Saturday, June 10, 2006

Getting the Blues in Nashville

This post is part of the AW chain.

In the last post in the chain, Matt talks about all of the personal drama he observed (and participated in?) as a member of the Iron Maiden forum. He mentions a woman who traveled cross-country to move in with another member. It brought to mind the cross-country trip Gene and I took a couple of years ago, with great music as our goal.

In 2004, Gene's "friend since time began" (well not really, but it seems like that to me), Stefan, got his master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario, in London. After attending the Convocation, Gene and I set out to take the scenic route for the drive back to Southern California*.

Of course, if we stopped to take in every landmark and tourist site on the way, it would have taken us months to get home. We decided, instead to just focus on a few stops along the way. The theme would be "music" and we would make a beeline towards Nashville, Memphis, and the Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Musical Stop 1: Nashville

After driving straight by Detroit and as fast as we could get away with through Ohio, we finally arrived in Nashville. We found a cheap motel on the outskirts of town, and, after freshening up and changing into our dancing shoes, headed into the city. Now, anyone with travel planning ability (and the desire to listen to live music) would not have chosen to arrive on a Monday. Those of you who know us understand that travel planning is not one of our strong suits, so Monday it was. I don't know if we got lucky, arriving shortly after a big country music festival, or if Nashville is just hopping 7 days a week, but we found some fantastic music.

One thing that surprised me about Nashville was the "big city" feel. I had a mental picture of a long row of nightclubs and juke joints, with record company headquarters off to the side somewhere. Well, the bars and nightclubs are there all right, but they are dwarfed by skyscrapers in the background.

We found a parking place for the car and began our stroll down Broadway. We paused to listen to the music that seemed to spill out from every doorway, but weren't enticed to go in and sit down until we reached Legend's Corner. The music sounded good, there was no cover at the door, and we were in dire need of a cold beer, so, before we realized what we were doing, we were inside. Shelly Bush and her band were playing toe-tapping crowd favorites - Jambalaya, Tennessee Waltz, When Will I be Loved - and the crowd, mostly tourists like us, were up and dancing. One of the highlights was the excellent fiddler. I unfortunately don't know her name, but she is probably the woman in this picture. (Thanks for the music, whoever you are!)

Our night in Nashville was off to a great start.

After listening there for a while, we headed towards Printer's Alley, just a few blocks off Broadway. The Alley has been a source of entertainment (and booze) for more than a century, and we were told this was one of "the" places to go in Nashville. There are a number of bars and clubs along the narrow alleyway, but our choice was the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. It was a slow night (it was Monday night, after all), and the woman at the door let us in for half the cover price. For $5 and the price of beer, we were treated to an amazing set by Susan Marshall. As she belted out the blues and old school R&B - Oh Darling, Stormy Monday, Take Me to The River - and the memory of a long day of driving faded into the background.

After Susan finished, we poked our heads into a tiny karaoke bar along the alleyway, but decided to head back to the motel, rather than singing ourselves. This was a truly an auspicious first stop on our musical journey.

Stay tuned for stop number 2: Memphis

* Trivia: I originally set up this blog with the idea that I would use it as a diary during the trip, hence the URL "thoughtsontheroad". While we did find internet access, mostly at Flying J truck stops, I never did have enough energy (or discipline) to post on the blog. I didn't actually make a real post for another year.

Next up in the AW Chain: Mad Scientist Matt
Read the AW Chain!

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Blogger Matt D. said...

Good post.

There's a weird subculture thing going on at those Flying J truck stops. It's very odd.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous D.T. Kelly said...

Great post. I've never been to Nashville.

I look forward to reading your next installment, I have been to Memphis. Almost got kicked off the Elvis Plane tour for sitting on his couch.

My friend tried getting them to take us up to the bathroom in Graceland to see the King's Throne. They declined, for some reason.


9:25 PM  
Blogger Kappa no He said...

I remember being a little kid visiting my cousins in Mississippi and my dad and uncle saying they were going to go 'jukein' the 'juke joints'. I haven't heard that word in so many years. It sounded like a great time!

3:22 AM  
Blogger Dawno said...

beautiful post - this chain idea was wonderful!

7:27 AM  
Blogger Pass The Torch said...

Great trip!

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

Thanks for painting that picture. Now I want to visit Nashville. :)

4:58 AM  
Blogger -Kelly M. said...

Road trips are the best thing ever.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Mad Scientist Matt said...

Sounds like you had a much more enjoyable road trip than the one I wrote about. :)

9:54 AM  

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