I’m Going to Graceland

Or rather: I’ve been to Graceland. This is the last of the posts about my holidays in Tennessee this spring.

After having a blast in Nashville, my buddy Luc and I traveled to Memphis. The soundtrack to that leg of the trip started with Paul Simon’s Graceland, but that was just a prelude to lots and lots of music of Elvis. Elvis lived in his mansion in Memphis–named after the original owner’s daughter–from 1957 until his death in 1977. It is now a museum and a US National Historic Landmark.

Did you know it is the 2nd most-visited house in the USA? 2nd only to the White House in Washington D.C.

Elvis Presley's Graceland

Currently owned by Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley, the grounds and the mansion are quite crowded with over 650000 visitors per year. It’s so crowded, you hardly have time to get a good look at the rooms inside the house. Fortunately, you are allowed more time to visit his gravestone.

The media room at Elvis Presley's Graceland

The living room at Elvis Presley's Graceland

Elvis Presley's Last Resting Place

The museum across the street from the mansion offers many artifacts of Elvis Presley’s career and personal life. You can wonder around there for hours. Lots and lots of stuff to see: private airplanes, stage costumes, awards, golden records and so many cool cars.

Selfie at the Graceland Museum

Elvis Presley's Private Airplanes

Elvis Presley's Pink Jeep

Elvis Presley's Stage Costumes

Elvis Presley's Military Uniform

Legendary Recording Studios in Tennessee 

There’s quite a number of recording studios in the Nashville area. Hey, they don’t call it the Music City for nothing! Most of them are not open to the public. Like the Bradley Studios, aka the Quonset Hut Studio, later owned by Columbia Records on Music Row which today serves as a recording classroom for Belmont University. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Tammy Wynette have recorded at those studios over the years.

Columbia Records Studio A and the Quonset Hut in Nashville, TN

The RCA Victor Studio B is no longer and active studio but hold a legendary status. Elvis recorded many of his greatest hits in this studio designed by the legendary Chet Atkins. Open to the public, it can only be visited in conjunction with a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN

RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN

RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN

RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN

RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN

In Memphis you should obviously visit the legendary Sun Studio where Elvis Presley recorded his 1st songs. But did you know that legends like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded there too? And did you know that the studio that was opened by rock-and-roll pioneer Sam Phillips at 706 Union Aven on January 3, 1950 is still being used today?

Sun Studio in Memphis, TN

Sun Studio in Memphis, TN

Sun Studio in Memphis, TN

Sun Studio in Memphis, TN

A little less known maybe but just as awesome to visit is the studio at Stax Records at 926 E. McLemore Ave in Memphis. The site is currently a Museum about the history of Stax Records but when you think of the artists that have recorded there—Otis Redding, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes and Carla Thomas amongst others—you just have to visit it.

Stax Records in Memphis, TN

Stax Records in Memphis, TN

Stax Records in Memphis, TN

London Is Always a Good Idea

I spent a few in days in London the other day. I wanted to go see Little Big Town at the Royal Albert Hall. But I also had plans to take a couple of nice photos around town so I packed my camera gear too. On my list were The London Eye and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

The London Eye

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

Even if you only have an iPhone on you–you don’t always need a big expensive camera–it is possible to make cool photos in London. I made these at Neal’s Yard, Canary Wharf Tube Station and the Natural History Museum. And I made them all with my iPhone.

Neal's Yard near Covent Garden, London

Canary Wharf Tube Station, London

Natural History Museum, London

Power To The People

One of the challenges as photographer when you’re traveling is power. Something my best friend Luc and I’ve been developing over the years, is this little puppy: a universal power strip for traveling. I will never leave home without it. It will be most definitely be in my bag tomorrow as I leave for London.

 Universal Power Strip by victorie.com

Most hardware stores will sell cordless DIY power strips. Get yourself a small version with 3 or 4 outlets. Remember: it has to take up as little as possible space in your luggage. I obviously got myself a power strip with European outlets as all my devices have a European plug. You should get one that fits your needs.

Next, get a power cord with a C14 connector. You can get those at most computer stores. Attach it to the power strip and you have yourself a universal power strip. All you need now is standard computer power cords with a C13 connector at one end and local power plug at the other end. Again, you can get those at most computer stores. Buy it in the country of your travels if you can not find one in your country. And any decent hotel will have a spare one you can borough if you forget yours.

There’s a little caveat: check the voltage settings of your devices. Even though most devices have auto-ranging power supplies that can handle anything between 110V and 230V be sure to check it. Especially when you travel across the Atlantic. I wouldn’t want you to blow up your expensive camera or your laptop’s power supply because it is no fit for one or the other voltage.

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum

The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum front, bordering the Music City Walk of Fame Park, resembles the keys on a piano keyboard combined with the tailfin of a 1959 Cadillac Sedan. And the tower is a replica of the WSM radio tower.

The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville

Inside the building’s rotunda, all Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are commemorated with their own commemorative plaque below the Carter Family’s–yes, that would be the relatives of June Carter Cash–classic country song tittle Will The Circle Ge Unbroken.

The Honor Gallery at the County Music Hall of Fame & Museum

The museum showcases anything country related: from Elvis Presley’s “Solid Gold” Cadillac to instruments and wardrobe by famous country artists like Hank Williams, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, the Dixie Chicks, Minnie Pearl and Emmylou Harris, as well as the recording studio once used by Owen Bradley.

