We left Nashville yesterday, driving through Jackson, Tennessee, on our way to Memphis.
You may not know this, but Jackson, Tennessee is the home to Casey Jones’s Village – a museum and shops dedicated to the memory of Casey Jones a railroad engineer killed trying to save the train and passengers on his train, the Cannonball Express when it collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi, on a foggy and rainy night. We stopped, had some good ole down home cookin’ and experienced a bit of America none of us had seen before.
Then today, we started with the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, where people like Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Howling’ Wolf and, most importantly, Elvis, got their start. Rather unbelievably, the place is almost intact after sitting vacant for more than 20 years. It was pretty amazing when you consider all the great music that came out of Sam Philip’s venture.
From there we went to the ultimate musical Mecca, Graceland. I was unprepared for a lot of things – most importantly, it wasn’t that over the top or completely rammed with tourists or Elvis fans. It was almost a normal family home which would be almost liveable. I would, however, have to redo the Jungle Room – aside from all that green shag carpet, the mere thought of which brings me out in hives – it was my least favourite room.
What it did do was remind me what a talent Elvis was and the impact he had on the whole planet in a mere 42 years. Who else has sold over a billion records across the world? That said, he also had a great PR machine – still going strong, I’d say.
Perhaps the most telling comment was by our guide at Sun Studios who said something along the lines of “Sadly, Carl Perkins has been mostly forgotten, even though he wrote a number of songs Elvis went on to have hits with.”
So, tonight we went down to Beale Street and had some barbecue and decent music. It looks a wonderful place to have a good time and the music from all the restaurants was very tempting.
Like Nashville, Memphis turned out to be completely different to what I was expecting (and no, don’t ask what I was expecting). In a good way, and we’ve been made to feel very welcome.
So it’s off to Clarkesdale, Mississippi tomorrow to see the famous crossroads where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil for decent musical talent. Then off to New Orleans for more culture and food.