  The station was jam packed with people from all races.
I’m boarded and leaving Nashville.  I have had the most amazing experiences in a most amazing City and am sure that I will return.   A strange but real sadness fell upon me.  In 10 short days I had grown to love Nashville, a place so far from my home and so different from my home in Queensland, Australia, but now embedded my heart.  I had found a new side of me on the other side of the world.  It’s funny how writing this blog now, some 3 months later, I feel a quiet yearning for the daily exhilirence of the adventure.  What would Memphis bring?

There was only one stop along the way and that was in Jackson, where Johnny and June got married or so the song says anyway.  Johnny Cash that is!  Stepping off the bus for a brief stop over was like stepping back in time.  A weary passengers reprieve. A small quaint bus station built in 1938 and listed on the Historic Register,  it was the real thing.  Kind of like you stepped into a movie set.  Furnishings, smell, the nostalgic aura, it was all there.  I was on the set of an old movie.  Pity it was only 15 minutes.
The trip was 200 miles, the bus was worn, hot and busy with passengers.  From the conversations I heard throughout the 4 hour journey it was obvious that folk out this way are God loving which is certainly not a bad thing.  Everyone was on their mobile phones or had i-pods attached to their ears.  They were busy even though we were confined on the bus.  Me,  well I just took in the scenery and watched the traffic go by.  It was not much different to home except I was traveling down the wrong side of the highway.
Memphis mid afternoon and it was muggy.  First impressions were not exactly what I had imagined.  It was dirty and within only a few moments I had been approached by a homeless soul appealing for my cash.  Not on your life Nellie!!!
My accommodation was not a block away, I was right in town at the Vista Inn and within 30 minutes I was booked into in my ground level unit enjoying the cool of the airconditioning and lying on the biggest bed I had ever seen.  It took up nearly the whole room and it was unbelievable! Everything is big in America!
What a location I was within walking distance of all the action so it wasn’t long before I was downtown Memphis riding on trolley cars and looking out across the mighty Mississippee River, a sight I had dreamed of as a young girl, it was awesome!  Memphis the home of Elvis Presley, Sun Studios, Stax Museum,  Memphis BBQ and as I discovered,  so much more.  First impressions were forgotten.
Priority was of course Graceland so day 2 was planned, Graceland with a stop at Sun Studio on the way home.  Elvis, Elvis, Elvis, his memory was everywhere.  Graceland was huge in commercialism which disappointed me.  Standard entry, $39.50 and in the busiest of the seasons 3,000 people go through the gate per day, dollar value massive.  It was a hive of activity.  People, shuttle buses, shops,  all packed with spenders.  I was blown away on the enormity of it all.  The complex is on one side of the road and the mansion the other.  I was heading across to the home that Elvis shared with his family for so many years.  I was driving up the same driveway that he would drive, walking the steps that he walked and entering the home that he so dearly loved.  The home where he experienced some of the happiest days of his life.  It was moving and I felt a little nervous.
Stepping over the threshold was stepping back in time and it was a little overwhelming.  It was so 50′s and it truly felt like he was still there in a big way.  Visitors are only allowed downstairs as a family member lives on the second level, that was eary.  Was someone watching us all on cctv? and who was that someone??  See what I mean,  eary.  It was accommodating on a grand scale and kept like he and his family were still there.
Sadness bestowed me thinking of how the capitalists were cashing in on his death.  I know it’s the way of the world but are there no boundaries for greed. There was no rush through the house and my eyes were working overtime perusing all the treasures that pleased the eternal Elvis.  He was so proud of Graceland, it was his heart and it was still beating strongly long after his departure.
What an experience and an extra $2500 would have got me a  wearable duplicate of one of his star studded outfits.  Not really my style but they were flash.
I was probably out there 6 hours or so as there is much to see and it is an engrossing experience.  The reality of a man no different to any other except he was and remains the King of Rock and Roll.  Long live Elvis!  Unforgettable and truly a must do if you are ever in Memphis.
The stop over at Sun Studios, crowded but in a very familiar way.  Sun Studios is very small and looks like there hasn’t been a cleaner in the actual studio for many years.  That certainly did not dampen the spirit of the visitors. Everyone was in high spirits as we listened to the vibrant young tour guide relaying information.  She knew the history inside and out but in a very personal way and that is exactly how she delivered it.
In January 1950 Sam Phillips a poor farmers son began his career in the industry as a DJ at a Muscle Shoals Radio Station. He later became a producer owning a record label call “Sun Studios”.  In January 1950 he opened the doors to “Memphis Recording Services”, later to be known as Sun Studios. Greats like B.B. King, Howlin Wolf, Jerry Lee Louis, Roy Orbison, Chet Aitkens, Elvis they all began their recording history at Sun.  Elvis’s first recordings at Sun are recognised as changing the world of music forever.  The fusion of the styles created a totally new sound and the listeners were loving it.  Country, Blues, Rock and Roll, all rolled up,  what’s not to like.
Greats from the past and even today the cream of artists still fill the studio with electric sounds.  Bono, Rob Thomas, Santana the list goes on and on, everyone who is anyone has recorded at Sun.  Amazing to be standing in the same places that they have stood, simply amazing.  It’s a feeling of stimulation that is quite indescribable.  It’s like dreamland and your mind wanders in all different directions.  I will never forget it.

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