Elvis Presley's Solid Gold Cadillac at CMHOF

Gibson Guitar Belonging to Hank Williams at CMHOF

Guitar and Wardrobe of Taylor Swift at CMHOF

Wardrobe of American Idol 2005 WinnerCarrie Underwood at CMHOF

Dixie Chicks Wardrobe at CMHOF

Memerobilia of The Grand Ole Opry's Minnie Pearl at CMHOF

Guitar Owned by Emmylou Harris at CMHOF

Owen Bradley's Recording Studio at CMHOF

And when I saw Taylor Swift’s tou bus parked in the museum, I waited for hours for Ms. Swift to come out. When I realized she wasn’t there, I finally gave up. But not before snapping a selfie in front of her tour bus.

Selfie in Front of Taylor Swift's Tour Bus at CMHOF

The Legendary Opry

The Grand Ole Opry truly a legend in the Music City. It started as a 1 hour long radio show on WSM on November 25, 1925. Back in 1925, it ran as a weekly show, Today, it runs several times a week, either from the Rynam Auditorium in downtown Nashville or from the Grand Ole Opry House on the banks of the Cumberland River.

Artists become member of the Orpy by invitation. Over the years, artists like Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris and The Gatlin Brothers have been invited to the Opry. And more recently, amazing young country artists like Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town had the honor of joining. Membership in the Opry remains one of country music’s crowning achievements.

You can listen to the shows at the Opry live online via 650 AM WSM.

The Ryman Auditorium is a 2300 seat theater in the heart of Nashville. It is considered the birthplace of Bluegrass music. Over the years it hosted many famous country artists and even Bruce Springsteen has played there on his Devils & Dust solo acoustic tour.

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville

The Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium

The Grand Ole Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974. The grand Ole Opry House has 4400 seats and a circle at center stage is actually a part of the original Ryman Auditorium stage.

Seeing a show at the Opry was a dream come true and their backstage tour after the show was the icing on the cake.

Selfie in Front of the Grand Ole Opry House

Artists Taking the Stage at the Grand Ole Opry House

Behind the Scenes at the Grand Ole Opry House

Behind the Scenes at the Grand Ole Opry House

Visiting The Jack Daniel’s Distillery

Taking that trip to Tennessee in the spring all started when I said wanted to visit the Jack Daniel’s distillery someday. That someday turned into very soon. And early this year, that  very soon turned into this year.

We took a day trip from Nashville to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniel’s distillery. We choose their Taste of Lynchburg tour. It’s a 3 hour tour that starts with lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Restaurant. No, strike that, it starts with delicious lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s. I will not forget their recipe for candied apples.

Miss Mary Bobo's Restaurant in Lynchburg, TN

The tour continues through the town square of Lynchburg, TN and past the cemetery where Jack Daniel and other members of the Daniel family are buried. Then on to the Jack Daniel’s distillery itself.

You are welcomed at a little museum that tells the story of Jack Daniel, Lynchburg and the distillery before you embareque on walking tour through the distillery. The process of make Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is pretty much the same as any other distilled drink. But it is particularly nice to see the purification process through charcoal and how they treat the barrels to get the typical taste of Jack Daniel’s.

Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, TN

Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, TN

Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, TN

The tour ends at one of the more than 90 barrel houses for a tasting of their finest whiskeys. And after that, you can rest content in a rocking chair under the porch of their welcome house.

Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, TN

Selfie at the Jack Daniel's distillery

Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have Dream

Doctor King was born in Atlanta, GA on January 15, 1929  in this house at 501 Auburn Avenue, about a block from the church where his father was a minister. The National Park Services are preserving the house and its surroundings as a National Historic Site. I had been there years ago and I remembered I was impressed. So it was way up high on my list of places to see in beautiful Atlanta.

Birthplace of Martin Luther King

Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA

Doctor King would be in the frontline of the American civil rights movement all his life. In 1963 he organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, AL and a march on Washington where he delivered his famous I Have A Dream speech. In ’64 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Price. In 1965 he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, beautifully depicted in the Oscar-winning movie Selma directed by Ava DuVernay.

He was so important to the civil rights movement in the US that is birthday is in fact a legal holiday in the US.

In April 1968 he traveled to Memphis, TN to support the city’s sanitation workers who had gone on strike in protest against poor pay and dangerous working conditions. On April 4th, 1968 he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. An event that inspired U2 to write Pride (In The Name Of Love). So I obviously had to have the song in my travel soundtrack.

Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN

Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN

Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN

After his death he was laid to rest at the Martin Luther King National Historic Site in Atlanta, GA. Later, his wife, Coretta Scott King was buried right beside him.

Tomb of Martin Luther King and Wife Coretta Scott King

The Johnny Cash Museum

I had planned to write a daily blog post about my trip to Tenneessee, but oh boy, how I have failed. Even 3 months after being back home, I still have a couple of photos to process. But hey, I look at this way: taking this long to go through my photos keeps the memories alive. And there are plenty of nice memories.

The Johnny Cash Museum on 3rd Ave in Nashville, TN surely was one of them. I liked Johnny Cash’s music but got really sucked into it after seeing the 2005 biopic Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon playing the role of June Carter. So the Johnny Cash Museum was a must-see place for me while I was in Nashville.

The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville

The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville

The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville

The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville

The Music City’s Neon Lights

I have totally fallen in love with Nashville! They call it the Music City and I love music. Nashville is obviously the heart of country music. But there so much more. Music streams from every bar and restaurant in the city. Bands playing the honky-tonks on Nashville’s Broadway compete for your attention day and night. Sometimes they even play too loud to have a normal conversation over dinner. But they add to the atmosphere of the city. It is cool to stroll up and down Broadway on a Saturday night, look at the party people, have a drink and listen to the bands wailing under the bright neon lights of the all the bars they play.

Nashville's Broadway Neon Lights

Nashville's Broadway Neon Lights

Nashville's Broadway Neon Lights