A Memory Of A Lifetime

Courtesy The Chicago Tribune

Facebook memories gave me a real gem yesterday and it made my day.

The statement from ten years ago simply said “I just saw B.B. King in concert. Wow.”

That one line summoned a rush of memories from an epic road trip to Memphis and Nashville. This was the trip where I stayed in a wigwam. We studied Corvettes, toured Graceland and paid our respects to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel. In all, we celebrated the music, history and bbq of the region for over a week.

The B.B. King concert was unplanned and dumb luck. The day we rolled into town, driving down Beale Street for the first time, we saw a banner on the side of BB’s club announcing that he was doing a show the next day. We called and got the last two standing room only tickets.

We had lunch earlier in the day and scoped out the ideal place to stand – in front of the bar where we would have no seat but would have the bar to lean on.

And it was perfect.

We were at the center, in the back of a room that really isn’t that big. We had a fantastic view of the stage but we had to get there early to secure our spot in this very intimate space. Then there were literal hours worth of amazing opening acts before B.B. came out.

I don’t recall how long we were there – six or seven hours, I think, but it was so much fun I didn’t even care that I was dead on my feet.

The only wrench in the works was an older Australian man with the biggest backpack I’ve ever seen. He stood in front of me most of the night. He seemed to forget that he had the ginormous pack but the lapse in memory may have been caused by his drunkenness. Luckily, he was friendly and jovial and glad to be alive even if he was a nuisance.

Incidentally, at some point a couple of guys standing next to us got tired of seeing him stumble into me and encouraged him to move on. We got to talking to them and they were also from southern Ohio. It was nice to meet someone from home and to know that chivalry isn’t dead. At least, it wasn’t dead ten years ago.

B.B. played well into the evening with the energy of a man much younger than his 85 years. When he was done, they wheeled out a birthday cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to the man who defined blues music for generations.

My only regret is that I didn’t hop in the autograph line. WHY didn’t I hop in the autograph line??? It was late and I was tired and my feet hurt but when you have a chance to meet a music legend, you can sleep when you’re dead. You can rest those feet later. Stand in the line. Express your admiration and get your picture taken with the legend.

B.B. is gone now but he lives on through his music, through the countless musicians he continues to inspire and through the memories of all the fans who love his music.

Incidentally, B.B. didn’t allow any kind of photography or videography during his shows. So I have no photographic evidence that I was there. But that also means I wasn’t looking through a sea of hands in the air taking pictures all night and that his audience was fully present in the moment, fully engaged in the music.

There’s something to be said for that.

Remembering Dr. King and the National Civil Rights Museum

Today we celebrate the life, teachings and sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If he had not been cut down by an assassin’s bullet in 1968, he would be 91 now. He would have elderly children, grandkids and great grandkids. It’s hard to picture when you consider the timeless images of a young man like the one above.

Here he is with his wife and first child. It brings to mind the famous quote that we all have heard.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

You have to wonder how much different the world and our country might be had he lived longer.

Today I thought we should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. First of all, Memphis is one of my favorite places because there is music and history and culture and mac and cheese at every turn. Seriously, the abundance of homemade mac and cheese is pretty spectacular.

But it’s also home to this museum that beautifully and skillfully tells the story behind the movement.

Among other things, the museum has preserved the Loraine Motel where Dr. King was murdered. You can see his room and the balcony where he stood when bullets were fired from a boarding house across the street. Incidentally, you can tour that boarding house as well.

Visiting here was a sobering, humbling experience that sort of put a damper on the fun of all that music and food. But friends, I would go back today if given the opportunity and I would highly recommend it to you as well.

Facing history gives us the opportunity to learn from our past, to humanize those people we read about in text books and to hopefully do better tomorrow. And if nothing else, a place like this instills in us a new sense of empathy and understanding that we may not have known on our own.

Want to visit the National Civil Rights Museum? Click here for details. If you wish to ponder the teachings and thoughts of Dr. King, this is a good source for quotes.

Sun Studio

Sun Studios (6).JPGTalking about the National Civil Rights Museum reminded me of my trip to Nashville and Memphis. It was a whirlwind trip of music, classic cars and barbeque and it seemed like everything I did was my favorite thing.

But truly, one of the highlights was the day at Sun Studio in Memphis. Sun Studio is a landmark in Memphis and in music. Known as the “Birthplace of Rock and Roll,” Sun is like a time capsule where you can stand at the microphone Elvis used and where the voices of  music legends echo through the halls.

This is where the Million Dollar Quartet spent a December day in 1956 just playing around and where someone was smart enough to record portions of the music created that day by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Howlin’ Wolf and BB King recorded here too along with a host of others.

It’s a guided tour and it was packed the day we were there. It seems like the tour lasted about an hour and they give everyone time to step up to the Elvis mic. Some people have their picture taken kissing the microphone. I did not. Ick! The germs!

If you go, they recommend getting there about twenty minutes before your desired tour. They sell some light snacks and ice cream plus they have t-shirts, music and other souvenirs. Admission is $14 for adults and, if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s worth every dollar. Want to plan a visit to Sun Studio?  Click here. 

One of these days I’ll tell you more about this trip and some of the other fun things you can do in Memphis.

The Lorraine Motel and Dr. King

Several years ago I took a wonderful trip through Tennessee, visiting both Memphis and Nashville. Our time in Nashville was fun but Memphis is one of my favorite places on Earth. There’s amazing music everywhere, not to mention the food, the history and a sense that you’re the first to discover all that’s amazing here.

This trip has been top of mind the last few days with the approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. You see, Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum which is located at the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

Visiting here was moving. It was informative. It was sobering. And it is something I would do all over again if I ever have a chance. Sadly, it did nothing to piece together in my mind how anyone can be so hateful and intolerant to another human or group of humans. That, I will never understand.

You can read about the museum at the link above if you’re interested. Here are a few pictures from my visit.

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In case you would like to know more, the Lorraine Motel had a rich history even before Dr. King stayed here. You can read about it here.

The time is always right to do what is right. 

Martin Luther King Jr.