- Country music fans can enjoy live music 24/7 in Nashville – Music City USA
- Explore the delights of Memphis – home to blues, soul and rock and roll
- Jump on the bandwagon and make tracks for America’s Deep South
Elvis Presley, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow or Dolly Parton – whether you listen to rock and roll, country or rhythm and blues, if you love music, you’ll love an escorted tour to Nashville and Memphis. USA holidays exploring the Deep South involve a classic road trip and also take in Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas.
What to do in Nashville
Known as Music City USA, Nashville has long been the epicentre of country music. It’s a place that inspires both budding new artists and world-famous legends. Just one look around the Country Music Hall of Fame – a huge museum in downtown Nashville – and you’ll see guitars, stage costumes, photos and posters that honour the likes of Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson. There’s even a Taylor Swift education centre for fans of more recent country music.
Other types of music fill the air, too. Songwriters of rock, pop, hip hop, gospel, jazz and blues also head to Nashville to play their latest compositions, so who knows which star you may hear if you pop into a live music venue. One of Nashville’s top entertainment spots is the Ryman Auditorium – Elton John, Don Williams and Ringo Starr are just three of the big names already signed up to perform this year.
Nashville live music guide
Topping the bill seven nights a week at Robert’s Western World are live country bands, and free music is pumped out onto the streets 365 days a year in Downtown Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway. Other musical options to make a holiday in Nashville all the more memorable is a cruise ‘rollin’ down the river’ on the General Jackson Showboat. Or why not spend an evening listening to country music at a Grand Ole Opry show – the same live radio format that has been used for over 90 years.
Whatever your taste in music, don’t miss the chance to walk along Music Row, a street lined with studios and record company offices. Visit the legendary RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded many of his greatest hits, as did the Everly Brothers and Jim Reeves. Hourly tours are available between 10.30am and 2.30pm. For fans of Johnny Cash, there’s an entire museum near the Cumberland River dedicated to the singer’s life.
Nashville attractions and food
When not delving through music archives, enjoy Nashville’s other delights. A must-see sight is found in Centennial Park and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to Athens – it’s a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition. Inside you’ll find a colossal 12-metre-tall statue of Athena and a fine art museum. The Hatch Show Print tour is worthwhile too, where you’ll learn more about the iconic letterpress posters. They’re a great souvenir to take home.
When it’s time to eat, burgers, barbecue favourites and hot chicken are on the menu. The latter is Nashville’s staple cuisine and was apparently invented by a scorned lover seeking revenge. Served on white bread, the fried chicken dish is doused with fiery spices, with heat levels ranging from mild to XXX hot. Need a drink to wash it down? You’ll get a good old-fashioned whiskey or bourbon at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery.
What to do in Memphis
Memphis – perched on Tennessee’s famous Mississippi River – is the home of classic rock and roll, as well as soul and blues music. High on the agenda of any trip to the city will be a visit to Sun Studio, a recording studio that has heard the voices of Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King and Ike Turner, among others. A newly-graduated Elvis recorded his first demo acetate, My Happiness and When Your Heartaches Begin, here in 1954. The rest, as they say, is history.
When looking at holidays to Memphis and Nashville, a visit to the iconic Graceland is usually top of anyone’s bucket list. A tour around the sprawling mansion where Elvis lived for 20 years is an unforgettable experience. Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding outfits, Lisa Marie’s childhood toys, even the King’s customised jet with gold-plated seatbelts are on display. You can pay your respects in the Meditation Garden, where Elvis and members of his family have been laid to rest.
Do you also like sweet soul music? Then continue your lyrical journey to the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, an exhibition about the pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic barriers for their love of music. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame honours musicians for their lifetime achievements, and the Blues Hall of Fame educates visitors with all there is to know about blues.
Memphis live music guide
At night, the place to be is lively Beale Street. Atmospheric music clubs and bars occupy both sides of the road and are awash with blues bands and memorabilia – a great place to catch live music. You can also listen to artists performing at the popular Lafayette’s Music Room or go to Levitt Shell, the open-air amphitheatre where Elvis gave his first paid concert as the support to Slim Whitman.
Memphis attractions and food
The city of Memphis is renowned for playing a pivotal role in the civil rights moment. Once a small French garrison, it became a magnet for freed slaves after the Civil War and was a cotton trading centre. Memphis hit the headlines in 1968, as it was here Martin Luther King was assassinated while on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Now part of the National Civil Rights Museum, a tour is an educational insight through five centuries of history. Note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays.
With the mighty Mississippi also a Memphis attraction, a cruise along the river is an enjoyable experience too. Climb aboard a paddlewheel boat for an entertaining way to hear more about the city’s fascinating past.
When you’re feeling hungry, remember Memphis is synonymous with barbecues so you’ll be spoilt for choice if you like ribs, nachos, pulled pork sandwiches and chicken wings. Slaw will be a default accompaniment. Midtown has some of the best eateries.
Plan your holiday to Nashville and Memphis
If you’re a country and rock and roll fan looking at escorted tours, Nashville and Memphis are sure to hit the right note. Both cities are also dynamic destinations for solo holidays. There’s so much to see and do, with live entertainment everywhere you go – and that’s music to the ears. The Deep South USA plus Texas escorted tour is a great place to start your musical adventure.
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