Monday, July 29, 2019

My Deep South Rock & Roll Blues Tour

I recently embarked upon a 2,000-mile, 5-state road trip through the Deep South - all in 8 days.  Throughout the trip, I kept thinking about the movie "Gandhi" - the scenes where he went on a train trip, traveling third class, so he could rediscover India and its people.  I am an American, born and raised, and I say emphatically I was led by a ghost to take this trip to remind me why I live in the greatest nation on earth... and it changed me forever. 

My family on my mother's side was from Tennessee and on my father's side, Kentucky.  We have relatives all over the south... and I'd wanted to see Elvis's Graceland since I was 9 years old!  So, this trip was long overdue.  Here are pictures I took along the way.

Starting out in Charleston, South Carolina, we left on July 13, 2019 traveling the backroads almost the whole way.  We soon stopped in a little town called Earhardt where we met an old man with a small flea market, which was actually a gun shop.  About an hour later, we crossed into Georgia and I started thinking of all the wonderful music inspired by this beautiful state.  A little over an hour later, we stumbled upon a great discovery!  It was literally a "Pickers" sign paradise: the Peebles family at Page Garrett in Georgia.  We would have entered, but they had a lot of security and warnings not to enter.  There were signs for what seemed miles ahead - like the ones you see on "American Pickers." 

We landed in Macon, Georgia for the night and the next morning got up and went to The Big House - the home of the famous Southern Rock band, the Allman Brothers.  We talked to the manager, Richard Brent, and it was absolutely fascinating to see their massive collection of memorabilia in a huge house with something like 4 floors... maybe more!  Back on the road, we kept hearing Charlie Daniels's great classic, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"... we understood the devil was looking for a soul to steal and we were on a similar mission.  We ended up staying in Atlanta.

The next day, we drove to "Sweet Home Alabama," where we drifted through the mountains, which were absolutely gorgeous with breathtaking views.  We didn't know what a few days would bring in Alabama, but we stopped to meet people on the backroads, and went to some of the antique shops - a pickers bonanza!  The great mountain passes near the Trail of Tears in Alabama were so vast and everything we saw made us feel like we were in paradise.  We noticed an American patriot trucker on the blues highway who had decorated his truck in memory of the POW/MIAs.

In Stevenson, Alabama, we ran into a haunted RR depot where we had the pleasure of meeting the lone last living person there - Loretta! - it was in the midst of a haunted abandoned ghost town.  Loretta gave us the tour and told us the stories of the soldiers being shipped home during the great wars at the rail.  There were all kinds of fascinating historical things to see at the little museum she maintains every day - preserving the beauty of American history - the Civil War, WWI and WWII. Next, we ran into the Cowan, Tennessee RR train depot and the old courthouse from the 1800s.

The next day, we arrived in Nashville and went downtown.  We stopped in at Antique Archaeology where the Pickers reside in Tennessee.  Nashville - downtown Broadway - was bustling with bands playing in every bar and juke joint.  We stopped in at the famous Tubbs Museum where Loretta Lynn's memorabilia, including her dresses were on display.  We drove to Memphis and stopped in at Elvis's Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard.  Unfortunately, Elvis had left the building long ago.

That evening, we finally landed on the Blues Highway in Mississippi... ending up at The Crossroads - HWY 61/HWY49 in Clarksdale.  Then we saw live music at the Ground Zero Blues Club.  It was great meeting Roger and Bubba at the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Arts. ... Fun chatting with wonderful people and seeing the art and studio of the great Stan Street at Hambone Art Gallery.  It was so cool meeting Richard who runs the Delta Blues Museum - Clarksdale, Mississippi... [thanks for the great work you're doing to preserve America's rich music heritage!]  We got a nice tour of WROX Radio and it was great meeting Mrs. Wilson!  [Thanks for the tour and great stories!]  The quiet strength of Clarksdale, MS - real people with heart and soul - really touched our blues soul.  We knew why we were there.

Back in "Sweet Home Alabama" the next day, we learned the true meaning of that song and all about Ronnie Van Zant's lyrics, The Swampers and so much more!  Muscle Shoals, Alabama - music center of the South - told us the great stories of American music history and the ghosts were all around us.

It was a dream come true when I recorded vocals on my latest song, "He Sold His Soul for Rock & Roll" at FAME Recording Studios.  The session was very emotional for me.  I may have sung into the same microphone that Aretha Franklin sang "R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!"  And the next morning, we got a V.I.P. tour of the FAME studios and then headed to the very place where RVZ and Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded some of their greatest songs, tipping his hat to the Swampers - Muscle Shoals Sound Studio!  I did what he asked me to do and it has changed my life forever!  I'm in the club.

I believe Ronnie came back from the dead all these years later to do what he loved: write songs.  I believe he's working through many artists on the planet today - as an astral soul.  He wrote this song from the grave.  I was an open channel and allowed him to come through to guide me (since September 2018).  He gave me specific messages to help me with my music.  But this song would be different.  He told me I needed to take a journey in order to understand the meaning behind the story and actually LIVE the song so I could tell "the same old story" with a new twist about the protagonist walking to the Crossroads to sell his soul for Rock & Roll.  This is not about Robert Johnson... it's about me... and RVZ.

We all need to take time to rediscover America.  My Deep South road trip has reacquainted me with my roots and has been a great reminder of the beauty and strength of the people of my country - America, the Beautiful!  I love this country more than ever, having revisited places I hadn't been since I was very young... Thank you, RVZ!

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