Elvis Week
Our Rock and Rollin’ Trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee
by Tony and Margee Gaeddert
August 8th – 16th, 2015
After a quick stop at Capitol Hill High School in OKC, for an auction of Redskins athletic memorabilia, we headed to Memphis. The mascot for Capitol Hill was the Redskins which is offensive to Native Americans A new mascot was elected; Red Wolves. The school auctioned off the athletic football, basketball, soccer, cheerleading and band uniforms with the now defunct Redskins logo. Tony only wanted photo memories. As we roamed a hallway of the school a lovely lady, the principal’s assistant, invited us in to see the newly created hall of memories room dedicated to the Redskin era. Trophies from 1925, the first yearbook, spirt items, posters, ribbons and a Native American buckskin dress and chief attire were on display among many other items. The little cartoon redskin was crafted into the tile of the floor. It was well done and a nice tribute to history. I personally am glad to see the name change, but, I am not a graduate of Capitol Hill. I know some are saddened by the change.
President Clinton Library and Museum---After a five hour drive to Little Rock, Arkansas we quickly drove to the President Clinton Library and Museum on the banks of the Arkansas River. A beautiful view of the river and bridges greeted us as we walked to the state of the art “green” building that housed 3 floors of archival collections of the Clinton presidency, as well as research facilities, the Clinton Foundation, and the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service.
I wanted to see the replica of the White House Oval Office first, and was not disappointed in the tasteful American classic design and wonderful art and sculpture. President Clinton’s story is emblazoned on the walls and exhibits in large as life photos, videos and interactive stations. I sat at the table in the replica of the cabinet room and imagined the power of our leader making critical and powerful decisions for the American people and the world. Tony and I enjoyed viewing the showcase of life in the White House during Clinton’s presidency, filled with gifts from many countries, the china service selected by Hillary, her gown and fun video as she pretended to be “Forest Gump” Clinton. Christmas cards, ornaments and a large Dale Chihuly glass sculptured Christmas tree were highlights of a holiday the Clinton’s loved. Tony posed for a photo of a gift to the president of a red, white and blue bicycle. The Clinton’s pets were photographed and adored by the family. Tony commented on how well done the arrangement of exhibits were on a self-guided tour, easy to follow and enjoy. Thank you President Clinton for your historical impact on our nation!
Memphis Elvis Week 2015---After a restful night at our hotel, we headed off to Memphis the next morning for a city tour. It is Elvis Week 2015 in Memphis and we were ready to see lots of events.
Like Little Rock, Memphis sits on the banks of the mighty river, the Mississippi. The enormous Bass Pro Shop Pyramid greets you as you glide over the large bridge of the river. We parked and walked along the trails by the river and admired the boats and beautiful southern styled homes perched on a hill above.
Beale Street was calling so we drove to the famous street and admired the jumble of neon signs depicting blues, blues and more blues. Ahhhh the ghosts of music legends roamed those haunts. Tony was in a photo frenzy, and I parked myself on a barstool and cooled off from the August swelter of heat. A Flat Tire beer does the trick along with a tall glass of ice water, and a fun chat with the lady bartender, a native of Memphis ready to flee the heat to somewhere cooler and quiet!
Rock’n Rollin’ Bus Tour---The bus tour included a singing guitarist as we rode through the streets of Memphis. It was entertaining as the person recited history and anecdotes of the city as well as the entertainers that made the city so famous. He passed around tambourines and egg shaped shakers to the tourists. He would tell us about a musician and then sing one of their hit songs. We were ready for Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On”! It was great fun to shake, rattle and roll along on that bus singing and learning about Lewis, Cash, the King of Blues, and the King of Rock!
We saw the apartment that Elvis lived in, now high-end luxury housing that will rent that now famous apartment, with rules to follow, like no carving your initials in his former bedroom wall as some young teeny boppers had done. We saw Johnny Cash’s apartment he lived in with his first wife, a movie scene was filmed there.BB King lived across the road in a neighborhood from Elvis, it was so interesting to think they lived so close before they changed the music scene forever.
After the civil war Memphis became a hot spot for commerce and trade. The river and the population of people flocking from farm to city grew the city and its legends of gospel music were the inspiration for so many of music legends in blues and rock that we enjoy today. The first Black radio recording station in the US was in Memphis. Because of its success, the greats such as Elvis just had to sing like those gospel gods.
