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Saturday, Day 1 – Bristol Birthplace of Country Music – Carter Fold – Travel to Bristol, VA. for a two night stay. Dinner is at a local restaurant, following which you drive deep into the Virginia Mountains for an evening at the Carter Fold. Dedicated to the First Family of Country Music, the legendary Carters were at the 1927 Bristol Session, and have been given the greatest share of the credit for the birth of commercial country music.
You will have time to visit the A.P. Carter Cabin, and the Music Center whose objective it is to promote the old-time music. You will see family artifacts and hear conversation from docents about a famous son-in-law. But the highlight is the Carter Fold music show. In keeping with their traditional music style, no electrical instruments are allowed (it’s all acoustic). This is not your typical Country Music show, it’s old time joyful music with local folks who come every week and dance for the sheer joy of it. (D)
Sunday, Day 2 – Bristol – Pickin’ Porch – Your Sunday morning in the mountains begins with a Gospel Brunch at Heartwood, a place that blends Appalachian heritage, and crafts, with local foods. You will enjoy live Gospel Music from mountain musicians and a buffet filled with farm fresh Virginia foods. You will also time to shop for Mountain arts and craft work.
The afternoon features the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. An affiliate of the Smithsonian it is dedicated to an event known as “The Bristol Sessions.” Which were perhaps the single greatest moment in recording history – this was the first commercially successful, music recording session.
It was 1927 and a talent scout for the Victor Talking Machine Company brought a portable recording device (four men had to carry it) to a hat factory in Bristol. He advertised, inviting musicians to record the music of the Appalachians. Among the first few were The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, both destined to be legends. Through this museum the authenticity of that single moment and this region’s rich music legacy sing loud and proud today.
This evening your group will enjoy a country dinner and a little Front Porch Pickin,’ a traditional Appalachian evening with musicians coming together for no other reason than the joy of playing. It’s through these impromptu gatherings that much of the old-time country, gospel and bluegrass music has been preserved. This is a very casual night you should feel free to sing a long any time you want. (B,D)
Monday, Day 3 – Nashville – Line Dancing at The Wildhorse Saloon – This morning you leave the mountains of Southwest Virginia – following the earlier musicians from mountain farms – to dreams in Nashville.
On arrival you’ll find an immediate connection to Bristol, at the new Johnny Cash Museum. He was of course, that famous son-in-law who married June Carter Cash the daughter of Mother Maybelle Carter. His museum features the largest and most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world. It chronicles the life of the “Man in Black” with interactive technology.
Next on tour is the Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music.” From 1943 to 1974 the Ryman was the home of The Grand Ole Opry. The legends of country music all played here, and it’s a romantic and historic landmark that is often used today. After this tour you will be able to say, you were on the Ryman Stage.
Dinner this evening is just down the street at a restaurant that opened in 1994. On that first night country superstar Reba McEntire drove a herd of live cattle through the streets and past the front door of this watering hole that is known the world over as the Wildhorse Saloon. Home to exhilarating live entertainment and line dancing, the Wildhorse is rooted deep in music traditions from local acts to national artists. Tonight you enjoy a great meal, a festive and fun music experience. But keep your eyes open all the time, you never know who might walk through the front door. (B,D)
Tuesday, Day 4 – Studio B Recording Session – Grand Ole Opry – This morning you meet our Troubadour, a Nashville singer / songwriter who is your tour guide. You begin with the downtown where you learn its colorful history. You drive by the world famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Honky Tonk Row, the original Ernest Tubb Record Shop and more. As you motor thru Music Row you learn about the recording industry. You will hear insight from your Troubadour about what it is like to be immersed in the Nashville music scene, both the struggles and the victories!
The afternoon begins on Nashville’s famed Music Row at the Historic RCA Studio B. Here, you get a up-close look at a famous studio. Music legends Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley; and more recently Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, and Marty Stuart recorded here. Inside the studio, you actually interact with a professional sound engineer in a group recording session.
Then it’s off to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the keeper of priceless Country Music Treasures. Your self-guided tour is a walk through history, one that leads you from the earliest folk traditions to the music that thrills millions of fans today. Every tour ends in the Hall of Fame Rotunda, the never-ending Circle, and storied home of the inductees.
As time allows your group can explore the Downtown. Visit Ernest Tubbs, shop for Cowboy Boots, have a beer at Tootsies and soak in the atmosphere that is unique to Music City.
For dinner you’ll find that the most famous show in country music is now making its mark on Southern cuisine, in a new Nashville restaurant as uniquely entertaining as the Grand Ole Opry itself. Your dinner this evening is at the Backstage Grill, where country cooking and music define the menu.
Next, it’s showtime. For more than 85 years, country’s best performers have mesmerized audiences at the Grand Ole Opry – a continuously broadcast Live Radio Show. Each Opry features a variety of new stars, superstars and the legends of music. You’ll hear the very best in country with a little bluegrass and comedy added in. This is live and unrehearsed, you never see the same show twice.
