Crossing five southern states, the americana Music triangle is the birthplace of modern sound. cathy Wagstaff hits the road to discover its highlights.
Blues. Jazz. country. rock ‘n’ roll. r&B and soul. Gospel. southern Gospel. cajun and Zydeco. Bluegrass. these nine distinct genres of music encapsulate nearly every style coming out of the modern american music scene, and they all have their roots here, in the americana Music triangle (aMt).
the triangle connects nashville, Memphis and new Orleans, crossing five states: tennessee, alabama, Mississippi and louisiana, with a dip into arkansas. From the jazz clubs of Bourbon st, new Orleans, to the live spectacular that is the Grand Ole Opry in nashville, the routes represent a 2414-kilometre journey into music’s heartland.
While it showcases heritage and history in abundance, the aMt itself was only launched in May 2015. Founder aubrey Preston wanted to showcase american music at a grassroots level, uniting communities, historians and music-lovers in a multi-state tourism and preservation project.
choose your journey the aMt allows international and domestic visitors alike to interact with the stories, people and, above all, music. there are five suggested driving trails, each full of potential stops that offer a unique perspective on music. simply hire a car (preferably one with classic 1960s flair) and hit the road.
in new Orleans (pronounced by the locals as n’awlins), it’s all about the energy of jazz, gospel, r&B and that rich cajun sound. along the delta highway, get absorbed by the blues; clarksdale, Mississippi is home of the ‘father of modern chicago blues’, Muddy Waters. spend a night at the finest juke joint in town, Ground Zero Blues club, partowned by actor and Mississippi delta resident, Morgan Freeman.
Pay your respects to the King in Memphis with a visit to his fabled mansion, Graceland. those longing to get up-close to elvis Presley can now enjoy a taste of his legendary southern hospitality at the Guest house at Graceland, the eagerly anticipated 450room resort.
continue on to ‘Music city’ itself: nashville, tennessee. Be sure to visit a honky-tonk bar or two – their distinctive sound is unavoidable as you stroll the main streets – and plan ahead if you want to see up-and-coming musicians and established stars performing (or spectating) at the Bluebird café. Keith urban and Garth Brooks are among the names who performed at this 90-seat venue early in their careers, and tickets sell out quickly, although it’s first-come, first-served on sundays and Mondays. nashville is also home to Music row (home of rca studio B, where the likes of elvis, roy Orbison and dolly Parton once recorded some of their most popular hits), the Grand Ole Opry and the country Music hall of Fame & Museum, an essential for anyone interested in the hits that defined a genre.
From Music city, follow the natchez trace Parkway to the shoals of alabama, a quartet of cities along the tennessee river: Muscle shoals, Florence, sheffield