After 4 months of saving the Presley family gave Elvis 4 dollars to record a song for his momma. He stepped into Sun Records, a recording studio in Memphis, hoping to meet Sam Phillips and met Marion, Sam’s assistant manager, instead. Sam was away. Marion fell in love with Elvis’s looks and voice. Sam later did not. But Marion, who was a respected person in the music industry, said give him a chance…the rest is history.
Sun Records Studio Tour---We hopped off the bus to enter the famous Sun Studio to hear the story of the making of the legends in music. Sun Records was a former Auto Repair shop. The acoustic tiles from ceiling to floor were painted a matte white. (I know these tiles must have absorbed the notes of melodies those legends crooned in hopes of success.)
Tony stepped up to the original microphone used to record the legends hits as I photographed him surrounded by guitars, the original drum set, and large photos of singers living on in the pressed records hanging on every wall of the studio.
Sun records went bankrupt and closed. In later years became a bakery, even a scuba diving shop (so important in Memphis, ha ha) Those interested in preserving it and making it back to its original appearance, uncovered those old white acoustic tiles ready to welcome people back to a few moments of sweet blues and rock.
Hard Rock Café Contest---The long tour and the unforgiving heat made us long for a shower and snooze back at the hotel. After a refresh we were back on Beale Street that night to experience an entertaining, almost bizarre experience at the Hard Rock Café. The Hard Rock hosted an Ultimate Elvis Contest that would send the finalist that evening to the Orpheum Theaters with other winners, to compete for the grand prize…ding dongs and a peanut butter and banana sandwich…thank you very much!
We were perched in a spot to see the many Elvis contestants and their Elvis look alike friends. If I said, “Hey Elvis, they would all turn around.” Ha ha. Many of them posed for us and the highlight was an actual movie star that portrayed Elvis in a good movie that Tony and I had watched! I was thrilled to meet him. He shook my hand and seemed shy…was he still in Elvis character?
The Café was packed and I decided to just move around from floor to floor as Tony enjoyed shooting pix and gin and tonics. I got to meet some fun people as I roamed the wild audience with my Canon DSLR 6D with a Sigma 24 to 70 2.8 zoom lens ready to capture some rockin’ Presley performers. They were attired in gold suits, white bejeweled suits and of course black leather, tight pants mandatory on all. Young and mature in age each belted out popular Elvis hits with really convincing voice style…even the judges were closing their eyes to listen at the authenticity from their vocal tones.
The contest opened with a mature, pudgy, overly tanned, Elvis impersonator comically crooning songs, kissing the front row gals and giving his sweaty scarf away…in general getting the crowd ready for some hot fun! Hot it was, the air conditioning was not cooling the near capacity crowd on a muggy Memphis night, but we were all determined to see the hip shakers take the stage and blast some cool hits into the air!
The first entertainer was a gold suited “Elvis” with a velvet sound. Five more impersonators slid onto the stage rocked and slid off again with a thank you very much. I would keep roaming getting some fun shots from different places in the café, even from upstairs looking down on an Elvis contestant with flowing baby blue bejeweled cape.
After a night of various top hits belted out by the look a likes, we headed out into the hot neon lit streets with bands playing in every club. The doors were all wide open so it was a rock in roll concert as we strolled with an ice cold brew and each other. As we walked to our car we peeked inside the Hard Rock to hear that the gold suited Elvis took the prize. We will see him again when we watch the finals at the Orpheum later this week.
Side bar Story: Cruisin’ on the way to Nashville…We stopped for a quick lunch in a Truck Stop. As we noshed on BBQ and deviled eggs at a small group of tables in the middle of the convenience store, now this was redneck, a man sitting next to us looked our way and asked, “Say have you ever been on a cruise?” We were a little surprised and then looked and each other for a sec and said, “Yes we have.” He said, “Did ya like it?” We said, “Yes.” He was going to cruise to the Caribbean Islands soon. Then he began to chatter about his life on the road as a truck driver. He said “Go ahead and ask me about any music star and I have probably hauled their equipment for them.” I thought of several and a lot of them he had met and hauled their equipment for them! He chattered on about how there was a great need for truck drivers. I asked him about how a trucker on the way had tried to pull right over in front of me and I hesitated and then sped up and didn’t let him over. When I reached the front of the truck he honked twice at me! Woke up my sweet sleeping hubby and startled me! And then he didn’t even get over once I had passed. I wondered if my highway etiquette was lacking? He piped up, “No that trucker was an idiot!” Even another trucker standing close by confirmed it, “Yep, he was an idiot.” So glad I got that all cleared up.
