Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley – otherwise, who would ever know it exists. The tiny town has a park with a big statue of Elvis, in case you want to take a selfie with the King, this is the best place. Beside the modest little house he grew up in, there is a big souvenir shop. I’m guessing true fans would benefit more from visiting Graceland (where he lived as a big star), but I prefer this intimate atmosphere where the masses don’t come. (I secretly still worship the pen I bought at the souvenir shop.)
We did drive up to Graceland later on – but decided not to enter. The entrance fees were over the roof and seeing all his wealth in which he died in, couldn’t be more satisfying than seeing the poor little cottage of his youth in Tupelo. I appreciate his music very much and I don’t need to think of him as a rich, slutty drug addict that he actually was.
Lynchburg – Jack Daniels whiskey distillery
After Tupelo, we drove in the direction of Nashville, but before reaching the city, we took a little detour. Lynchburg lies in Moore county in Tennessee and has a funny “mistake”. Moore County is a dry county (meaning no alcohol can be bought, no bars, no liquor stores..) and Jack Daniels built his famous whiskey distillery right here – in a dry county.
You can take a free tour of the distillery and the guides really take an effort to show everything, from burning wood for barrows to the end product – you can smell the whiskey in progress. The most interesting part of the tour are the details of Jack Daniels’s life. He was only 6 years old, when he decided to move out of his parents house because he didn’t get along with them. You can imagine his life was all but boring or ordinary.
We drove on towards Nashville and we had some swimming in a nearby lake planned – but the “dry county” started pouring some heavy rains on us. Flash flood alarms started coming again so we did all the swimming right there on the road. It was pretty freaky and we couldn’t see 5m from the windshield, so we spent the night at the nearest motel in Manchaster. (Many little towns in the central US have weirdly familiar names (Athens, Venice, Normandy, Florence, Waterloo…).
Saturday is the best day to visit Nashville. That way you can see for yourself that partying can start even before noon. The famous party streets are Lower Broadway and Second avenue – and in the evening they close it for traffic to ease things up for the drinking crowds zigzaging from one bar to the next. We went to see the Johnny Cash museum which was nice but nothing special – pretty crowdy also. Then we just joined audience of L. Broadway street’s many live music bars.
The first thing we did in Memphis, was take a tour at Sun’s studio. I can easily say: best tour of my life! We had a tour guide Carla that made the whole thing fantastic as she knew every little detail about the big stars that started their music career here (such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, B. B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis). Elvis for instance , came to the studio when only 18 – brought his guitar and sang a slow love song (My endless love), and that recording was played to us so we could hear the frightened little Elvis trying to impress a record company. She played some other recordings to us – all with great stories to go with it. The Sun’s studio was the absolute winner of this part of the trip.
Memphis downtown was quite empty (Sunday mode I guess). We took a walk by the Mississippi riverbank and cruise around Mud island (residential area for the rich it seems).
Memphis didn’t impress me all that much – it was very similar to Nashville but much more quiet. It doesn’t have to be that way though – they have a whole street (Beale st.) reserved just for honkytonking (like Nashville and New Orleans).