Back in late February/ early March 2006 I took a road trip with my parents to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Ever since then I wanted to go back and visit those cities again. Back in May I found a round trip ticket for Labor Day weekend to Memphis for $230 on Southwest Airlines. It was going to be a solo trip, and then I invited my sister Gaylyna and her family. They talked it over and decided her husband would give her a weekend without the kids. I went to work with my vacation spreadsheet skills and worked us out an itinerary.
Friday, August 29, 2014-Getting to Memphis
I flew out of Houston’s Hobby airport on Friday night and arrived in Memphis close to 10pm.
Gaylyna was driving in from Oklahoma and would meet me at the Days Inn at Graceland.
I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel driven by a driver who didn’t speak a whole lot, from his accent I think he was from somewhere in Africa.
The Days Inn at Graceland is right down the street from Graceland.
In fact you can see the walls of Graceland from the hotel property. So the hotel is very Elvis centered as Graceland is not in a real great location in Memphis, but people come from all over the world to visit Graceland, thus the Days Inn at Graceland appears to stay pretty full. Our room was really nice complete with pictures of Elvis everywhere, and a guitar shaped pool.
They also play Elvis movies on one of the channels, although they may need to either clean the disc or invest in another dvd ad the one that was playing kept stopping in the same spot and just froze on the screen.
Gaylyna arrived after midnight. We went to sleep pretty soon after she got in.
Saturday, August 30, 2014-North to Nashville
We left Memphis about 6:30am and drove north to Nashville.
Belle Meade Plantation
Our first stop was the Belle Meade Plantation on the south side of Nashville; it’s not too far from Vanderbilt University.
The property is beautiful, in the 1800’s it was the tops in raising thoroughbred race horses.
During the war of northern aggression (Civil War), The Battle of Nashville broke out on the front lawn of the grounds. Amazing enough, the house was not damaged other than some pock marks from bullets in the columns out front.
No pictures were allowed inside the house, we were taken through the downstairs and upstairs floor. There was a guide in each section of the house dresses in period clothing (except for the lady in the last room downstairs). At the end of the tour they take you to a wine tasting from their winery. We skipped that and headed into Nashville.
Nashville has a replica of The Parthenon, I saw it the first time I was there in 2006 and didn’t get any good pictures. The plan was to take some pictures, but it was very crowded. Thus we just headed downtown to our next stop.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum/ RCA’s Historic Studio B
After getting sheared for parking at the tune of $25.00 at a lot across the street from The Country Music Hall of Fame, we headed inside the museum to eat lunch. Despite rain off and on all day, Nashville was hopping. Most ladies under the age of 25 were wearing a standardized uniform of boots and jean shorts, or boots and sundresses. If you are a aspiring fashion person, I would recommend opening a boots and sundress store somewhere in Nashville, you can’t go wrong. I am not going to lie; some of the ladies looked real nice, from a male perspective of course. I don’t think Gaylyna was of like mind.
After lunch inside the atrium of the museum, we headed into view the exhibits. Fortunately, I bought our tickets in advance online as the line had a hundred people at least waiting to buy tickets. We rode on an elevator with about 30 of our closest friends we just met up to the third floor. Of course when you think of country music history, what else would you expect to see but the Taylor Swift Education Center? I get it; she gave three million dollars, so she gets naming rights. I guess we should just be thankful Justin Beiber hasn’t decided to donate a bunch of money.
There were some cool things, but the place was so crowded we skimmed through most of it pretty quick.
One annoyance was the cars they had on display were really cool, but behind five foot tall glass enclosures, making it nearly impossible to get decent pictures.
This is just my opinion, but there were some exhibits that don’t really belong in the Country Music Hall of Fame, unless you consider Miranda Lamberts wardrobe from the last ten years to be “artifacts”. I have nothing against Miranda Lambert, I have bought a couple of her albums. I would have rather seen a big Hank Williams exhibit, or Marty Robbins, or Patsy Cline, or Chet Atkins. Maybe they just don’t have much to display from those guys, just don’t think Miranda Lambert is in that category. The rotunda is really cool with the Hall of Fame member’s plaques, overshadowed by “WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN”.
Hatch Show Print (Now located inside the Hall of fame building)
RCA’s Historic Studio B
This was the main reason why we came to the hall of fame; you can’t visit Studio B without a ticket to the Hall of Fame. Studio B was where numerous historic recording sessions went down, including over 200 by my favorite, Elvis Presley. We boarded the shuttle bus for our tour and our great tour guide Ron primed us for our visit to Studio B. He also pointed out highlights of the drive over including several notable buildings on Music Row.
