South for a song
From Page 1 Forget the mousse and hairspray, sugar We don’t need none of that Just a little dab’ll do ya, girl Underneath a pork pie hat Let’s go to Memphis in the meantime — Memphis in the Meantime by John Hiatt There’s 1352 guitar pickers in Nashville And they can pick more notes than ants on a Tennessee ant hill And anyone that unpacks his guitar can play twice as better than I ever will — Nashville Cats by John Sebastian WE do the tourist stuff, including Sun Studios, where Elvis made his first recordings, and Graceland, where he lived and, of course, died. Sun Studios is funky, fun and highly informative while Graceland is a massive moneymaking enterprise. It’s Saturday and thousands are being shuttled non-stop through the house and surrounds. I had the impression Graceland was some sort of quasi southern mansion but it’s more like a super-sized project home you might find in an outer Australian suburb and, strangely, the ceilings are really low. WE head 300km up Interstate 40 to Nashville. Along its famous Lower Broadway, we hear the distinctive twang of Fender Telecaster guitars, the instrument of choice in this part of the world. It issues from institutions such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where the walls are lined with photos of every nobody who carried a guitar through its doors to become somebody over nearly 50 years.
Then there’s the Ernest Tubb Record Store where you can find thousands of CDs by long-dead country heroes, including Tubb himself, the Texas Troubadour as he was known, who opened the shop in 1947. But you won’t find one by whoever is this week’s rap star on the rise. Tradition reigns; if it don’t twang, it ain’t the Ernest Tubb thang.
Around the corner is the venerable Ryman Auditorium from where the Grand Ole Opry, the longestrunning radio program in the US, was broadcast for more than 30 years. These days, the Opry, which
Best western: Country singer Willie Nelson upholds country’s traditions and not the new-fangled crossover country pop favoured by modern Nashville, has relocated to a purpose-built auditorium and holiday resort on the nearby Cumberland River.
Later, we visit the Wildhorse Saloon, a three-level mega venue that represents this new Nashville. There are massive fried steaks and live music; they’ll even teach you dumb line dancing. Tonight on stage are TelluRide, five young guys from the faraway Pacific Northwest who have come here to live the dream in what’s probably the most competitive music scene on the planet. More than a quarter of the albums on the Billboard Top 100 chart at any time can come out of this small city, population 600,000.
TelluRide play a tight, concise brand of country pop,
Creative Holidays’ new North American 2009/10 program includes sections on Nashville and Memphis with accommodation options. More: www.creativeholidays.com. World Cars has an earlybird rental sale valid for collections to the end of the year if booked and paid for by March 31. Upgrades and other deals available. More: 1300 55 44 32; www.worldcars.com.au. Austin’s South By Southwest 2009 takes place on March 18-22; Fort Worth’s Main Street Arts Festival is on April 16-19. www.sxsw.com www.mainstreetartsfest.org