Friday, 31 May 2013

Graceland, Sun Studios and Martin Luther King Jr

Craig Writes;
29/05/13. Little Rock and the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport were fading into my rear view mirror quicker than you could say, "I did not have sexual relations in that Yukon", and Memphis Tennessee was calling. Must admit, I was looking forward to Memphis coz we were... going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee. ( nod to P Simon). 

This is so worth a visit.
We walked up to the steps of Graceland...
Now I am not an Elvis fan but my folks were and I got a fair ear full of The King as a young fella. Also, it's hard to not bow you head a little to a man who has sold a Billion records, and most of those since he died.  I guess it's the whole myth thing as well, the countless stories, programmes, articles and documentaries. 

Just a fraction of the costumes and memorabilia on show
How cool to have played a frame or two on this table in Elvis's pool room.
All the furniture is original, as is the Baby Grand he used to play.
His TV Room
Love that chair on the left, the curved one was Lisa Marie's favourite
I was expecting to be wowed, to be swept along in the richness of the Rock and Roll history and the legend that was this incredibly gifted man. I expected to be lifted up in this celebration of his life, his music, his lavish lifestyle and his generosity. I was expecting to, in some small way, leave feeling like I had experienced a little of what his life was like. I was expecting to leave feeling that, even though I'm not a fan, I don't have nor ever have had a single Elvis vinyl, CD or download, that, "I got it". That I saw what all the fuss was about. Well...I did. I got it all. I was wowed. I was impressed, I was ..I am , a fan.  And for those of you too cool to see it, don't judge till you've been there.
He bought this with his first big cheque, then gave it to his mom, who thankfully kept it.
The late, The great..
The day didn't end there. To say it got better isn't true, how could it, but it definitely stayed on the same plane. Sam Phillips, Union Avenue and Sun Studios were calling. This tiny odd shaped building at 706 Union Avenue with "Gods Guitar" hanging out the front, is where it all began.

So amazing, these four still come and jam here every Halloween night...apparently
It's where the seeds of Rock and Roll were planted, watered and took root.  Where a desperate to impress young 18 year old delivery truck driver, at the dying end of a long and unsuccessful recording audition suddenly puts a different spin on an old classic, finally impresses the patient Sam Phillips and boom, a legend is born. 

Oohh, if only I'd kept up singin with the choir
It's the size that really blows you away.
Elvis in an Akubra, could it have worked? Sadly, we'll never know.
 From that humble little beginning a revolution in music began. So many of the great and influential voices of the past got their start in Sam Philips small corner studio. Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King, Howlin Wolf, Carl Perkins, Ike Turner and many more. Sam Phillips sold the studio in 1965 and it lay dormant until 1986. By 1988 it was up and recording again with the likes of Ringo Starr, Def Lepard, U2 and Bonny Rait recorded there. The recording studio where it all happened still has the original floor and acoustic wall and ceiling tiles. You can see them in the old pictures of Elvis that hang on the walls of the studio. There's an X marked on the floor where Elvis stood to make his first demo for Sam Phillips. He's facing away from the mixing desk because he was too shy and Sam made him feel nervous. It is an amazing experience being in this room, the presence of these giants of the music industry still hang heavy. We were the very last to reluctantly leave.

Our day was not yet done. From here we decided to go and see where the National Civil Rights Museum was located with the intent of returning the next day. We parked in the side street of what appeared to be a fairly working class suburb and walked up and around a corner. A large sign ahead said, Lorraine Motel. At the top of a small incline we turned right. There it was, a run down, flat iron roofed, weather beaten, old two storey motel with arguably one of the worlds most famous and most photographed balconies . Two old rusted chevies were parked out front and cordoned off by a small brick fence and some teal coloured metal balustrating, replicas of the two vehicles Dr King and his entourage arrived in.

It is a place of sadness and refection.
If it wasn't for the massive red and white wreath fastened to the matching teal coloured railing outside room 306, you wouldn't look twice at this building. But it's amazing how one senseless act of murder can transform a nondescript battered pile of timber and plaster into an internationally recognised monument to a man who changed the face of race relations in the worlds richest and least tolerant nation. An X marks the spot just outside room 306 where Martin Luther King Jr lay after having been felled by an assassins bullet on April 4th 1968. 

