We loaded up the new car ( hey got about 37 mpg for the trip!) and headed down to Stl bright and early. As we made our way south ( Minn, Iowa.......) I spotted a site that my wife would enjoy...Swedesburgh Iowa! Yep, it was a museum about Swedes! My wife said we could pass it by....but I thought " This trip is gonna be heavy on Mikes Music weirdness, so I better find some stuff that would make her happy!" So I made a swift U-turn and pulled into the mecca for fair skinned people :-)
It was a very nice little place with a very enthusiastic elderly lady showing us around, we had a nice break looking at the history of the swedish people and its early immigrants to the region.
Here is a pic from the stop
We made our way through Missouri and into STL. We spent the night in a town on the outskirts of STL , right by Six Flags Amusement Park. We spent the next day battling the heat, the rough looking fellow park goers ( more tattoos and missing bicuspids in one location than I have EVER seen) and a water park that had no room to move around. That being said, we had a good time. My son and I battled the rollercoaster "Mr. Freeze" and won! He was so proud of himself that he actually rode this very scary coaster, and told about everyone within earshot!
We departed for Memphis the next day.
Yep, down at the end of Lonely St. Thats Heartbreak Hotel! And that is where we stayed for 3 days. The hotel itself isnt really anything that wonderful, but it does provide 24 hour Elvis and a Heartshaped Pool. We were just across the street from Graceland and surrounded by gift shoppes.
I have been a Elvis fan since I was 12 and know more about him than about any other musical figure, but I have never been a huge fan of all the cheesy marketing crap that goes with him. Its always been about the music for me, and I wanted to make this trip more about that than just buying souvenirs.
Day One: We went down to Beale St. Memphis Blues central. Its where Elvis learned some of music influences and bought his clothes from Lanskys. We hung out there and looked at all of the interesting shoppes,clubs, live music and soaked in the atmosphere while we waiting for this thing called "The Memphis Haunted Walking Tour". I really cant do this tour justice with the printed word. Lets just say we were led on this 90 minute tour by a guy that admitted he was just making it up as he went. It was hilarious to me as I made a mental bet with myself when I thought my Wife would finally pop her cork and we would be outta there. ( 64 minutes!). We "disappeared " like one of the imaginary ghosts and headed back to Heartbreak Hotel. A fun first
Day Two: We had Tickets for Graceland in hand as we were the 2nd tour through the music gates and up the driveway. I have had a mental image of this place for many years, and of course it was much smaller than I ever expected it to be.
I found the place to be quite a humble place for a man that was on the top of the music world . Sure, it was a timecapsule back to 1977 and was not ever gonna make Better Homes and Gardens best list for taste. But it was very interesting to me.
What I enjoyed the most was all the costumes and stage clothes that they had on exhibit. Besides the usual ( 68 black leather, and 73 Aloha jumpsuit), they had a exhibit of over 100 of his other jump suits. Most of those suits I had seen in pictures at one time or another, but to see them all lined up...was curiously interesting to me!
After touring the airplanes, cars, etc.....and more gift shoppes. We headed down into the down and dirty non tourist area of Memphis and took a tour of Stax .
So much musical history was created at Stax. Otis Redding, Staple Singers, Booker T and The MGS, Isaac Hayes etc (Elvis even did some recording here. Its a shame that they tore down the original Stax in the 80's. They rebuilt it and recreated what it really was like. I was like a kid in a candy store as I thumbed through CDs of great soul music that I couldnt get my hands on in the upper midwest. ( I purchased the 1971 Isaac Hayes gem "Black Moses" to the irritation to the rest of my traveling companions, who had to listen to it most of the trip back home!) . I loved seeing all of the history of this building and also liked that we were looking at something that many seem to bypass when being in Memphis.
I caught the fever of this "off the beaten path" type of touring and decided to find Royal Studios. This place was not on ANY brochures and I know hardly anyone knew about it. But I knew the street and I knew it wasnt far from Stax. So, I loaded my terrified family into the little white bullet and found my way to the place where Al Green and Willie Mitchell created some of the best soul music ever made. It was located in a very rough part of town and surrounded by very run down housing and people. But it sat there all spruced up as I hopped out of car and took some snaps. Another cool moment for me , but I am sure to most it would have been a head scratcher! :-)
We then headed back down Elvis Presley Blvd. I then began my search for Al Green's Church. Again, rough part of Memphis and nothing to get crazy about, but I was loving it!
Day Three: We toured Sun Records! The place where Elvis recorded his first sounds. So, what do you think I was gonna do? Yep. Record a song! I have from time to time recorded a Elvis song at a state fair recording booth. But, this....was different. I got to record in the same place that Elvis sang! I picked one of the first songs he ever cut " I love you ( because). ( look it up on I-Tunes). I think I did a pretty good job, but it really didnt matter because I loved the moment!
We also toured the Rock and Soul Museum and the Gibson Guitar factory. Both were also very fun in its own way! Very cool to watch a guitar get made and then get rejected and cut apart on a band saw because of a slight inperfection!
We had a great trip. It will never win any awards for stunning beauty and scenery. But, as all good trips provide.....lots of memories and stories!
Ps- thanks to my understanding Wife and Son for letting me go on this journey. I wont forget it!
Pss. Did I tell you that Steven went on Mr. Freeze????? :-)