In my previous posts, I had mentioned suffering from a mild case of the blues. Everything from a couple of recent personal experiences, work being really sucky, the approaching holidays, and growing yet another year older had given me the blues, indeed. (Especially the latter.)
I decided the only thing I wanted for my birthday was to rid myself of the blues. I wanted to revel in the celebration of life and sing the blues away. And I wanted to do all this in style. And where better to do this than on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, Home of the Blues? So Best Friend and I planned a trip of Blues singing, booze drinking, and rib eating on Beale Street, where the Blues were born.
Yesterday, November 25th, was my birthday. I decided to have a total Memphis experience so I put on the blue suede shoes that Best Friend’s grandma (a/k/a my “adoptive” grandma)gave me for my birthday and I boarded the plane. We had first class tickets (Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!) to Memphis. It was such a beautiful day. And as we ascended into the sky, we circled the city of Atlanta from a different angle than I had ever seen it. It was actually beautiful seeing it from this angle and I saw the street that I live on from a bird’s eye view for the first time.
I was so excited as I saw the familiar buildings, and the Pyramid along the Mississippi River busy with its barges and the I-40 Bridge that spans the river and crosses into Arkansas on the other side come into view. There was Memphis just below me! Moments later, we touched down in the land of the Delta Blues.
Since Sunday was going to be a no-fly day for airline employees and friends, we knew we would have to drive back home, so we rented a car, a PT Cruiser, and started out our day. First, we drove down Union Avenue to check out our hotel, which was not far from Sun Records, where musical greats such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and of course, Elvis Presley got their starts. We drove down the waterfront and took a look around there. The Mississippi is really a sight to behold, no matter how many times you’ve seen it! Next we drove up Beale to the point that is closed off to vehicles and caught our first glimpse of the fun awaiting us that night. I also saw the Gibson Guitars Factory. That place looked really cool and I hope to take a tour of it next trip. Then we drove down Elvis Presley Boulevard to the gates of Graceland.
I was really looking forward to seeing Elvis’ Graceland decorated for Christmas. I had heard that it was really spectacular, but I was actually a bit disappointed in it. Besides the nativity scene on the lawn and the blue lights that are lit each night and a few Christmas trees inside the mansion, it looked pretty much the same as I saw it in the springtime a few year ago. I sort of wanted half my money back! haha. But still, it was great to visit again and walk through the home of Elvis and later stand by his grave wearing my blue suede shoes. I just have one question…What was he thinking when he decorated the Jungle Room? Yikes!
After our Graceland tour and quick stop back by the hotel, we were eagerly on our way back to Beale Street. It was early evening when we stepped out on the street and already everything was starting to come to life. Music was radiating from every corner. We walked into W.C. Handy (a/k/a Father of the Blues) Park and listened to a live Blues band with a growing crowd of people gathering around. Watching the people, especially the older ones, dance was hilarious. Especially the old man in purple pants! An awesome discovery we made that brought a little bit of “home” to us was the Wet Willies Bar (just like the one in Savannah) where we love to try the different flavors of daiquiris they have. After walking in most of the shops and sampling an earful of music, we were both so hungry that we could eat a whole pig…and just about did at the Blues City Café. Words can’t explain the craving I had developed for some good BBQ ribs and I certainly got them there! Yummmm! Best Friend and I both are dainty eaters, but we lost all lady-like qualities about us as we scarfed those bones clean. Our faces were covered in BBQ sauce and we didn’t care. We also had some really good seafood gumbo and crab au gratin. Even the catfish, which is also a famous Memphis dish, looked tasty and I don’t even eat catfish. We were so stuffed when we left the restaurant that we practically had to roll down the rest of Beale.
Night had set in and things were really hopping. It was hard to decide where we wanted to go first, but we decided on Club 152 to hear “Elvis” perform. At first, I thought it was going to be cheesy and was only going in there for fun. But let me tell you, this guy, Radford Ellis was awesome! I was immediately impressed by just how much he sounded like Elvis. As I sat there singing along to the familiar tunes and was wondering how come all the Elvis impersonators try to be and dress like fat Elvis instead of young, gorgeous and super hot Elvis, he began to share some of his stories with us. This man was not merely an impersonator, he was a true performer. He had played with Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, and Ricky Nelson. In fact, if he had not come down with the flu, he would have been on the plane with Ricky Nelson and the rest of the band when it crashed. He was on the bus with Conway Twitty when he passed away. Not only that, but this man actually knew and was friends with Elvis Presley! He worked with Elvis’ horses at Graceland and the two of them became friends over the years. He even wears a ring that Elvis gave him. He also told us that he was the third person on the scene when Elvis was found dead in his bathroom at Graceland. So I was enjoying the songs and stories and ignoring the guy who was hitting on me and trying to take Best Friend’s chair next to me every time she went to the restroom, when our Elvis performer came over to chat with us. He asked Best Friend and me if we were still having fun and why we decided to come to Memphis. Best Friend told him that it was my birthday. I shot her an I’m-gonna-kill-you glance and knew I was in for it. I knew he was going to pull me up on stage and sing to me and that I would be so embarrassed. And he did pull me up on stage and have the whole bar wish me a happy birthday. Then he sang a special song to me that he had picked out just for me. It was “The Devil in Disguise”! Just what was he trying to say about me?!? What makes it worse is that I think he pegged me pretty well. haha.
We stayed for the rest of the show and then we headed over to B.B. King’s Blues Club. The lead singer of the performing band at B.B.’s was a lady with a voice that won’t quit! She was incredible! She was singing more traditional Blues style when we first walked in but she later moved into some 70s hits like “Lady Marmalade” and “I Will Survive” and she did all this without taking a breath! In fact, the whole time we were there, she took only one break! I would have loved to have stayed longer, but we were running out of time and had long run out of money, so after one more walk down Beale, we headed back the hotel to rest up for the drive back today. As I walked down the street, feeling happier than I did when I arrived, I knew that my Bluesy Birthday Bash had done the trick and I was cured (at least temporarily) of the blues. The song, “Walking in Memphis” played through my head and I did indeed feel like I was “walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale”.
We rose bright and early this morning for a ride by the river before heading back to Atlanta. After a quick stop in Tupelo, Mississippi so that Best Friend could see the birthplace of Elvis, we continued through the rest of the boring drive into and through Alabama. I was extremely happy to see Birmingham as I knew I had only about 2 more hours left. Unfortunately, the construction and traffic slowed us down but we still got the rental car back to the Atlanta airport with one minute to spare on our rental agreement. We know how to do things right! ;)
And I’m still smiling even though it’s back to work tomorrow. The blues are gone. Mission accomplished.
Me with a ticket to Graceland in hand.
Best Friend at the famous gates of Graceland.
Best Friend had the blues when she ran out of drinks.
Statue of W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues, in his namesake park.
LONESTAR *WALKING IN MEMPHIS* LIVE
2 weeks ago