Nashville, Music Town---We said goodbye to Memphis, for just a couple of days, as we drove to Nashville…home of the Grand Ole Opry.
The green tree covered hills greeted us as we pulled into our hotel close to the Opry. We checked into a nice suite of rooms, large and comfy with a kitchen nook, living room and separate bedroom, happy to have two TVs for our different taste in viewing. Smile.
Downtown Nashville is lovely and the Ryman Theater is sandwiched into the skyscrapers and busy shops and restaurants. The original church building is now covered by walls that open into a lobby and gift shop. The grand staircase is a welcoming sign to the old section of the “church” theater. It did feel like a tabernacle to me, with its’ church pew seating and stained glass windows casting colorful spiritual lighting onto the rich woods of the floors and beams.
By the way, I love the friendly attitudes of the Tennesseans. They are matter of fact and warm. The tour guide was an example of one, a sweet, joking older man. He had been the bus driver for Hank Williams Jr. and we could just see his eyes light up as he spoke of his memories with the stars of the Ryman. He spoke low and softly with a chuckle at his own humor and a wink in his eye as he recited many anecdotes of the Ryman’s history. He had a long story about Hank Williams Sr. wives, told to us as we lounged in the dressing room of that well known wild livin’ country singer. It would have been a great soap opera show and sounded like a “crying in your beer country song” to me. The plot…first wife wants a D-I-V-O-R-C-E from Hank and seeks money for her and little J-U-N-I-O-R. Second wife gets it all, then first wife gets back the house…along with the back taxes owed…you just cannot make this stuff up. Ah ha…swing your partner…pass the beer…or is it swing the beer and pass your partner…smile.
We enjoyed touring many dressing rooms of the most famous Ryman stars that had the original furnishings, loved Johnny Cash’s red and black decorated room. As we followed our guide he directed us to walk across the stage of the Ryman and imagine all the talent that had graced the stage. I loved the wooden floor as it creaked…wait…was that the soft sound of a fiddle…a guitar strum…a hum of twang…it was just my imagination as I longed to really see those legendary greats perform for us right then and there.
We posed for a photo in the same spot that top name stars had stood entertaining the crowds of people that flocked to the Ryman. (Those stars and fans saved the Ryman when it went into vacancy and ruin for many years. The Opry had moved out in 1974 and left this once “Church of Music” sadly alone and crumbling.) Now, fully restored it is accented with museum cases displaying historical memorabilia of its’ many entertainers past and present. A large display of Hatch poster art and design was in a very informative timeline on the outside walls of each foyer front and back. (Hatch printing company was the exclusive printer for the concert posters, the style and fonts were famous and loved by collectors.)
Happy, Happy, Happy---We strolled along Church Street as we listened to the music floating from the bars and restaurants. I noticed a poster slapped up on a doorway of The Stage honky-tonk announcing the filming of a Duck Dynasty TV show episode and the Robison family cast would be there that evening. I ventured into the cooled air, had a sign of relief and immediately enjoyed the singer strumming his guitar into the gathering crowd. I ran out and begged Tony, who was snapping pics, to come inside and get a seat in this cool fun place! (I hate to admit it, being the liberal I am and not agreeing with their hillbilly politics, I still watch the show regularly, not sure why…I am afraid it reminds me of some of my family I suppose.) Ha ha.
After a cool one and a slice of pizza, and dessert of M&M’s (pure redneck dinner huh?) we settled in up on the balcony for a bird’s eye view of the stage and another band with a talented lady singer. The film crew moved in and some of them perched on bars and sidelines and some invaded our perch to mount a camera on a boom stick to sway back and forth as they filmed the show from above. It was interesting to watch them setup the equipment.
The announcer told us by being in the audience we agreed to the rules of the film session. Sure did. The filming began, in walked the Robinson’s, Willie and family, Jace and wife, and the infamous Uncle Si. He was dressed all “urban cowboy-ish”, with silver and black suit, cowboy boots, black and silver cowboy hat. He kept his sunglasses on the entire time. Willie jumped on stage to sing with a famous country rapper. Then Uncle Si strolled onto stage to “rap” and of course it did not sound like rap or make any sense, but, he kept on trying. Willie’s daughter was pulled on stage to dance as Uncle Si warbled. The entire family and audience laughed along with his antics and clapped loudly. It was a fun time and those bearded guys looked and acted the same as they do each week on the show…scruffy and loud rednecks.
