A New World. Elvisland!
On our way to a Blues Harmonica Conference in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Tom decided to camp at Sam’s Town Casino in Tunica because it was in between Memphis and Helena, Arkansas. We were surprised at the quality of the RV Camp at the Casino. Full hook-ups were only $20 a night. (Full hook-up means water, 50 amps of electricity, and sewer.) It was a bargain.
Graceland Has Lost Its Grace
The first day out we headed for Elvisland. We have done the tour of Graceland on every trip through Tennessee. Usually we hit the shops. And we have even camped across the street from Graceland a couple of times. After enjoying Elvisland. There was always a lot happening in Memphis. So, Sun Record’s bus would pick you up in front of the Heartbreak Hotel and bring you down to Beale Street (for free). We know the beat!
But … when we arrived at Elvisland this time, we found that everything, except Graceland itself, was destroyed. All that was left of Heartbreak Hotel were piles of sticks. The shops were gone. The planes were hidden. The retro-cars had left the scene. The humanity of Elvis was gone! If we wanted to visit the new Elvis MALL, we had to pay to park. Huh? We even had to go through guarded gates to visit the new humongous Guest House Hotel that dwarfs Graceland. What a heartbreak!
Rockin’ Beale Street
We decided not to enter the highly guarded holy site and headed down to Beale Street and Miss Polly’s for lunch.
Beale Street was everything it has always been! Huge guitars dotted the landscape this time. Tom had time to visit the Gibson guitar showroom again. Guitars run in the thousands of dollars. W. C. Handy’s and Elvis statues welcomed us.
At the Visitor’s Center west of town, we paid homage to B.B. King and Elvis once again. The first time I saw the King statue (years ago), I wondered why he was enshrined near Elvis.
Now that I have been studying the Blues for more than a year, I understand that both Elvis and B.B. were kings in the music world! B.B., like Elvis, was a tremendously talented self-made man! Here is a link to “Riding with the King,” a favorite of ours.
The Blues Trail. Helena, Arkansas
If you are interested in Blues music, find time to visit some of the historic places along the Blues Trail. (There is a map to help you find the greats.) These Blues giants are worshipped today in ways they were not during their own lifetimes. Yesterday we made a trek to Helena, Arkansas. KFFA has been broadcasting the King Biscuit Time for more than 75 years from Helena. African American Blues singers and players found audiences here when they were not allowed to play and sing on other radio stations. Have you ever heard the term “race” music?
Tom and I were hopeful of visiting sites in Helena, but the trip was a “bust.” It seemed like most of the houses were unoccupied or condemned. Huge storage facilities were lifeless and rusting. What a shocker! It reminded me of the miles of abandoned factories on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was Monday and almost everything downtown was closed. There were no public restrooms. We considered entering the Courthouse as a last resort.
After visiting a Civil War cemetery, circling Ft. Curtis, and photographing several very large well-trimmed churches, we found The Tavern and had a great lunch. My favorite spot in Helena was the Jewish Synagogue.
Sometimes you learn more than you can quantify, even if a site does not meet your expectations. Memphis and Helena will long be on our minds as we continue investigating the Blues.
For the next week Tom will be improving his musical skills at the Blues Camp at the Shack Up Inn. I hope that he will write a paragraph or two about his experiences soon!
As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge
P.S. “Elvisland” is a word that I created! Maybe others have used it too. I was thinking of that famous novel, Herland!