Article and pictures by Diana Shonk
May 2015- MEMPHIS, TN:
You can look on line for the results of who won what at the Blues Music Awards 2015 but I want to tell you about how much fun it is to go to the Awards, they have an All Star line-up performing at the Awards show and they serve you dinner, it is very well put together with jumbo trons on either side of the stage (it is a very big convention hall). It is a fun night of schmoozing and drinking and speeches by the Award winners and inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame. Opened this year on May 8th is the first and only Blues Hall of Fame and Museum. The Blues Foundation puts on the show at the Convention Center and if you stay at the Sheraton it is connected by an aerial walkway.
The Sheraton gives you a very affordable special rate through The Blues Foundation and it could not have been more comfortable. You can walk to Beale Street and the MANY music museums if you are so inclined. We took the trolley buses which come by in a very southern slow pace, but they did show up. This is a town that is all about the music, history and entertainment. I was delighted that Nancy Weston wanted to go with me! She is so much fun and she knows everybody! We scoped out the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum that first day. it covers the history of modern music. It smelled like an old encyclopedia or your grandmother’s attic because of all the old equipment and clothing and record albums and photos. SOOO interesting, I was so glad to see all this history preserved for future generations.
The Civil Rights Museum is a must
The Civil Rights Museum is about as complete as you can imagine. Some of it is hard to take, a sorrowful part of our country’s history. Martin Luther King’s room at the Lorraine Hotel is preserved. The Hotel is part of the museum, and they have expanded it to accommodate some more modern aspects of civil rights and news of things going on in the spirit of carrying on the work of the Freedom Marchers, Rosa Parks and the thousands of people, black and white, who fought for the rights of all people. The fight goes on. I think every American should be required to go to the Civil Rights Museum, but that’s just me.
Take a cab to Stax Records, another great museum and educational center.
They built the museum on the site of the original Stax Records but have added a dimension that I am sure the originators of the label would approve of. They offer music education for kids at the Stax Music Academy right next door to the museum. This was a great record company that started in a garage. They released records by Albert King, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Booker T & The MG’s, and the list goes on, all the funkiest bands back then, recording on equipment they have in the archive that just boggles your imagination. Just fascinating.
The work that has gone into preserving old television performances of great musicians, carefully displaying clothing from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, guitars from Steve Cropper (Booker T), pianos played by Ike Turner and so much memorabilia from the early days in the 1800s through the 1900s and the plethora of musicians and events of importance that happened in that remarkable century.
It is a must for all Blues lovers to make a pilgrimage to Memphis, Tennessee at least once in their life. I have to admit this was my third time there.
THE BRAND NEW Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame and Museum is beautifully put together with love; built with help of so many people who donated the money to get it done. They have Lowell Fulson’s Gretch White Falcon I almost fainted from joy to see one again (I had a Gretch when I had my band).
A trip to Graceland is not to be missed. There is just SO much to see and think about. Nancy and I were delighted to learn of Elvis’ philanthropy. He was a very generous man! There are drawers and drawers of checks (remember they used to give them back to us in our statements) written to individuals and charity organizations to the tune of few less than $1,000 and that was a lot of money back then! One year he gave $50,000 to St. Jude’s Hospital for Children which is in Memphis, started by entertainer, Danny Thomas.
To watch home movies of Elvis fooling around on his snow mobile or riding horses and to hear Lisa Marie talk about the love she had for him and the fun she had with him is heart warming, and shows that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll had a big heart and a lot of soul, never mind being a great musician with a natural born instrument that will never be duplicated.