Country Music Hall of Fame Museum---Next morning we entered the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum; a beautiful building in the heart of Nashville. Symbols of music notes and a keyboard blend into its’ architecture. Films, photos and memorabilia of the greatest country stars burst from the displays in every inch of that museum. It was eye candy and ear candy for country music fans as the history is delightfully described in samples from old TV shows, movies and priceless photos and personal items of the stars. I was thrilled to see a special exhibit of Trisha Yearwood, one of my most favorite Country singers!
Gold records lined ceiling to floor walls in one room. Vintage classic cars were on display and the gold encrusted piano of Elvis sat glistening in a corner. A display of Roger Miller’s Grammy awards impressed me. He was also a favorite of mine.
RCA Studio B Tour---After soaking up tons of museum info our tour guide directed us to a tour bus waiting for us outside to whisk us off to RCA Studio B. This was one of my favorite parts of our vacation. We stepped into a room filled with large Black and White photo portraits of RCA music legends, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves, Ike Turner and Elvis. As the guide spoke of each legend she played snippets of their famous songs in a perfect sound room that took my breath away. I told Tony that I wanted a room like this in our home. The unique sound of the recordings had been captured by the use of blankets draped in a corner behind the artist as they sang, to separate the music from the vocals. We watched a live taping and saw the blankets hanging behind Dottie West as she tested a song.
The studio had original equipment on display. We walked into the recording studio…there is was in a corner, the very piano Elvis used to play and sing his songs so many years ago. We were invited to sit and pose for a photo with that beauty. It was a thrill for us! Again the lovely lady guide played songs for us in that rich acoustical studio as we tourists sat in a semi-circle around the room. She dimmed the lights and asked us to close our eyes and imagine him there as she played Elvis singing, Are You Lonesome Tonight, my most favorite song of Elvis.
It will be a treasured memory of mine; being in the Studio B where Elvis played that beautiful piano and sang, and then getting to hear his recorded vocal magic.
Back on the bus and back to the museum for more exhibits. I tried to make a recording in a booth and miserably failed off key, ha ha! But so fun! As I was buying souvenirs Tony came and pulled me out of the shop to see something he knew I would love, he is a sweetie pie…bless his heart! The Hatch Printing museum was inside the Country Music museum. Oh it was a joy for us to see them running a hand press for proofing of the current posters. The walls were filled with letterpress metal lead letters to be used on the presses in the room. Hatch will print up a run of 500 in quantity for an order of printing. The Ryman and Opry will order 250 for a concert. The artists will give them as gifts and promotions, and fans can buy them for $10 bucks a poster at the concert. I bought one later at the Opry, and I bought a poster of one of former Reba’s performances.
Hello, I’m Johnny Cash---After a meal we entered the museum of Tony’s favorite musician “The Man in Black, Mr. Johnny Cash”. Yet another fine museum dedicated to an artist that millions adored. The exhibits were so informative and entertaining. We learned of his birth and childhood, his military service and his friendship with other legends and of course his love affair with his wife June Carter Cash. I did not realize how many movies and TV shows he had been in until I viewed the fun film about his life. Many of his performing costumes and private memorabilia were encased in glass forever held in time.
The weather was nice so we decided to explore the bridge across the river. Of course Tony practically skipped up the high incline of the bridge as I floated up the elevator. A nice view of the river and city awaited us. Bikers and runners were enjoying the view too. We could see the rooftops of the museums and enjoy the summer breeze.
Opry---We rested in our hotel and dressed up for the Grand Ole Opry performance to come that evening. Our hotel was by the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, the Opry Mall and the Opry. A nice garden area escorts one into the entrance of the Opry. Tony reserved nice seats for us on the main floor with a good view of the live performance for the radio. I was thrilled when Larry Gaitland and his band appeared and performed. Larry worked the audience with his humorous actions, kissing the top of a bald headed man’s head, trying to get ladies to dance with him, yanking up a man to dance and then pushing him back down again, funny. And, another thrill was to see and hear Pam Tillis sing several of her well known hits. She mentioned a fellow had approached her before the show and encouraged her to sing his favorite song of hers…”Velvetta Loca”. (Her song is Mi Vida Loca). Ha ha ha. I have always loved her and she looked great, sang great, and was energetic in her red suede high heeled boots!