Once inside the front entrance our guide went over the notable artists that have recorded at Studio B. The history of this place is amazing! Then it was time to actually go inside the studio.
Ron, our awesome guide!
Most of the talk inside the studio was Elvis related, which was fine by me. They have a Steinway & Sons grand piano that Elvis loved to play. He would come in and start playing the piano with the Jordanaires standing around the piano. Then they would start the sessions. We were all allowed to sit and take a picture at the piano.
Floyd Kramer also played this piano. Elvis’ Grammy winning recording of “How Great Thou Art” was recorded at Studio B.
I cannot do the place justice with my writing, but it was so cool to sit there and listen to Elvis records in the very place he recorded them. For one song, the guide turned the lights down and let everyone soak in the atmosphere.
If you pass through Nashville and have the time, go visit Studio B.
When the tour was over, Gaylyna and I drove back over and took pictures outside of Studio B. We weren’t given a chance during the tour, and it was raining.
From there we drove out towards Opryland where we were staying for the night at The Fiddlers Inn.
We ate dinner at an awesome place called Caney Fork which is right next to The Fiddlers Inn. We went back to the room and got cleaned up to go to The Grand Ole Opry.
The Grand Ole Opry
Gaylyna and I didn’t get to sit together as I had bought my ticket before I knew she was coming. We did both have great seats, I was section 4 which is in the middle right up front, and she was in section three on the right side of the stage right up front.
We had no idea who would be playing when we bought our tickets, but we ended up with a great line up!
For those who have never been to the Opry, it still a live radio program, an announcer on the left side of the stage reads all of the advertisements and introduces the host of each 30 minute segment.
Each segment host is an Opry member. Not everyone who performs is an Opry member, they are guest artists.
Jim Ed Brown (Segment host)
You might know his song, “Pop a top”
Little Jimmy Dickens, a real treat! He sang “Good ole Mountain Dew”
Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers (Segment host)
Larry has been a favorite of mine for years; he is very funny and works the crowd. A lady was going down to her seat while he was singing, he came out in the audience and pointed at his watch and followed her. Steve Gatlin was there, Rudy Gatlin was not there, but Larry’s daughter filled in for him. They sounded great!
Chaley Rose and Sam Palladio (From the tv show Nashville)
Chaley Rose (This just in, she is gorgeous, and can also sing!)
Jean Shepard (Still has a great voice, and is very funny!)
Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Too X-Press (Rocky top!)
Bill Anderson (Segment host)
I used to listen to Bill’s XM radio show, this guy has written so many songs. Whisperin’ Bill is also very funny, go look him up if you don’t know who he is.
I got distracted.
John Conlee, He just did one song and it was not Rose Colored Glasses, sounded good though.
Opry Square Dancers
The Steeldrivers, A great bluegrass group
Lorrie Morgan (Segment host), She still sounds great!
Charles Esten aka Deacon from Nashville (Who knew Chip from Whose Line is it Anyway? could play and sing?)
Distracted yet again.
His name escapes me, but Charles Esten said this is the guy who is the “voice of Deacon’s guitar on Nashville”
Lorrie Morgan and Alison Krauss have a conversation while the announcer reads the announcements
Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski
She sang “I know who holds tomorrow” with Dan Tyminski playing acoustic.
WOW, she sounds and looks amazing! I feel lucky to have heard her sing live.
Dan Tyminski, you might know him as George Clooney’s singing voice on Oh Brother Where Art Thou. He is also a member of Union Station. He Sung “A Man of Constant Sorrow” and encourared audience participation, he has no friend to help him now…
Show is over
After the show was over, we had tickets for the backstage tour.
Some members of the Opry
Our tour guide Amanda was really great! She took us by all of the dressing rooms, the family/green room, on the stage.
Minnie Pearl’s shoes
The locker room
Most of the dressing rooms were already vacant, although Charles Esten was still in his. Some people in our group were looking inside the door like he was a zoo exhibit. Gaylyna and I tried to move along without gawking.
The announcer’s stand
Gaylyna and I made our Opry stage debut
We had the honor of meeting George Hamilton IV who told some stories about the Opry. He is a very nice man!
