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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stuck in Memphis with the Delta Blues, Amen

I have checked out of my hotel, which I thought would get me motivated to drive West but then I was so torn over heading to Little Rock, which is the correct direction, and taking Hwy 61 south to the Crossroads and Clarkston, MS that I just stopped the car in the South Main Arts District so I could contemplate my next move. That was around noon and now it is almost 3:00. I discovered a whole different neighborhood from downtown and Beale Street even though Main Street runs throughout. There is a trolley that runs up and down Main and over to the Bluff, where you can walk on the river.

This neighborhood has the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was shot so that was powerful to walk around. I am already torn up over seeing some of the ghetto neighborhoods here in Memphis (where Stax is) so I decided to not go inside the museum. I had lunch at Beignet's, around the corner. Yum.... gator bites, fried green tomatoes and steamed shrimp with green salad. The Bloody Mary just seemed the right thing to do. Hey, people, I am on vacation here!

I leave Memphis this afternoon with a long list of what I did not get to see: the Gibson factory, Mud Island park, walking the Bluffs, Graceland, the Center for Southern Folklore, the Cotton Museum, the Underground Railroad museum, a photo exhibit at the art museum called Who Shot Rock. Here is what I did see:
Rock and Soul Museum - spent over 3 hours inside with an iPod to go along with the exhibits
Stax Museum - was there at least two hours. Isaac Hayes gold cadillac is worth the admission
Sun Recording Studios - more of a guided tour but the collection of instruments was awesome

I also did things like drive across town to a camera shop for some repair work, walk around Overton Park hoping to see the rock photography exhibit but the museum was closed, and, this morning, search for my phone somewhere on Beale Street. Good news is.... I found it!

Beale Street is so much better than the music strips in Nashville or New Orleans. I don't know how many blues muscians live in Memphis but it's got to be in the hundreds. There are bands in all of the clubs every night and most of what I heard was very good. I was told that the really top players won't show up until Thursday or Friday. Everyone thought I should stick around. Everyone being a small group of locals, some being guitar players in a band called Delta Time that I listened to two nights in a row at Rum Boogie. I am now friends with a man whose cousins played on Love and Happiness with Al Green at Hi Recording Studio. Now those are credentials!

I know that my friends in DC are suffering a heat wave, but it isn't exactly cool here. 90 degrees and thunderheads means it is very sticky. Maybe that's a good thing, because if it was cooler I would go walk on the river right now instead of getting in the car and motivating. I'm pretty sure Hwy 61 is out of the question if I want to make Fayetteville by dark.

Oh, yes. I stuck my head in a Folk Alliance non-profit shop and had a delightful conversation with two young women who filled me in on an entirely different music scene here in Memphis plus told me where to get good coffee in Fayetteville. Get this, they gave me a free sampler CD and who should be on it but Chico Schwall.... an old friend from Eugene. Get out of here! He's part of some big festival they have in Memphis in the winter. There is also a big blues congregation in January that sound interesting.

Signing off for now. Oh, yes. Beignet's may be on the food channel for their Mac and Cheese balls. They basically freeze it and then make balls, roll in crumbs and fry them up. Not on my diet but they sounded pretty darn good. Traveling with South Beach is the topic of another blog.

Take care and as absoutely everyone says to me.... be safe.

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