It was that time of the year again…November. The days were getting shorter and my wedding calendar was opening up. I found an open weekend, booked a flight and I was off. Off to the Volunteer State for a wedding conference and to explore the music meccas of Nashville and Memphis.
Tour stop #1…WME’s Wedding Expo. Over the years, I’ve found it almost imperative to schedule at least two wedding and / or DJ conferences per year to keep up to date on the latest. This year has been especially busy with not only weddings but a hectic hiking schedule during the mid-weeks (see October’s blog), so it’s been a challenge to get away for a week. I chose the WME conference because it was small – just 100 attendees – and in an interesting location for other explorations. Two days of great presentations and speakers from around the country focused on what was new in weddings. I’ll be covering more on this in next month’s blog – my annual wrap up that features “What’s Hot And What’s Not”.
Tour Stop #2…Nashville Music City. I spent an extra day just exploring the “Music City” portion of the city. When most people think of Nashville, they think country music. Though it is country music’s capital, it is also a hotbed of songwriters, recording studios, and publishers for all genres of music. Many non-country artists live in Nashville because of its proximity to all things music. I found it is sort of like a “L.A. East”. I also visited “Neon Nashville” which is a 4-block stretch of downtown loaded with bars and nightclubs with live bands that jam from noon to well past midnight. The street and all the adjoining bars were all packed even though it was a Monday night. Though the music was mostly country at most venues, I also heard plenty of rock as well as one pretty good ’80s cover band that was cranking out the likes of Poison, Def Leppard, and Journey.
No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to the Country Music Hall Of Fame. A country music fan can easily spend an entire day here, and possibly a weekend. This massive museum traces the history of the genre from its humble beginnings a century ago through to today’s million-selling artists like Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and The Voice’s Blake Shelton. It’s also loaded with artifacts, instruments, and clothing worn by it’s biggest stars. The huge “Rotunda Room” has the plaques of every artist enshrined in the Hall Of Fame. I was happy to see one of my personal favorites, Ronnie Milsap, was just voted in this past year. Nearby is the holy grail of country music venues, Ryman Auditorium. It’s been called the “Mother Church Of Country Music”, and has featured the Grand Ole Opry show for decades. The goal of every burgeoning country artist is to play on this historic stage. It was also birthplace of bluegrass music in December 1945. That’s when banjo player Lester Flatts & guitarist Earl Scruggs added mandolin player Bill Monroe to their band and started a new sub-genre of music that continues today. Today’s “bluegrass / newgrass” artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, and the Avett Brothers can trace their roots back this very building.
Tour stop #3…Memphis. When most people think of Memphis, they think of Elvis. Since I visited Graceland years ago, I skipped it this time in favor of visiting it’s more historic roots – as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll and of course, the blues. I’ve never been a huge fan of the blues and I hardly ever get requests for it at weddings (for obvious reasons), but I thought it would be fun to check out where it all started. Beale Street is a blast – a two block area of blues clubs and restaurants just a few blocks from the Mississippi. This is where blues legends like B.B. King got their start. A couple of miles away is Sun Studios, the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. Sam Phillips started this humble recording studio in the early ’50s to record the area’s up and coming talent. Little did he know that he would discover and record the first hits by rock’s early pioneers. Elvis’ first record, “That’s All Right”, was cut here as were the early hits of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison.