By Jacob Aldridge
How did we find ourselves in this car, listening to a country and western mix-tape?
The Huey P. Long Bridge, named after the assassinated governor. Photo by Ken Lund, CC License
The final score of last night’s game is irrelevant – it was always about the Super Bowl experience, and amazingly New Orleans is planning on rolling that atmosphere straight into week two of the annual Mardi Gras. (Let’s hope there are no more black outs! And for the record, the Ravens beat the 49ers 34-31 … which travel website had a “Ravens Champions Cap” featured last week?)
We’ll be back for the Mardi Gras mid-week, but we needed a few days of quiet first. So when southern local Dan said he was planning a road trip to Atlanta, and had room to spare … well, we were in. What Dan failed to mention was that he is Country. Music. MAD.
Dan needs to be in Atlanta by tomorrow night but (maybe this was the first warning sign we should have seen) he’s planned a stopover for us in Nashville. So it was an early start … far too early (don’t you think?) for Kenny Chesney or Brooks and Dunn. (Though Dolly Parton did remind us that the everydaydream holiday beats working 9 to 5.)
Our first roadtrip stop is breakfast in Jackson, Mississippi. Dan exits just off the I55 and takes us to Broad Street Bakery. It’s the perfect first stop on a road trip north from New Orleans, and not just because they’re playing different music! These breakfast burritos are only $3.95 each. Plus tip, I’m still eating two of them and a coffee for ten bucks.
So our breakfast conversation with Dan about music seems to have worked. After all – Nashville might be tonight’s destination, but it’s not our next stop. Oh no, our next stop is royalty. It’s rock and roll. It’s the jungle room.
We’re going to Graceland (Graceland), Memphis Tennessee.
We’re going to Graceland (Graceland) Memphis Tennessee. Photo by Maha, CC License
So Dan has acquiesced, and we’ve now got some classic Elvis Presley coming out of the stereo. Have you ever noticed how everybody knows the words to at least some Elvis songs?
And Graceland itself kind of feels like that too – inclusive, no boundaries. In parts, it’s a preserved relic of 1960s and 70s America – when you were the King of America in that era (and Elvis certainly was), then living like royalty meant a mansion full of kitsch and a pink Cadillac in the garage. But it’s also very much about Elvis the man – the audio-guide features commentaries by the King himself, and also daughter Lisa-Marie. In the Jungle Room and the Car Museum, it’s Elvis all the way. And in the Meditation Garden at the end of the tour, we see where Elvis was laid to rest after his unexpected death aged just 42.
We put Paul Simon’s Graceland onto the iPod when we get back into the car. The tone of that classic feels more connected to the venue now that we’ve been there – Graceland, indeed Elvis’s legacy, is not just gyrating hips and bad Hawaiian movies. There was the upbringing in a two-room shack in Tulepo; the military service; and then the descent into the caricature of himself, overweight and addicted to pills as he struggled to cope with this famous life. Graceland was his refuge, as Neverland Ranch was for his similarly ill-fated son-in-law Michael Jackson.
Elvis was moved here (along with his mother) after thieves tried to loot their original resting places. Photo by Mark Gstohl, CC License
Paul Simon sings “We all will be received in Graceland”. Elvis would certainly hope so.
“That’s if he’s actually dead”, Dan points out.
And then he turns the radio over to Keith Urban. As we drive through Jackson, Tennessee, and then into Nashville we give in to the rhythm. Having found acceptance, there’s nothing more enticing than heading down to The Printers Alley – a collection of music venues in part of Nashville originally made famous by their printing prowess. We take in open mike night at Lonnie’s Western Room – who knows, maybe we just saw a future Grammy Award winner in action.
As midnight approaches, Dan lets us in on a dirty little secret. He also like the Blues! It’s a long drive from New Orleans to Nashville to take in the Blues, but the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar is open until 3am – and we intend to make the most of it!
Want to go? Need to know!
- Don’t have a friend who’s willing to drive you from New Orleans to Memphis? Catch the train and make a weekend of it!
- New Orleans, Louisiana, is often abbreviated to NOLA. It’s never pronounced ‘NOLA’ – and it’s rarely pronounced “New” either – try to roll straight from the N into Orleans instead.
- The biggest Elvis fans stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, next door to Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard.
- The Country Music Awards are held in Nashville each November – and have been running for just one year less than the Super Bowl.
- And you can stay up to date here with the latest Country Music hits.
So what are your favourite roadtrip songs? Share them with the world in the comments below or on our Facebook page.