Music of the south

 

On our recent road trip we crossed the Georgia stateline and I noticed the sign saying Welcome to Georgia – we hope you have Georgia on your mind. Straight away I’m singing that Ray Charles song, “…just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind…”

It happens all the time when I’m in the US; there are so many songs going way back which are about places in America. Some of them I’ve visited, some I’ve not, but all I have to do is look at a map of the States and I know I’ll find somewhere a song has been written about.

I’d already been Way down yonder in New Orleans, but this road trip took us into the Deep South, home to the blues and the origins of rock and roll. I was singing quite a lot on this trip, and it kicked off in the Civil Rights museum in Birmingham, Alabama when I saw those old pieces of sheet music on display.

Old songs from more than 50 or 60 years ago come to mind, like I’m Alabama bound, along with When the midnight choo-choo leaves for Alabam’. I sang the latter as a very young child perfoming on stage in a show put on by the school of dance I attended. I’ve since looked for the song on YouTube and discovered it’s from the musical Easter Parade, performed by Judy Gardland and divine dancer Fred Astaire.

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Chattanooga – one of the towns we visited – has made the most of its train and railway connections.

Most people will know the Chattanooga Choo-Choo song, where, you know “….you leave  the Pennsylvania station at a quarter to four, read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore….”

Chattanooga was significant as its railroad linked the north and south of the US. No trains go there now. The station is a hotel; the train stands as an abandoned visitor attraction on Track 29.

On the way to Memphis, Tennessee, I sang a few rounds of Chuck Berry’s famous song, “…long distance information get in touch with my Marie…” along with Graceland by Simon and Garfunkel, and although we didn’t go to see Elvis’s mansion, I was humming one of their other songs “….we’ve all come to look for America…” On this road trip we seemed to be seeing quite a lot of it, travelling through 5 states.

In Tennessee I saw Davy Crockett hats for sale “….Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier…born on a mountain top in Tennessee….” and we went to the top of Lookout Mountain where it appeared to be Groundhog Day. Two of them emerged from their den in the ground near the top of the mountain and enjoyed the sunshine. A bonus for me as I’d not seen groundhogs before.

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On Beale Street, Memphis, we took in some live music in B.B. King’s bar, jived to Johnny Cash’s Walk the Line and generally soaked up the atmosphere a stone’s throw from the famous Sun recording studios.

We saw the great Mississppi River “…. it’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud….” being swirled and churned up along the flooded river banks and I hummed Ol’ Man River.

As we travelled through Louisiana, eating fresh catfish, I was singing Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou “…I’m goin’ back some day, come what may, to Blue Bayou…where you sleep all day and the catfish play …”

Deep South, soul music, and plenty of it.

 

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