Standing outside the hallowed grounds of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s legendary home, which has now been developed into a popular tourist destination, I am in awe of the numerous graffiti adorning the walls and the immense love that crazy Presley fans have for the legend. Located in the quite unlikeliest of places in Memphis, it might be far away from the regular vacay destinations in the United States but that doesn’t mean that scores of music lovers from all over the world won’t make their annual pilgrimage. Well, this isn’t some run-of-the-mill vacation that we are planning through the United States. Instead, this is a trail that traces across locations that gave birth to the numerous genres of music that this country has produced. By Sudipto De
Our trail started about 500 miles away in Kansas City at the American Jazz Museum. One of America’s classical music forms, Jazz, developed in the later stages of 18th century combining classical European style music along with the newly evolving African-American styles. The sights and sounds of this uniquely American art form come alive at the American Jazz Museum. Located at 18th & Vine, the historic Jazz district of Kansas City, this is where the jazz masters of the 20’s & 30’s including Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner and hundreds of others defined and created their music. Today thousands of students and jazz aficionados from all over the world visit this iconic place to check out rare photographs, album covers, memorabilia, and personal affairs of the legends of the Jazz world along with live performances at the ‘The Blue Room‘. Known after the famous 18th & Vine nightspot at the Old Street Hotel, this working Jazz Club is open four days a week and features the best of local and national talent. The Gem Theatre on the other hand is a modern 500-seater performing arts centre covered in a 1912 façade, hosting many community events and theatre productions.
We head to Southern Louisiana to dig deep into the culture of the Cajuns at the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center. As Louisiana used to be French colony till the mid of the 18th century, French settlers brought in scores of Cajun speaking inhabitants from Africa. Their foot-tapping music became an integral part of Louisiana’s culture and it still bears importance to this day. Preserving this Cajun culture has become one of the important missions of this cultural centre through sets of music shows, local markets and some finger-licking good food. After checking out the South we head back to Tennessee where the Songbirds Guitar Museum in Chattanooga is the perfect place to enjoy the Rock-n-Roll era. As the name suggests, the museum traces the evolution of the guitar from its original form in the 30’s before evolving into the newer electric and even the bass guitars found today. Along with the numerous guitars on display, you can also explore the legends of the accompanying eras including those from country folk, Rock-n-Roll, and Pop.
Any visit to Tennessee cannot be complete without a visit to the legendary home of Elvis Presley, Graceland. This Colonial style bungalow set among tall Oaks has more than twenty rooms, many of which were in use until 90’s. While the Jungle Room features studio equipment where Elvis recorded the last two of his albums, the Trophy Building on the other hand features memorabilia of the Presley’s family, his wife’s wedding dress, his daughter Lisa Marie’s toy chest and even Presley’s famous white Tuxedo. You can find his innumerable music collection in the basement where the majestic Billiards room are. On site, headphones narrate the salient events of Elvis’s life. Along with the house, the estate also features a new car museum which houses hills, pink Cadillac along with two of his prized personal jets.
The Grammy Awards are considered the Oscars of the music world and the Grammy museum in downtown Los Angeles is the best place to experience the glorious history of American music all in one place. With interactive touch-screen videos and a collection of historical music artefacts, including costumes and instruments along with sheets of handwritten lyrics and gramophone records, the Grammy museum should be on every music lover’s bucket list. The museum also features behind-the-scene live performances along with interactive performing booths where you can record your own tracks. Exhibits include the Beatle LOVE by Cirque du Soleil, Bob Marley’s messenger Exhibit and even one from Michael Jackson. Any mention of American music is incomplete without a mention of its newest version: Hip Hop and Rap. Head onto the streets of Compton and South Central with Los Angeles Hood Life Tours to experience where the real music of Hip Hop comes from. It is as real as it can get as you dig into the lives of N.W.E, Tupac and Easy E, taking a stroll through the strife they come from, giving relevance to their everlasting lyrics in today’s world.
The United States has an unique historical aspect that revolves around it’s music and traces of musical history can be found in cities all over the country.