Sunday, March 26, 2017

St Patrick's Day Ride (A Couple Days Later) with the HOG Chapter

I have had some bad experiences riding in big groups.  Usually, it was riders acting like the ugly biker,  but there was the one time where a person wrecked just because he was being stupid.   So for the last few years, I have avoided riding with groups, but this all changed last Sunday.

I have been a member Harleys Owner Group (HOG), here in Clarksville for a couple of years now and I finally was talked into doing a group ride with them.  What a fantastic experience, it was fun getting out there with 35 other bikes riding as one.   Before the ride, the ride leader had a safety briefing and the road Captains controlled the flow of traffic.  It was a very smooth affair.

We set off from Appletons Harley Davidson in Clarksville on a cold morning with kick stands up at 9 AM.   Our destination is the Bull and Thistle an Irish Pub on the town square of Gainsboro Tennessee about 120 miles away.  Our ride starts in the low 40's  it is cold on the Motorcycle today, my flannel lined jeans save me from freezing more than I did.  We make 2 stops on the way to Gainsboro to warm up,

After the 2nd stop, we ride some twisting roads.  Ending up on Tennessee Highway 53 the southern approach to Gainsboro.  It was an exhilarating feeling; 35 bikes moving through the hill country of Tennessee, creating one long sake of connected riders.  Navigating turn after turn becoming one with the road.

It was all too short before we reached the Bull and Thistle; in the town square, where their theme is Celtic Roots and Southern roads.  Tennessee has a rich Irish heritage immigrating during the Great Potato Famine in Ireland 1840 thru 1850.   Settling in rocky hilly areas passed up by other settlers on land thought to be unproductive.  They made a life where others wouldn't and were successful.

I had lunch with 3 people I was happy to meet.  Finding out that I had crossed paths in Afghanistan with 1 person.  During a discussion about the nature of man, one person said,  " It is a fact that all males will eventually become men.  The question is what kind of a man are you going to be?"  We all must make the decision to either be a better person or not.  It was a great day for a ride to think about such things.

After finishing my corned beef sandwich it was time to head home.  After achieving our final destination we all break-up and make our way back individually of in small groups.  Instead of the interstate, I decide to take Highway 56, a winding road up to Lafayette from there Highway 52 to Portland, Springfield then finally Clarksville.

It was a long day starting a 9 am and finally getting home around 7 pm, but I would not want to be anywhere else but on my Motorcycle contemplating life.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The American Musical Triangle.

To understand American Music you must understand the American Music Triangle. Draw a line on any map from New Orleans to Memphis, then to Nashville, and finally back down to New Orleans. You have an area of the south that is responsible for the 9 American Music genres. These include Jazz, Blues, Country, and of course Rock and Roll are all products of this area.

The epicenter for all this is the Mississippi Delta.  An area of rich soil just south of Memphis where the lowlands of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas form an agricultural wonderland perfect for the cultivation of Cotton,   Although plantation owners would not let slaves read or write they were given musical instruments.  They developed a form of music that is uniquely American and is the root of all the current popular music.   Clarksdale is in the center of the American Music Triangle. It is Ground Zero as stated by Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club.  This club is across the street from the Delta Blues Museum in downtown Clarksdale Mississippi is the center of the musical world.  Alongside this site are several authentic Juke Joints or blues clubs where one can feel the Blues in its purest forms.

Take the Folk Music from Nashville and the Blues from Memphis mix it in a blender and you have County Western.  Take Jazz from New Orleans and the Blues, put it in a martini shaker add a little country-western; what do you have?  Rock and Roll.   Soul and Rap are the unmixed jewels that are derived from the Soul of the Jazz and the Blues.  It is this American Music that has come to dominate the western world.

But please don't take my word for it to understand The American Music Triangle you must experience it yourself.  So get out there and take a road trip. Spend a few days in each city and throw in some stops in between. I would recommend at least a few days in each city.  With every day you will have a greater understanding of American Music.

I would start by going into Nashville.  There are several things that are must-see in this hot chicken city.  The Country Music Hall of Fame is important historically.   Take in a show at the Ryman Auditorium the mother church of country music. And of course, an evening at the Blue Bird Cafe to meet some songwriters.   Please visit a genuine honky-tonk, either Legends Corner or Tootsies on Broadway some of the biggest stars sometimes come out here to play.  For an out of the way experience, drive out to Whites Creek for some gumbo and music at Richards Cafe.

After Nashville it is a short 3-hour drive to Memphis.   My first time to Memphis was before the downtown revitalization took place. Beale Street was a much more raw event.  One club was nothing more than a stage with a band and a bar consisting of a Keg where you could get a $2 cup beer.   Since then Beale Street has become so much more of a commercialized destination, but the corps are still there.  The Blues Clubs on Beale is the heart of the action.   Of course, you have to go to the original BB Kings. Take in a more intimate show by the famous Barbra Blue at Silky O'Sullivans.   Then for bigger shows head over to the New Daisy Theater which will definitely complete your fix of the blues.  During the day go to Sun Records to see where Elvis got his start and Graceland where he met his end.

After Memphis its time to head into the deep south toward New Orleans, but first we must stop in Clarksdale Mississippi.  Its the Crossroads of whee it all began.  Where legend has it Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil for the ability to play the blues.   A stop at the Delta Blues Museum is a requirement on the Blues Trail in the American Music Triangle.  Several artist like Led Zeppelin have given plaques to the museum thanking them for their music.   After Clarksdale make your way to New Orleans but please stop at some of the plantation houses along the way to see where the music actually originated.

In New Orleans you are finally home, this is Jazz central.   Preservation Hall is the gold standard when it comes to Jazz.  I personally am more of a blues fan but there is great Jazz on my favorite street in New Orleans and that is Frenchman Street.    This is where the locals go out to the many jazz clubs, but my favorite is the Spotted Cat.  This street has it all; good restaurants, great blues, and outstanding jazz.  It is dialed down a notch from Bourbon Street with a more authentic old-time feel.   If you want to see New Orleans at its best try to make it during Mardi Gras.  This celebrated the month before Ash Wednesday it is the biggest party in North America.

This is the American Music Triangle.  You can't read about, you can't look at the pictures, to truly understand you must travel and experience the music yourself.  Traveling throughout this area you will come to a better understanding of the America South.