George Hamilton IV and our Tour Guide, Amanda
The Studio where some scenes from Hee Haw were filmed
Time to go
I really like that the Opry encourages pictures (flash allowed) just video. Although I did not use the flash during the show as I was not close enough for it to be effective.
From there we headed back to the hotel and crashed.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Before leaving Nashville, we stopped by Cooter’s Garage and took some pictures. I wanted to visit when it was open on Saturday, but we ran out of time. Next time Cooter!
The drive back to Memphis was rainy the whole way, but by the time we made it to Graceland, it was hot, humid and sunny!
Graceland was very busy, and crowded. I should have known as it was a holiday weekend. The first time I went was on a Friday in February.
We had to wait an hour and a half before we could even get in line to tour the mansion. We used that time to look around in the gift shops, and exhibits.
Elvis’ airplanes (the Lisa Marie could use some TLC)
The famous pink Cadillac he gave to his momma
Then our group was called to wait in line for the mansion tour.
They just started an iPad guided tour, John Stamos is the voice of the tour. However, it was like someone handed you a brick to carry around, especially if you were already carrying a camera. One of Gaylyna’s flip flops broke as soon as we got off the bus in front of the mansion. She was a trooper and carried on!
I am probably In the minority, but the iPad guided tour is making the mansion tour less enjoyable, it is a cool app, but people are so busy using the iPad, it causes a lot of congestion. I was able to get a few decent pictures.
His Parents Bedroom
The TV room
A shed used for target practice
The Trophy Room
The Racquetball Building
The Meditation Garden
Passing through the gates
After Graceland we headed to Sun Studio, but we could see from the road that it was really crowded. We were hot, sweaty, and hungry, so we went towards downtown to eat lunch.
We parked right by the Hard Rock Café, and actually went in to eat there. We waited for ten minutes with no service, they were not busy, and so we left. We were right on Beale Street, we tried BB King’s place, but there was a 30 minute wait and it was way crowded.
We ended up at King’s Palace Cafe.
The food there was really great! Gaylyna and I shared the King’s Feast for 2, and could not finish it.
We drove back over to Sun, the crowd has subsided there, as soon as we walked in Lana greeted us and asked us if we wanted to do the tour. She was our tour guide. It was my second time to do the tour, Gaylyna’s first. While we were waiting for the tour to begin, we spotted a poster of a group that recorded at Sun, The Ripley Cotton Choppers, which had some our Grandad’s cousins in it. That was really cool!
Lana is an excellent tour guide, and quite beautiful!
She has great enthusiasm for the history of Sun. The tour begins upstairs and she went around the room telling the history of Sam Phillips and Sun.
They also have a new exhibit of Dewey Phillips’ radio booth, the Memphis DJ who was first to play Elvis on the radio.
Then it was time to go downstairs into the studio.
Gaylyna with the Elvis mic
Again, Lana was wonderful at telling the story of how Rock and Roll was born at Sun, she had people stand in the places of Bill Black, Scotty Moore, and Elvis, retelling the story of how “That’s Alright” came to be and made history. The tour is awesome!
When I visited Sun in 2006, Dad and Mom went but did not do the tour. I took this picture of them.
Gaylyna wanted a picture in the same booth.
I have an instagram friend in Sweden @jahhollis, a few weeks ago I promised to send a postcard from Memphis.
My handwriting is so bad, I sent two. Hopefully one of the two will make it!
We took some pictures and headed to Days Inn at Graceland again, for our last night in Memphis.
We chilled out in the room for a bit, and then went across the street to sign the wall at Graceland.
Then we swam in the guitar shaped pool at the hotel.
Monday, September 1, 2014-Goodbye Memphis
We left the hotel at 5am and stopped by the Graceland wall one more time, and then Gaylyna dropped me off at the airport, I flew back to Houston, she drove back to Tulsa.
I am very glad that Gaylyna was able to come, originally I had planned it as a solo trip, but it’s always a lot more fun to share experiences of a trip with someone. It was nice to be able to show her some of the places I had been with Dad and Mom. Mom has been gone six months, but we obviously think about her every day. That first trip to Memphis and Nashville I took with her and Dad in 2006 was the one where I realized there was more to see in the world than where I live. It was therapeutic to retrace some of the stops from that trip. The trip is over, but the memories are permanent. Mom loved music and I think that passed down to all of her kids. I love music, history and travel, this trip was perfect for that. I’ll always have the memories of the first trip to Memphis and Nashville with my parents, and now this trip with my sister.