I dont think they fully get it now , but one day they'll look at this and go, oh yeh.
It was a sombre moment after having spent a day being spun out by the sights of Graceland and Sun Studios. But we weren't about to be bought down. We paid our respects to Dr King and moved on. 
That night we wandered Union Avenue and found Aldo's pizza, the T -Rex, a meat lovers delight and the Memphis Special, pulled pork and red onion topped with a fresh and creamy coleslaw. My god, pizza pie fit for The King himself.

The Mighty T Rex has balls, meatballs
30/05/13, Today was a day to kick back and reflect on the amazing day we had yesterday.  I was starting to look like a runner up in an Einstein hair competition so decided it was time to get a trim. I noticed a barbers pole just down the street on our way to The Blue Plate Cafe yesterday so headed there. I was met by the big, bouncy and sassy Barbara the Barber. She cut me, trimmed me, shaved me then slap me silly with rubbing alcohol before rubbing some smooth creamy vanilla paste all over my face. God it was fantastic. All for $24. Barb, if I lived in Memphis I would be your number one. 
It was that good for breakfast yesterday we decided to return to The Blue Plate Cafe for lunch. We had shaved Turkey with Beans, Biscuits and Gravy, Meat Loaf with Black Beans and Mashed Potatoes and Fried Green Tomatoes. Southern home style cookin at it's finest.

So southern I felt cotton growin' outa ma ears after eatin this
Fried Green Tomatoes and ranch dressing made with real ranch
Christina and I took a  walk down to have a look at a couple of big ol paddle steam boats tied up at a jetty down on the banks of the  Mississippi. It's a wide brown river that rolls along at it's own pace. We loved Memphis, it gave us more than we were expecting and we were grateful. It would be good to come back one day.
Paddle steamers bobbing on the grand old Mississippi
31/05/13. What is a Paducah you may well ask. Stick up your Paducahs buddy, I'm gonna knock your block off. Or is it maybe a game of cards where a winning hand could be a Full Paducah, a Straight Paducah or even a  Royal Paducah. Maybe it's a small Victorian hand held paddle with holes in it used to spank the bare bottoms of willing cheeky wenches or perhaps an ancient Persian Pudding recipe. No, if you guessed any of these you are wrong. 
Paducah, Kentucky was our next stop on our way out of Memphis and onto Lexington, and what a grand little surprise it was. We swapped a stop over in Nashville to come to Paducah because, unknown to many but the dedicated, this is the Quilt Capital of The Nation.  

The Quilt Capital of the United States of America
Oh no I hear you calling, you gave up the opportunity of a chance meeting with Keith Urban on the streets of Nashville to go see a room full of old ladies lap rugs. Well, it was important to Christina who is a bit of a quilter herself so we all said, 'no problem, Paducah here we come". And let me tell you, it may not be full of Rembrandts, Pissaros or Monets but, these are all works of art. Seriously, I was gob smacked at the standard of pieces hanging from the walls of this museum. The detail and intricate pieced work, the astounding use of coloured fabrics, some hand stitched, others done by machine is nothing less than outstanding. We chewed through two hours like they were minutes and even then we could have lingered a little longer. 

Before hand we went to the Whaler Seafood restaurant for a killer seafood chowder, best Hamburger ever and a crab cake so chock full of sweet crab meat I had to keep stabbing it with my fork lest it scurry off the plate. So good.  It's an interesting place, Paducah. They have the most stunning wall of murals depicting the establishment of the town and the major events that influenced it during it's growth. It must be nearly a kilometre long.

The murals tell a magnificent story
Stunning pieces of artwork

The Pie Shoppe gets an honorable mention for best pie...ever

Chocolate Meringue and Coconut Meringue. It would be like trying to pick your favorite child

And here's a little snippet. It has the only operating uranium enrichment plant in the United States. Paducah , the home of the worlds only glow in the dark quilts.

Paducah, The Atomic Capital of the USA

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