Several other artists performed including the opry debut of “The Milk-Carton Kids”, a duo of guys dressed in suits with a guitar and a mandolin. Those artists were so talented and comedic! The opry audience loved them and welcomed them.
Back stage…HOWDY!!---A seasoned Opry regular artist sang his hits and the show came to an end for the night, but we got to stay in the theater to get ready for a backstage tour! Like the Ryman it is so fun to see the dressing rooms, the large high ceilings of the sound stages and huge curtains and pulleys. The artists have a special entrance in the side of the theater after they park. It is a garden walkway into a foyer that includes two paintings to greet them as they enter, one of Minnie Pearl and one of Roy Acuff. A wall of mail boxes filled with fan mail for favorite stars is ready for them to retrieve their mail as they arrive. A huge party room directly behind the Opry stage is available for private parties. Artist’s families can sit directly on the stage during the performance. Other celebrities are known to stop by and say howdy backstage as well. We enjoyed posing for a photo together on the circle of wood brought over from the Ryman stage that many a legend has stood upon. May the circle be unbroken…by and by Lord, by and by, there’s a better home awaitin’ in the sky Lord, in the sky. That is the motto of the Opry and Museum Hall of Fame.
Graceland, Lord of Mercy, I feel my temperature risin’---We said our goodbyes to Nashville and drove on back to Memphis…Graceland was calling to us! Before we entered the famous home of Elvis we had enrolled in an Elvis 101 lecture by scholars and the producers of the new movie about Elvis to debut Fall of 2015. Now we were ready to board the bus to Graceland across the way.
Side bar story…gift shop browsin’---As we waited for the bus I stepped in the gift shop. A 12 year old girl looked at me, as we were spinning the same tower of magnets and asked, “Why are there so many magnets, hats, everything with a pink Cadillac car on them?” I smiled and happily replied, “Because the first car Elvis purchased was a pink Cadillac. He later gave it to his mother---Funny though, she couldn’t drive, so he escorted her around town. Also, many songs have been written about it since.” The little girl seemed satisfied, but not too impressed. She seemed to want to hang out with me as her grandma got tickets, so we enjoyed a few more minutes of searching for all the memorabilia with pink Caddy’s on them. She found her granny and then I had a 1950s childhood memory flash. My older sister Donna included me on a trip to the movies with her and her girlfriends. I was squeezed into the seat between them with their huge petticoats under poodle skirts fluffed up around me. As I was noshing on some malted milk ball candy my sister and her friends jumped out of their seats and screamed. Well, I thought there was a nuclear attack, did I need to “drop, duck and cover” under the seat like we practiced for at school, or maybe a fire was raging, or did something scary happen in the theater? I tugged on Donna’s puffy petticoat and asked what was goin’ on! They all exclaimed Elvis, Elvis is singing on the screen. Oh is that all, I was so confused, somewhat shakin’…a little rattled…and my candy went rollin’.
The bus arrived and our guide provided us each with an iPad and a set of headphones. The iPad was filled with interactive tidbits about the rooms of the mansion and grounds. John Stamos was our iPad host. The 70s décor had been preserved, with shag carpets, velvet paintings, flocked wallpaper and huge glass vases. I loved the music room with Elvis’s record collection and far out 70s couches in bright yellow leathers. The grounds were lovely and I liked the home. Many people that have visited the home commented that it was a let-down in its size and style, not to me and Tony; it was pure Elvis. I could imagine him playing at the pool table and sitting at the piano.
The pool area was so nice, surrounded by large trees, and the meditation garden in which Elvis and his parents and grandmother rest in peace. Many fans provide bouquets, wreaths and charming homemade treasures of love that are display around the gravesite. And eternal flame is burning.
Our tickets gave us a VIP room to visit filled with his last stage jumpsuits and a film playing from his Vegas performances in the International Casino that he was so proud of in Vegas. It was a nice treat added onto the Mansion tour.
The archives were so interesting and informative inside an adjacent building by the mansion. One of his pair of giant glasses was poised inside a clear display case, its eyeglass case was exactly like my daddy’s large and brown pleather. Daddy’s glasses were not cool, they were 70s black rimmed. Smile. We received another treat…a film of Elvis and some more wonderful performances during his lifetime.
