A Journey to Memphis and the Crossroads Part 1: Beale St and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

By | August 10, 2009
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Wow. Quite a few days have past since I last posted. Seven, if you are counting at home. Seven days in which my voice was not heard, my thoughts not spelled out, and my words not expressed on the screen for all to read. Seven long days. The longest break I have taken since the start of this blog.

As I mentioned/hinted in my last post, I was traveling to Memphis and the surrounding Mississippi Delta. It was my personal hajj, a trip that I have always wanted to take. A trip through the roots of a majority of African-American music in the 20th Century. A trip through the history of the blues, rock’n’roll, soul, and even country music.

Although I didn’t post on here at all, I did utilize my capabilities on twitter to the utmost. Twitter became my travel log, a way to jot down my thoughts and reactions to everything I saw and experienced. Whereas I may have physically traveled alone, network-wise I brought all of my twitter followers along for the ride.

Of course, as with any big trip or major event I am going to spend time recapping. This time however, I am going to use my “tweets” as the base of my post and add in the details that 140 words couldn’t capture.

(By the way, in case you don’t follow me on Twitter it’s @JordiScrubbings.)

Day 1:

At a place where they do airplaning. unfortunately my airplane is not 47 stories high. they dont know what they are missing. 12:22 PM Aug 2nd

For those not familiar with writer/blogger/actor/director/etc Brian Spaeth’s work, this is a reference to his book “Prelude to a Super Airplane” and its 47-story super airliner.

I think I just saw Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson at the airplane place. I almost flipped out when I saw her. 12:25 PM Aug 2nd

I think this is self-explanatory, except that I kinda goofed up the punchline. As @ScalpEmOfficial pointed out, it would have been better had I just said “flipped”, not “flipped out”.

If you see a guy in a fro chillin on Beale St taking in some blues, say hi. We’ll eat drink and be bluesy. 4:49 PM Aug 2nd

Written merely hours after I landed, unfortunately no one took me up on this. It also doesn’t help that I went sans afro 99% of my trip.

I hereby declare Beale St and associated area to be my Mecca. #vacation 6:16 PM Aug 2nd

Yup, I was on the ground for mere hours before I fell in love with Memphis. It had everything I ever wanted – beer, live music, bar-b-que, and sweet tea. A few more single women would have been nice, but such is life.

To avoid my own erin andrews situation, i am leaving my hotel curtain wide open. Do your worst peeper people. 9:13 PM Aug 2nd

Of course, everyone knows what happened to ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. I figured if the same person was to take pictures of me getting ready in the morning, it wouldn’t be anything anyone hasn’t seen already. Market saturation, yo.

At BB king’s in memphis. Eatin catfish, listen to little wing. Life is good. #blues #vacation 9:51 PM Aug 2nd

This was dinner and my first experience of seeing music at the legendary BB King’s Blues Bar. As far as food and music go, this was probably the best place on Beale St. Other places were better music venues, others had better food, but BB King’s was the best of both worlds.

Did I mention I am drinking a memphis microbrew? yes, life is good indeed. #vacation 9:57 PM Aug 2nd

What can I say? I’m a fan of local beer. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name. It wasn’t the best beer I’ve ever had, but not the worst either.

At the memphis rock n soul museum. hard to believe sharecropping and rural blues n country was only 80 yrs ago. seems like 100s 2:52 PM Aug 3rd

The next day I began my trip through the many Memphis museums and tourist attractions. First on the docket was the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, located alongside the FedEx Forum, home of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. Looking back, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum was the best place to start as it provided an overview of all the museums that would follow.

minnie pearl had hat w tag left on. trailblazer for hip hop style #music #country #hiphop 2:57 PM Aug 3rd

It is funny how we think that the styles of today are new and never before seen. There was a picture of country performer Minnie Pearl rocking the same style that Jay-Z and other hip-hop people rock today.

sputnik monroe- pro wrestling @ rock n soul museum. a place in segregation history. amazing #prowrestling #memphis 3:04 PM Aug 3rd

Of course, I couldn’t let a museum mention of pro wrestling go unannounced. Apparently, Sputnik Monroe was one of the first wrestlers followed and admired by both white and black people.

i wonder if robert johnson would have gotten sued for violating copyright laws if he recorded today. #blues 3:08 PM Aug 3rd

Although Robert Johnson is the known as one of the fathers of the blues, there is no doubt he borrowed heavily from the songs performed throughout the Mississippi Delta region. With current copyright and sampling laws restricting a lot of creativity today, I think the era of Robert Johnson-esque innovation is over.

juke = wicked. yes, putting juke on someone is wicked 3:16 PM Aug 3rd

I did not know that the word “juke” used in jukeboxes and juke joints came from a word that meant “evil”. It was obviously a way to associate African American culture with negativity and maliciousness (as seen in so many other terms and definitions). My point here, however, was that when used in sports context, i.e. shaking a defender in basketball or football with a juke, the term is also wicked, albeit in a less nefarious way.

1957 studio equipment. no dail dial goes to 11. 3:18 PM Aug 3rd

A Spinal Tap reference.

the era bb king started in seems so long ago. jeez. and he is still here. thank goodness. 3:27 PM Aug 3rd

I knew BB King was old, but for some reason seeing his early pictures in a museum put his career in a different perspective for me. The man has had at least a 50 year career. 50 years of performing. He was around before Elvis Presley made it big. And BB King is still touring and still going strong. Unbelievable.

wow all i knew about ike turner was that he hit tina. one action scarred great musical contributions 3:31 PM Aug 3rd

Of all the things I learned in Memphis, one of the most surprising was Ike Turner’s role in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. Even though Turner played piano on “Rocket 88″, widely regarded as the first ever rock song, he is known unfortunately far more for his domestic dispute with Tina Turner.

why did chuck d call elvis racist? did he do something in later career. i am confused. #hiphop #music 3:41 PM Aug 3rd

My final tweet for Part 1 is a perfect example of why I am glad I decided to “bring along my followers”. As to be expected, a large part of Memphis’s music history is due to Elvis Presley. Like Eminem 50 years later, Elvis brought the influences of African American music to white audiences. However, instead of being celebrated, he is today seen as a racist. My tweet here references perhaps the biggest cultural mention of Elvis’s opinion – Chuck D of Public Enemy’s line “Elvis was a hero to most/ But he never meant shit to me you see/ Straight up racist that sucker was/ Simple and plain”.

After I posted this line, writer/blogger Mike Tillery of The Starting Five saw my tweet and responded with:

Mizzzzo: @JordiScrubbings research Elvis’ quote about what Black people could do for him and nothing more.

After a bit of research, I found that Elvis is accused of saying “The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.” This statement is however disputed by music historian Peter Guralnick in his 2007 NY Times editorial and snopes.com.

Regardless of what Elvis said or didn’t say, the bottom line is that without Twitter and the response I received from one of my “followers”, I probably would not have looked up the topic and either stayed confused or waited long into the future for it to come up again. This was the first of many times my Twitter people enriched my travels.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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One thought on “A Journey to Memphis and the Crossroads Part 1: Beale St and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

  1. Brian

    Thanks for the shout – sound like a fun place yo – was there general acceptance of your afro.

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