Tag Archives: Memphis Blues

Our Musical Journey to Tennessee: Part 1 – Memphis, Home of the Blues, Birthplace to Rock ‘N’ Roll

July was an action packed music month for us. The month started with our vacation trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Stay tuned for other music posts about more music events we experienced in July.

I brought along an essential music book to read on the plane, Mystery Train (Sixth Edition) by authoritative music journalist, Greil Marcus. The synergy of this book fit perfect with the music mission. The first chapter was about Harmonica Frank, 1951 (the year of my birth), Sam Phillips and Sun Studio. The book set the stage for the first leg of the music journey, Memphis. There was also a chapter about Elvis Presley but more about the King of Rock and Roll in Memphis later in this saga. :)

The path of American music discovery

A major goal in the music of our heart has been to visit the four homes (birthplaces) of American music, blues, country, jazz and rock n roll. We had previously visited the birthplace of jazz, New Orléans, Louisiana where we saw Preservation Hall on St. Peters Street.

We journeyed first to Memphis, Tennessee to learn more about the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock n roll. We stayed at the Hampton Inn at 175 Peabody Place a half block away from Beale Street.

The music on Beale Street spirited us out of the  hotel and around the block like a pied piper. We saw two blocks of motorcycles lining the pedestrian thoroughfare.

Bikes on Beale

“I’m walking in Memphis, Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” Marc Cohn ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Beale Street is a majestic street. We took note of B.B. Kings Blues Club at the top of Beale. We decided to have dinner and catch a show there the next night. We had to pay our respects to the King of the Blues.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Memphis Minnie, B. B. King, Rufus Thomas, Rosco Gordon and other blues and jazz legends played on Beale Street and helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues. As a young man, B. B. King was billed as “the Beale Street Blues Boy”.

We had a fantastic dinner at the Flying Fish the first night. It was rated 4.5 stars. The fish was deeeelicious as my great-nephew Blake loves to say :)

The next day we signed up for a day tour of Memphis at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. We had a wonderful tour guide. Our first stop was Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland. I kept hearing the song, “Graceland” by Paul Simon in my head as we drove to the tourist attraction.

Graceland was a sight to behold. What knocked me out the most about Elvis’s estate was The Jungle Room and the sheer amount of awards he received in his lifetime for music and movies. Truly we were witnessing the King of Rock N Roll’s palace. What an honor it was to see it all.

The next stop on the Memphis tour was Sun Studio. A momentous place where Sam Phillips recorded, Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We didn’t take the studio tour as the place was mobbed. We looked around, took some pictures, bought some souvenirs and got back on the shuttle. Finally got to witness the birthplace of rock n roll.

(RoadTripSports.com photo by Kendall Webb)

I preordered the book that Peter Guralnick has been writing about Sam Phillips for 25 years. My goal is to learn more about Sam Phillips from his close friend.  Peter Guralnick is the definitive Memphis music historian. I can’t wait to get back to Memphis and continue the music discovery.


Nashville Skyline  will be Part 2, stay tuned….

A Trio of Blues Harp Players – Daily Post 2011 #17

I was thumbing through the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Blues Revue magazine, where I picked up on a thread of continuity with three blues harp players, Grady Champion, James Cotton, and Charles Musslewhite. Each had advertisements in the magazine and all three harp players recordings are reviewed in the reviews section.

The first harp player reference I saw was a half page advertisement for the International Blues Challenge 2011, featuring an image of Grady Champion (last year’s IBC winning band!). The Blues Foundation will present the 27th International Blues Challenge February 1-5, 2011 in Memphis, TN

Grady Champion is a new influence for me.  His band’s latest recording is Back In Mississippi Live at the 930 Blues Cafe on Earwig Records. Having a Microsoft Zune music account I decided to sample Grady Champion’s recording. I liked what  I heard immediately. Grady and the band have a sharp, fresh sound that commands your attention from the first note. Give them a listen :)

Charlie Musselwhite, is a veteran blues-man who is having a welcome resurgence of late. You may have seen him playing with Cyndi Lauper on her latest recording Memphis Blues. Charlie has been a sideman with many famous musicians such as Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and The Blind Boys of Alabama, just to name a few. Charlie’s latest recording on Alligator Records, The Well is up for a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. The Well has been hailed by critics and fans as one of the very best blues CDs of 2010. I wholeheartedly agree, The Well is a gritty, straight ahead blues rocker. One of my favorite tracks is “Cook County Blues” where you hear humorous diatribe about being in the slammer” ;)

Superb, original and compelling…harmonica master Musselwhite sets the standard for blues.” – Rolling Stone Magazine

Alligator Recording artist James Cotton at 75 years young has also received a well-deserved Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Blues Album group for Giant. James Cotton began his career at the age of 9 under the tutelage of Sonny Boy Williamson. He is totally dedicated to his craft and will shake you to your bones on this recording.

“Among the greats of all time, He blazes on harp with brilliant virtuosity,”–Rolling Stone Magazine