Cars, cars, cars, with Girls, Girls, Girls---The bus dropped us back to more museums and exhibits included on our tour. The car museum was one of my favorite places to attend. The cars and motorcycles that Elvis owned, sold, and enjoyed were a joy to see. The museum was created like a street with Graceland background painted or photographed scenes and a car sitting in front of each of the scenes. In the middle you attended a drive-in movie…and guess who was playing on screen…none other than, the King himself and several of his movies with all the car scenes and co-star actresses. At the end was a small gas station with two vintage pumps.
We attended one of the Elvis museums with all his gold records on the wall. We then rested with a snack of ice cream in the 50s decorated Elvis Café. Next up was the climb up the stairs to see Elvis’ jet plane named the “Lisa Marie” after his only child. (She reminded him one time that she had not seen snow, so her daddy arranged a trip in the jet with him to Colorado to see the snow, play in it for a while and then fly back home. The original furnishings are on the plane even the gold plated seat belts. It was an Elvis overload day but fun.
Ultimate ELVIS Contest at the Orpheum Theater---After resting in our hotel we dressed up for the Ultimate Elvis Contest finals. The famous Orpheum Theater was our destination. Imagine a theater from yesteryear, with gold ornate carved wood, large chandeliers, rich velvet curtains in each doorway and arches that reached the ceilings surrounded by decorative wallpapers. A grand staircase spread out into the opulence of it all. The crowd was huge and noisy. They all wanted to see and be seen by Nashville society it seemed. A famous Elvis Impersonator, winner of the 2010 finals, was working the crowd with a microphone. Wow the place went crazy. His name was DeanZ, and Tony and I decided he must be a popular dude. I selected the Elvis Special cocktail, rum, pineapple and coconut mix with a splash of gin…it was tangy. Ours seats again were good and on the main floor, kisses to my Tony. When the curtain arose to a ginormous ELVIS sign lit up like the Vegas strip I admit I felt a rush of excitement as if the King had risen.
With my “Hunka Hunka Burning Love” beside me I watched in wonder at the talented men, all ten of them, singing beloved Elvis hits competing for $20,000.00 and a year contract of performances. These guys were soooo good! They had all the Elvis moves down from their bopping heads to the lift of their heels in a tip toe pose…Elvis would have loved to be in the building!!! One of the guys was the actor I shook hands with at the Hard Rock Café earlier this week. He was dressed in an Army uniform and sang “Regulation Blues”. The contestants were narrowed down to five and had to perform one more song. (The actor was selected in the final five.) Then third place was announced, it was the actor, second place and then the winner who truly looked and sounded like Elvis. The audience was cheering and screaming. The winner received flowers and hugs on stage. We all poured out into the hot August night happy with teenage like giddiness. After a stroll along Beale Street we slumbered in our hotel bed dreaming of being on stage as Elvis and Cilla.
STAX Records Tour---We arrived at Stax Recording Studio Museum the next morning to tour the once soulful sound stage that produced legends like Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MGs, among many, many more. A wonderful film told the story of the recording studio owned by a brother and sister team that produced priceless music. A real life church building was moved into the museum. The Hooper Ames Church was filled with a hand crafted pulpit and pews, a piano, a print of the Lord’s Supper painting, and the humble baptismal bowl (a white porcelain red rimmed kitchen bowl) was filled with holy water and used to anoint the heads of the saved. Soul, Rock, Country and Blues was raised up in church, the spirituals and gospel songs developed into the secular sound of legends rising up to musical greatness.
Records, clothing, photo displays, vintage cars and interactive games, created an entertaining experience for a seeker of soulful knowledge of music from the rock of ages to that 70s sound. We were really impressed by the layout of this museum. A large screen showed episodes of TVs Soul Train show, and it came to life because it had a dance floor in front of the giant screen with disco ball and flashing colorful lights, so you could get your groove on. (I loved watching Soul Train trying to mimic those soulful dance steps at home.) The emcee was a cool man that provided a sophisticated, intelligent role model for young people. I loved his voice. Isaac Hayes gold, fur lined vintage automobile revolving on a stage of its own along with his Oscar for the theme from “Shack”.
STAX Records sadly went under after MLK was shot. The town suffered greatly from the tragedy. A historical marker was erected to tell its history. Then fundraising brought the studio back. Great care was taken to reconstruct the studio with original equipment on display and how the studio was built from a former movie theater. The owner did not want to spend money on making the floor level, (it sloped down like all movie theaters do) and the rest is history, the shape of the room contributed to the quality of the unique sound for recording. Booker T & The MGs original piano is on display, the one they recorded “Green Onions” on, oh man was that a thrill to see. Leaving that soulful place was bittersweet. My youth seemed to beg me to linger and reminisce of a happy, happy time in my life.
