From the infectious and improvised beat of jazz to the soul-rending howl of the blues, music has long shaped the American experience. The USA is full of musical cities that span the sound spectrum, each one offering up a rich and storied musical history that can seduce even the most unsuspecting traveller. You see, music in the USA tends to get under your skin in all the right ways. This is why, when it comes time to plan your next American adventure, you should let your ears lead the way to the heartland of brass bands, country quartets and rock n' roll ...
Any musical journey through the USA must go via Memphis, Tennessee. Home to Sun Records – the birthplace of rock n' roll – it was here the rollicking rhythms of the genre were first set to vinyl. Jackie Brentson & His Delta Cats recorded 'Rocket 88' at Sun in 1951. The city has been rocking ever since, with the likes of Elvis, Booker T & the MGs and Jerry Lee Lewis calling Memphis home.
You can still tour Sun Studio, now a National Historic Landmark, but don't forget to make time to see the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and historic Beale Street for great BBQ and even better Blues. As one of America's biggest entertainment streets, Beale Street has a rich African American history and is lined with clubs and restaurants that feature live acts playing everything from Honky Tonk to traditional Memphis Blues.
And then there's Graceland. A mecca for audiophiles the world over, Elvis's home is considered to be the holy grail of music and Memphis experiences. This 13.8-acre estate was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and is one of the most visited private homes in the USA. Visitors can purchase tickets or packages to see just how the King lived. Tours include a look into Graceland Mansion, the Presley Motors Automobile Museum, Elvis's Custom Jets and more.
The Big Easy may be known for its famous French Quarter and Cajun cuisine, but it doesn't take long to see and hear the importance of music in New Orleans. Brass bands congregate on corners throughout Frenchman Street and myriad clubs pulse with the foot-stomping rhythms of Cajun Zydeco. It's a melting pot of musical stylings, but Nola is without a doubt most famous for its jazz. It was the birthplace after all.
You'll have your pick of clubs showcasing everything from Dixieland standards to modern Swing, but there are some New Orleans jazz experiences that stand head and shoulders above the rest. This includes taking in a show at the Preservation Hall. The facade may not be much to look at, but inside the city's seasoned performers put on an unforgettable show on a nightly basis. Just remember to arrive early. Seating is limited.
Another quintessential music experience, the New Orleans Jazz Festival draws talent on an international scale. Transcending genres, big names from all corners of the music industry grace the stages of this jazz fest. Even better, marketplaces are set up, food stalls serve up regional favourites and cultural villages offer performances and demonstrations.
Deemed 'Music City, USA', Nashville has long called to aspiring musicians hoping to pen and record the next big music hit. It's home to RCA Studio B, where more than 35,000 songs have been recorded. This includes over 1,000 American hits and more than 200 Elvis recordings as well as Roy Orbison's famous 'Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel)' and Dolly Parton's 'Jolene'. Tours are available through this iconic recording studio.
Of course there are few recordings more famous than the Grand Ole Opry. Running for 85 years, this live country music broadcast still records every single week. Since its humble beginnings as a weekly radio program, the Opry has evolved into an entertainment phenomenon that has seen the likes of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson grace its stage. Today, visitors can buy tickets to be treated to a mix of country music's best, ranging from new stars to musical legends.
Speaking of legends, you can follow the careers of some of country music's biggest at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. A line-up of temporary exhibits delve not only in the history and roots of country music but also some of its most memorable stars.
Discover these melodious gems on Collette's 'America's Musical Cities Tour', an eight-day extravaganza of luxury touring. Get in touch with your local Travel Associates Consultant today to find out more