(See my Country Music Festival album at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nadinerocks/sets/)
Back in February, when this blog was in it’s infancy, I wrote about the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Because my good friend, Al Diaz and his band, Paula Harris & Blu Gruv competed in the Challenge, and shared his experience there, I became fascinated with that city. Although I was unable to attend the competition, I made sure to visit Memphis when I was out that way for the Country Music Festival in Nashville. It made no sense to me to fly all the way to Tennessee and bypass the wonderful city of Memphis. (http://www.memphistravel.com/) So, I went there. And, what an unforgettable experience it was!!
The Double Tree Downtown Memphis (http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/tennessee/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-memphis-downtown-MEMDNDT/index.html) was perfectly located for my interests – directly across the street from the Triple-A ballpark, which is home for the Memphis Redbirds,(Redbird site) and about three blocks from world famous Beale Street! Walking towards Beale, I knew I had arrived when I spotted the ‘Rum Boogie Café’ on the corner of 3rd and Beale. It was a happening welcome to this bustling street! But, I couldn’t stop here – I had to see what all of Beale Street was all about. Besides that, I was really hungry! I had heard that eating ribs at the Rendezvous Cafe was a must, but they were closed today. So, the next best place was where the ‘best meal on Beale’ is served – Blues City Café. http://www.bluescitycafe.com/ This place was as down home as it gets, like an old-time, small town barbecue joint. And, my meal of ribs and potatoes, beans and coleslaw, with buttered bread to top it off…Scrumptious!
After filling my belly, I visited Beale Street, (“Home of the Blues; Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll!”)as I did a number of times
during my stay, and will sum it up from my perspective. It is lively and exciting, with tons of activity! Though the street runs from the Mississippi River to midtown, the three blocks between 2nd and 4th Streets (which are barricaded to keep out motor traffic) is where the acton is. Bars, music venues, restaurants, and gift shops dominate these blocks that glow with numerous neon signs at night. There are many tourists roaming around in search of the area’s history. But, there are also many locals hanging out at the bars, listening to bands, socializing on the street. You can take a walking tour by following the brass musical notes imbedded in the sidewalk, which lead to informative markers describing the history of specific locations. This is appropriately called, ‘The Beale Street Walk of Fame.’And, while learning about the area, don’t forget to look carefully at the architecture of what used to be the original buildings, but are now just the fronts being propped up by steel beams and supports. Though it may be a bit of an eyesore, it preserves the historic Beale Street from the days our musical icons walked through their doors.
Some of the highlights of this street are the Beale Street Flippers, a bunch of urban acrobats that jump and flip down the middle of the street. The nights I visited, they were a group of men and boys, ranging from about 5 years old to adult. With their boom box blasting, they entertain pedestrians by flipping hand stands down the street. But, don’t think this is all fun and games, folks! These guys are in business and expect to be tipped, so make sure to keep your wallet handy while watching this show.
Wednesday nights are ‘Bike Night on Beale,’ a tradition for about ten years that runs from April through September. Hundreds of motorcycles rumble down the street, revving up their engines, and causing quite a spectacle, with an array of all sort of cycles of every size, shape and color! After a cruise, they park along both sides of Beale, for all to admire. It’s quite the sight!!
I happened upon Clyde Hopkins, the Godfather of the Blues, out in front of the Memphis Music Store. He was hard to miss in his dapper suit and wing-tipped shoes. Of course, I stopped to chat with him and ended up with a CD that he autographed for me.
By the time I left Beale, I think I had been in and out of each building at least once. For a quick list of the fun places you will find there, here it is: B.B. King’s Blues Club, Rum Boogie Café, Blues City Café, Memphis Music Store, Silky O’Sullivan’s (Home of the Beer Drinking Goats,) A. Schwab (established in 1876,) Alfred’s, Wet Willie’s, Elvis Presley’s, Black Diamond, Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall, Pat O’Brien’s, Hard Rock Café, King’s Palace Café, Pig on Beale, and the list goes on.
Coming up: Peabody Hotel & Ducks, Sun Studios, Graceland, Lorraine Motel, and much more!!
***Back in March, on my first day at South By Southwest, I snatched up every bit of informative paraphernalia I could get my hands on in order to pack my brain with as much knowledge as possible for this event. I wasn’t about to miss out on anything Austin, so when I finally found a few minutes to read the 2012 Local Music Issue magazine I grabbed of a nearby rack, I was ready to devour every bit of info I could find about this town. Boy, did I feel stupid when I started reading about all the musical hot spots in San Diego! San De-freakin-eigo? Why was I in Texas reading a magazine about a city in California? I didn’t just fly four hours to read about music in my home state? Yep, stupid me had actually taken the San Diego City Beat magazine, (http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/) that for some godforsaken reason was planted in the Austin Convention Center during South By Southwest! Okay people, now that made a lot of sense…not! But, when I cracked it open, I was in the middle of sipping on a Mexican Margarita at an outdoor table at the Hard Rock, so I decided to see what this mag had to offer. Who knows, maybe I’d discover some fun spots to go if I’m ever in San Diego.
Flipping thru the pages, an article quickly caught my eye, titled: ‘All we are saying, is give cheese a chance’ by Edwin Decker. First reason, is the takeoff on John Lennon’s song; and secondly, I adore cheese! Both John and cheese rate very high in my books, so….how could I not read this article?
I got a quick kick outta this guy Edwin, who admitted to being an OMS (Original Music Snob,) that was transformed into a OMG (Open-minded Music Guy) when he was asked to judge an annual cover-music/tribute band contest in San Diego circa 1985. He went into the challenge with a ‘Great Wall of Snobbery,’ that was to his surprise, obliterated almost instantly. During his judging experience, Decker explains the feud going on between the little OMS on one shoulder vs. the OMG on the other. He also came to the conclusion (against all previous beliefs) that ‘it takes an enormous amount of talent and hard work to re-create the nuances and capture the essence of other bands’ and ‘that it’s more difficult to be in a cover band, because a cover band has to sound like – nay, become – another band.’ And, when a band can pull this off, he claims ‘it’s a goddamn miracle!’
Because I have been razzed in the past for supporting and frequenting shows featuring some awesome local tribute bands, I appreciated this article like no other. My excuse for enjoying this type of entertainment is that 1) I don’t want to wait for years to see my favorite bands 2) I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to see them, and then be seated far back 3) many of these great old bands are defunct with few of the members still alive. So, if I can hear live music from my faves, even if it is recreated by impersonators, then I’m one happy camper! It sure beats the alternative…
If you want to read more about the cheesy enjoyment of cover/tribute bands, I recommend Decker’s article in the March 7, 2012 San Diego City Beat magazine. (http://npaper-wehaa.com/sdcitybeat/2011/04/26#2012/03/07/?article=1538456)
All we are saying is, “Give cheese a chance!!” And, I second that emotion!