Arcade for noshing, no games just down home food---Tony and I were ready for a Memphis meal. We parked at our next destination, the Civil Rights Museum and MLK Memorial and walked around the corner to a famous restaurant called the Arcade. We slid into a booth with worn laminate table tops and 50s décor. It was a colorful place and the music was blaring from the speakers. People were chowing down on some good home style cooking. We settled on salads and meatloaf and some banana puddin’. Elvis loved to eat at this place and we had our photo taken in his favorite booth. 21st century stars have visited the place and the Food Network loves to do shows there.
Civil Rights Museum and MLK Memorial---Quietly we walked down the green grassed park across from the MLK Memorial at the Lorraine Motel. A large wreath marked the area on the balcony where a once great leader had died. The entrance to the museum was once the entrance to the motel, a comfortable place for African-Americans to stay and visit friends, now a multi-million dollar treasure telling the real story of African-American’s journey from Africa to America and then the journey for Civil and Human Rights.
As we waited for the introductory film to start a sobering exhibit educates one with all the historical facts about the millions of displaced human beings, the largest mass movement ever in history…it lasted for 366 years. I was ashamed of American leaders, land owners and the general population who allowed such human tragedy. Greed spurred it on for so long, tobacco, rice and cotton plantations fueled America’s economy. The Constitution was ignored because of this greed. Laws were re-written or abolished. The exhibits were so powerful and detailed.
Life size sculptures were standing as testaments to the never ending struggle of this race of men and women and children. The logo of the museum is a man pushing against a wall.
Once you view the rooms that MLK stayed in at the Lorraine that fateful day you cross the street to see the rooms that James Earl Ray stayed in, inside the boarding house, where he pointed his rifle and took Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s life. The boarding house was now a museum of artifacts from the crime. The rooms were restructured exactly as the old crime scene photos showed.
The story of the crime is intriguing. Did Ray have an accomplice or work alone? Was there a conspiracy, with the FBI, the mob, the local police force? The crime was investigated and commissions were employed to investigate through the years. Mrs. King requested more investigation. The final decision was made that Ray acted alone in the crime. Do we really know why?
It was an emotional journey to travel through a timeline of hate, prejudice and then murder. It was emotional to see the triumph of a race of humans that would never give up on freedom…Rosa Parks is such a hero to me…and our own Oklahoma City hero, Ms. Clara Luper was highlighted in the museum for all her efforts to honor her father’s wish, “To have a nice meal at a restaurant and to sit where you pleased.” She fought long and hard here in Oklahoma with the soda fountain “sit-ins” at Katz Drug Store. We must never forget those troubled times, and sadly they are still with us. Where is the Peace at Last?
It was our last night on vacation. Tony and I rested at the hotel. I dipped my tired hot feet in the pool and thought about all the amazing sights and sounds we had experienced in Tennessee. The people are friendly, the food is fine, and the music is rockin’ country soulful blues!
ELVIS a Las Vegas Tribute---We rushed to some pretty good seats when the doors blasted open of the event for the night in what looked like a large revival tent…I thought so appropriate for this area of the country. A huge screen welcomed us and the Elvis tribute band started playing. Wow the lead singer’s voice was pure and sweet like Elvis and his band members and backup singers were excellent. The singer had seen Elvis perform live 38 times and had been playing his music for many, many years. (When he was a young teenage boy, he met Elvis, by sneaking into a hotel and then backstage as the King was walking from his dressing room after performing. The singer said Elvis was gracious and very easy to talk to, and a sweet photo of him with Elvis attested to the fact!
A large screen filled with photos and film footage from the Graceland archives were played and the singer smoothly crooned over twenty Elvis hits along with those sweet memories flashing on the screen above him.
Elvis Week 2015 came to a close for Tony and me. We will always remember the 1,517 mile journey to Memphis and Nashville and back home, as we celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary on Tuesday, August 18th.
Happy Anniversary to us! Thank you very much!

Note: I am not a writer. I am an artist that appreciates a good story. Tony encourages me to journal our travel experiences. So please remember, the grammar, spelling and broken sentences are my responsibility alone so please forgive those stumbles.
Peace, Love and Rock ‘n Roll,
Margee and Tony Gaeddert
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