Journey to the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll
–by Robert Alexander
PUBLICATION DATE: MAY 2017
Inspired by my new assignment to write a series of articles on rock ‘n’ roll for Boomers & Beyond magazine and to live the music, Stephanie and I decided to pack up the RV. With our traveling companion Chico, a 100-pound black lab, we hit the road to Memphis, Tenn., the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.
Paul Simon said it: “For reasons I cannot explain there’s some part of me that wants to see Graceland. Graceland… Memphis, Tennessee. I’m going to Graceland.”
Not wind, nor rain or hail could keep us from our destination: Sun Studio, the forever home of the Million Dollar Quartet: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. This corner in downtown Memphis is hallowed ground for rock ‘n’ roll fans.
Next, we visited Graceland followed by a short drive downtown to Soulsville USA, home of Stax Studios where Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers and Booker T. and the MG’s all recorded national hits. America in the 50s and 60s was a segregated society. Rarely did blacks and whites mix, date or marry, but at Stax Studio in Memphis, black and white musicians came together to create and record great music. Rock music matters because it helped break the color barrier.
Less than a mile from Soulsville is Beale Street where a visit to B.B. King’s Blues Club is a must. I can tell you that the thrill is not gone. Like Marc Cohn’s song, “Then I’m walking in Memphis, walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale.”
The next day, we headed south on famous U.S. Route 61 to Clarksdale, Miss., home of the Blues, where Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Sam Cooke were born. Legend has it that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to learn to play the Blues at the crossroads of U.S. 61 and U.S. 49. After a visit to the Delta Blues Museum, we crossed the alley and had a cold brew at Ground Zero Blues Club, partially owned by actor Morgan Freeman.
After three weeks and nearly 3,000 miles on the road, we were excited to get back home and put some good old rock ‘n’ roll records on our stereo.
Here is my southern music adventure playlist. Have a listen, or better yet, take a trip down south and live the music.
- “Graceland” – Paul Simon
- “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – Elvis Presley
- “Great Balls of Fire” – Jerry Lee Lewis
- “Matchbox” – Carl Perkins (covered by the Beatles)
- “Tupelo Honey” – Van Morrison …Tupelo birthplace of Elvis Jackson, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
- ”Walking in Memphis” – Marc Cohn
- “The Thrill is Gone” – B.B. King
- “Try a Little Tenderness” – Otis Redding
- “Soul Man” – Sam and Dave (covered by the Blues Brothers)
- “Shaft” – Isaac Hayes, “Can you dig it?”
- “A Change is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke
- “I’ll Take You There” – The Staple Singers
- “Southern Man” – Neil Young
- “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- “Boom Boom” – John Lee Hooker
- “Baby, Please Don’t Go” – Muddy Waters (covered by Them, lead singer Van Morrison)
- “Cross Road Blues” – Robert Johnson
- “Crossroads” – Cream
- “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” – Bob Dylan