The Dual Musical Heritage of Tennessee

The Dual Musical Heritage of Tennessee

The State of Tennessee boasts two very distinct styles of musical heritages. The Blues were born in Memphis and Nashville is the epicenter of Country Music.

The Blues burst forth from Memphis when many black Blues musicians (and a few white ones) came from all over the Mississippi River region and brought their songs, styles and spirit of improvisation to the West Tennessee town.

Reflecting the times in the 1950s, the Memphis music scene can be best summed in the words legendary (and notorious) producer, Sam Phillips was said to have spoken. “If I could find a white man who could sing like a black man, I would make a billion dollars.” Eventually, he would find two, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

As was often the case back then, many of the great black songwriters were paid paltry amounts to sell away all their rights to some legendary songs. But surprisingly one studio stood out for its very forward thinking. The Stax Studio was ahead of its time in that its list of artists were integrated, along with its management staff.

Possibly as a result, Stax turned out some very well-known recordings. For example, Otis Redding recorded Sittin on the Dock of the Bay at the Stax. Likewise Isaac Hayes recorded his Theme from Shaft, the Staples Singers recorded Respect Yourself and Sam and Dave recorded Soul Man.

Today Memphis still resonates with a unique style of music that is one half of Tennessee’s remarkable musical heritage. Visitors will find a wide selection of Blues clubs to indulge in, as well as festivals, such as the Beale Street Music Festival each year in May (for artists and dates, check out the Official Memphis Annual Events Listing []) or you can enjoy a mini-blues festival with a spectacular view of Mississippi River at the WEFL Blues on the Bluff in July.

Also be sure to check out all the events going taking place on Beale Street at World Famous Beale Street, Home of the Blues [].

A MERE 210 MILES TO THE EAST along Interstate 40, Nashville represents a different musical world. Nashville is a place where the old style Country, with its steel guitars and twangy vocals, and the newer, hipper and edgier Country of today thrive in an uneasy form of coexistence.

Long called “Folk” music, it was Nashville that pulled in the songs from the mountains and countrysides and broadcast them to the world. Eventually this Nashville sound would be become big business and it would come to be called, “Country.”

During World War II, the Grand Old Opry began broadcasting from the Ryman Auditorium, a former tabernacle built in 1881. Remodeled and refurbished many times over the years, the Ryman is still one of the major musical venues in the South, despite the Opry’s move to its own facilities in 1974.

Another great place to hear the newest artists and the newest songs is the famous, Bluebird Café where very new (and very good) unknown singers and songwriters perform before diners enjoying excellent food You never know at the Bluebird, if you are listening to next year’s newest superstar. Check out the Bluebird Café at

No matter your taste in music, you will find excellent performances in Nashville or Memphis.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

Source by Charles Brown

Written by lyfer

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