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Nashville to New Orleans drive, part 1

Thursday, October 23, 2008
This is the journey for people who love to drive and are into the music of America's South. If that's you, rent yourself a car and drive along Music Highway which extends between Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee — the country music capital of the world to the mecca of blues and the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. If that's not enough, continue to New Orleans, the home of jazz!

You will drive through three states, cover around 1450 kilometres and hear and see some of the best music going.

Start in Nashville and have a look at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Honky Tonk strip where just about every kind of country music is played on the street. On Broadway, clubs are busy day and night, but once you've had your fill there, hit the Music Highway and in 340km you will reach Memphis, home of some of the most iconic landmarks in musical history.

Graceland, the family home of Elvis Presley, attracts a staggering 700,000 visitors a year. Then there's Sun Studio where the King cut his first record. It's the world's most famous recording studio and everyone from Johnny Cash to U2 has put down their music there.

Beale Street is a must. Its heyday was in the 1920s when it was a place of gambling, drinking, prostitution, murder and voodoo, alongside nightclubs, theatres, restaurants, stores, pawnshops and hot music. From all that, the blues evolved and it's more family-friendly these days and music filters from its venues day and night.

The street is 2.9km long, lined with clubs, restaurants and bars. Festivals and outdoor concerts are a huge drawcard, and during the first weekend of May, the Beale Street Music Festival attracts major music acts.

Travel 51 kilometres along the highway, over the border into Mississippi, and take a break in the little town of Tunica near the Mississippi River. Historically an agriculture area, major gambling casinos attract visitors from all over the south-east.

If you fancy some real southern food, be sure to visit the Blue & White restaurant. It opened in 1937 and is going strong. Friendly waitresses serve Tennessee ham with gravy, grits, catfish, oysters on a bun, shrimp, southern fried chicken, turkey and turnip greens, pies, home-made doughnuts and endless coffee.

That should get you through to Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. Music lovers should head to Farish Street, a bricked roadway with wide sidewalks on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighbourhood has many interesting buildings built by slaves whose descendants still live and work in the area. It is being developed to emulate the thriving Beale Street in Memphis.

Although fewer than 200,000 people live there, US$1.6 billion is being spent on upgrading the district.

The famous Trumpet Records recording company was started there in 1951. Its goal was to provide a means of recording popular combos in the Mississippi Delta as they had no access to the studios of New York or California. Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington are just two of the regulars.

A range of R&B, gospel and blues artists recorded under the label, and while it no longer exists, its memory and importance to the industry remains. It is commemorated by a Mississippi Blues Trail historical marker.

The grand old Alamo Theater opened in 1942 and once hosted vaudeville shows, Westerns and African-American movies as well as touring jazz acts and held a weekly talent contest. Nat King Cole was actually performing there when he received the news that his daughter Natalie was born.

The Alamo closed in 1960 and remained shuttered until 1992. Community restoration came about and the exterior was still in good shape. Plasterwork, windows and corrugated white metal were easily restored. Inside was a different story. It was a shambles and nothing could be salvaged, so it all began from scratch.

It has the original art deco style and the marquee and vertical sign were restored to their original design. It now hosts all forms of art, music, dance and theatre.

The journey continues next week.


The Music Highway between Nashville and New Orleans in the United States.


Vroom Vroom Vroom care hire in the United States starts at around $40 a day.

Air New Zealand has flights to Los Angeles.

Fares from:

  • Sydney $2154
  • Melbourne $2242
  • Brisbane $2260
  • Perth $2440
  • Adelaide $2455

Available for travel between November 1 and December 9, 2008. Conditions apply. Connections to Nashville are available.

Prices correct at October 23, 2008.

For further information

Memphis Visitors and Convention Bureau
47 Union Ave
Tennessee 38103
United States of America
Ph: +1 901 543 5300

Tunica County Visitors Bureau
PO Box 2739
Mississippi 38676
United States of America
Ph: +1 662 363 3800
Fax:+1 662 363 1493

Coahoma County Tourism Commission
1540 Desoto Avenue
PO Box 160
Mississippi 39614-0160
United States of America
Ph: +1 662 627 7337
Fax: +1 662 627 1313

Visitors Bureau
PO Drawer 739
Mississippi 38930-0739
United States of America
Ph: + 1 662.453.9197
Fax: + 1 662.453.5526

Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau
111 East Capitol St., Ste. 102
Post Office Box 1450
Mississippi 39215-1450
United States of America
Ph: +1 601 960 1891
Fax: +1 601 960 1827

Vroom Vroom Vroom
Ph: 1300 722 920 (Australia)
Ph: +1 888 463 8946 (USA)

Air New Zealand

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