Food and music blend well in these Tennessee cities.
Whether you “Walk the Line” or are “Walking in Memphis,” you can’t walk in Tennessee without stopping for some barbecue. And while the route between Nashville and Memphis is known as the Music Highway, some argue it also could be called the Barbecue Highway.
Nashville is a major highlight on any journey to the South as this is Music City. It’s in this small, powerful community that is home of the Grand Ole Opry and where the likes of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash played, eventually escalating to stardom.
Honoring the life and legacy of the “Man in Black,” the Johnny Cash Museum houses the largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world. Learn about Cash and his family through films, personal keepsakes and interactive exhibits. Just upstairs is the Patsy Cline Museum, featuring items from her life including her home furnishings, her unforgettable outfits and recordings.
A sightseeing excursion of Nashville would not be complete without a visit to Music Row, home of RCA Studio B, the famous recording studio where Elvis Presley recorded more than 200 songs.
Plan and book tickets for a show at the Ryman Auditorium, where Cash belted out “I Walk the Line” in his 1956 Grand Ole Opry debut. Originally built as a tabernacle, the Ryman was home to the Grand Ole Opry for 40 years. Located in the heart of downtown you can tour the building during the day.
But food is a must to survive, and Martin’s Bar-B-Que will take care of your hunger. It offers a variety of smoked meats, fried chicken and fish, burgers and house-made sides and desserts. It is known for its Redneck Tacos, smoked meat (or fried catfish) loaded onto a cornbread hoecake and then topped with sauce and slaw.
Memphis needs no introduction. It is the famous Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock ‘N’ Roll. This vibrant city has been home to legendary artists such as B.B. King and Elvis Presley. A city tour is an ideal way to become familiar with Memphis’ historical and cultural roots – and be sure not to miss famous Beale Street, where dozens of bars and clubs feature live music, and Marc Cohen famously sang about it in his song, “Walking in Memphis.”
And if it’s May and you are in Memphis, just follow your nose to the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest which draws more than 100,000 people. The four-day festival, to be held this year May 17-20, brings in more than 250 barbecue teams from more than 20 states to compete in various categories, such as pork ribs, pork shoulder, sauce and “Anything But Pork.”
But if you are not visiting in May, check out Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs. For 75 years, the Vergos family has been serving their signature dry-rub ribs, along with other smoked meats, in a basement through a downtown alley across from the Peabody Hotel. But for a real treat, order the smoked shrimp at least 24 hours in advance and you will get a skillet full of five pounds of mouth-watering barbecued shrimp that can feed eight people.
When in Memphis, one must also take a tour of Graceland. Once the home of Presley, the Graceland mansion illuminates his life, career and interests. Explore the mansion with a self-guided audio tour that features stories and commentary from Presley. Walk through the grand home’s many rooms, including the Polynesian-style Jungle Room where the family liked to relax. Step outside to see the house where Presley’s father had his office and managed his famous son’s career. Then take in Presley’s many awards in the Trophy Building followed by a walk through the Racquetball Building where his stage outfits are on exhibit. Wrap up the Graceland Mansion tour in the Meditation Garden where Presley and his family have been laid to rest and stroll along a tree-lined street to check out more than 20 vehicles at the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, including his famous pink Cadillac.
Spenser Barnes is a freelance writer from California.
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