The 1927 Bristol Sessions were the ‘Big Bang of Country Music’ and you visited the birthplace, the very spot where the explosion first sparked; now tonight you find yourself seated in the center of this ever expanding Musical Universe filled with brilliant lights and glorious lyrics. (B,D)
Wednesday, Day 5 Arrive Memphis – Elvis Presley & B.B. King – It’s a leisurely morning driving to Memphis – where you spend the afternoon at the home of the King of Rock n’ Roll. Your Platinum Admission lets you tour Elvis’ Graceland. You will also see his car collection and private airplanes.
Then tonight is dinner and Live Music at B.B. Kings on Beale Street. This dinner club features some of the best Live Blues & Rock in the south. It’s an evening in a club built by “The King of the Blues.” (B,D)
Thursday, Day 6 – Memphis – MoJo Tour & Sun Studios – Memphis comes alive today starting with the MoJo Tour. A professional Beale Street musician/tour guide will sing of the city’s music history, entertaining you with tunes and behind-the-scenes stories of Memphis celebrities. Along the way, you will see the City’s famous sights including The Lorraine Motel and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, plus you have photo stops at Graceland and the Johnny Cash home.
During this tour you will also visit Sun Studios – The Birthplace of Rock N’ Roll (1950) and home to the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Did you know Studio owner Sam Phillips, a music legend in his own right, discovered BB King and recorded Howlin’ Wolf while working for another label?
And, did you know that Sun Studios is still rockin’ today? You never know who may walk in the door as you’re walking out.
After lunch is a visit to Stax Records (1959). They launched the careers of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Booker T & the MG’s and dozens of others whose influence remains vital to R & B today. This museum preserves the legacy of American soul music with records, video, artifacts and memorabilia.
Next, we bring the Memphis Scene all together at the Rock n’ Soul Museum; telling the story of musical pioneers who for the love of music, overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create sounds that shook the entire world. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, Rock n‘Soul explains how Memphis is the both “The Home of the Blues” and “The Birthplace of Rock ‘ Roll” – and you get the idea that this town was one exciting place in the 1950’s!
After this music history lesson you relax with dinner at the Blues City Cafe. Enjoy a nice Southern meal, listen to the music, and if you wish explore the other clubs on Beale Street. (B,D)
Friday, Day 7 – Arrive Muscle Shoals – Fame Records & The Swampers – Leaving Memphis where that great music started in the 50’s you arrive in Muscle Shoals at lunchtime to learn about the Muscle Shoals Sound, and how this unlikely Alabama town gave birth to much of that creative and defiant music of the 1960’s.
We think Muscle Shoals is the best kept secret in American Music. They have recorded #1 Hits in almost every genre of popular music. This afternoon on tour you hear about the legends, the superstars of R & B, Pop, Soul, Rock, and Country – they all recorded here.
Your first stop is the place where it all began – Fame Studios. In 1961 Rick Hall brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create the “Muscle Shoals Sound.” This small town studio produced hit records for Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Otis Redding, the Osmonds, Jerry Reed, Alabama, Mac Davis, the Gatlin Brothers and Bono.
The list also includes: Tina Turner, Percy Sledge, the Beatles, Jet, Elton John, Sara Evans, Ronnie Milsap, BB King, Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks, Earl Thomas Conley, Leann Rimes, Huey Lewis, and Travis Tritt, and dozens of others. They all came looking for that ‘Muscle Shoals Sound.’
Important to all of this is the name “Swampers.” It is an affectionate nickname for the house band that played background for these superstars. Originally known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, these four small town musicians played with everyone in the 60’s. We believe it was Aretha who said, “if people knew the band behind that record was four white boys they would never believe it.”
This evening we bring you another great night of live music and southern food. At a restaurant known as Swampers your meal is accompanied by Muscle Shoal musicians and the special appearance of a “Swamper.” (B,D)
Saturday, Day 8 – The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio – Songwriter Show – This morning’s highlight is the historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Hwy. (the address was also the name of a Cher album). In 1969 the Swampers broke away from Fame Studios and opened there own. While Fame survived and continued producing hit after hit, The Swampers were also successful. They recorded Rod Stewart, Duane Allman, Boz Scaggs, Paul Simon, Lynard Skynard, Glenn Frey, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Art Garfunkel, Sawyer Brown and The Oak Ridge Boys.
It almost seems that everyone recorded in these two Studio’s. From 1961 thru today the World’s Greatest Musicians have been trying to capture that Muscle Shoals Sound.
The balance of your morning is then spent at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Here you will find exhibits to a pair of Local Legends, W.C. Handy and Sam Phillips. Plus other famed Alabama Musical Artists such as Nat “King” Cole, Hank Williams, and the group Alabama.
While at this museum your group will record together in a studio, your travelers will have a chance to harmonize and search for that special Muscle Shoals Sound that turns Albums into Gold. You also have a Southern Barbecue lunch catered here.
Before leaving the Hall of Fame your group participates in another Songwriter’s Session. Where a local performs his/her music and tells the stories behind the songs.
Tonight, you enjoy a farewell tour dinner at a local restaurant where you enjoy more of that wonderful Southern Home Cooking and we have another Muscle Shoals musician perform play for you last night. (B,D)
Sunday, Day 9 – Departure – This morning your group is on the road for home.