MUSICAL MEMPHIS

P1140910

Prior to the American Queen’s visit to Memphis, Tennessee, we stopped in New Madrid, Missouri, and Ashport Landing, Tennessee.  Neither stop was anything to blog about; however, I will throw in a few photos from Fort Pillow, where we learned way more about Confederates and canons than I ever cared to know.  This photo of the museum exhibit on the subject explains my distaste for all things Confederate and Civil War:

P1140753.JPG

Moving on to Memphis, this was a day Bruce was especially looking forward to, being the blues harmonica player that he is.  I had been to Memphis in 2013, when I took my mom on a cruise aboard American Queen, from Memphis to New Orleans; however, I looked forward to returning and sharing the experience with Bruce.

Included in our cruise was a tour of Graceland, and what instantly came to our minds as we headed to Elvis Presley’s mansion and museum was Paul Simon’s song lyrics:

…I’m going to Graceland

Graceland

In Memphis, Tennessee

I’m going to Graceland…

I can just hear Simon’s voice now… but, I digress.

P1140761.JPG

Graceland opened their doors an hour early for American Queen passengers, so it was great to get a nice head start through the mansion and exhibits, knowing we would have a full day ahead of us.  Neither of us are huge Elvis Presley fans, but we enjoyed the experience.

Here are some photos from Presley’s mansion and the museum:

P1140777.JPG

P1140774.JPG

P1140763.JPG

The stained glass peacocks were beautiful.

P1140765

There were actually three TV’s in this room.  Elvis would watch all three at the same time.

P1140767.JPG

The entire ceiling and wall was covered in folds of fabric.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1140769

This room was just…bizarre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1140822.JPG

P1140794.JPG

The remainder of our day in Memphis was spent enjoying the sights of downtown.  We were able to walk into the city easily from the boat, so we headed to the historic Peabody Hotel, home of ducks (Really, I mean it!  Check out my 2013 post about it here.  While you’re at it, check out the neon pictures taken at night along Beale Street.)

P1140798

P1140800

The backstory on these famous Peabody ducks is that in 1933, the hotel’s owner had live ducks as decoys for duck hunting.  As a joke to the staff and guests, he decided to put them in the lobby fountain.  Well, it was a huge hit, so they have been at the hotel ever since.  (Of course, not those very same ducks; they don’t live that long!)  The ducks live up on the hotel’s roof and are escorted down to the lobby by elevator, led by their master, dressed in top hat and tails.  He makes a big to-do about it that draws crowds of people each day to watch the ceremony of ducks waddling down the red carpet, across the little bridge, and into the fountain!

P1140856

P1140837

P1140820.JPG

P1140817.JPG

P1140812.JPG

W.C. Handy

P1140853

P1140839

Our next stop was the Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum, an included attraction with our cruise that was especially fabulous.  The introductory film we saw before continuing into the museum was well worth the visit alone.  The exhibits, though, were very well done, and we could have spent all day just listening to all of the great music they had available throughout the museum!

P1140851.JPG

P1140849.JPG

Blues City Café was where my mom and I had gone for lunch back in 2013, and I had a hankering for another plate of their tasty tamales.  I thought Bruce would enjoy them, too, so we stopped in for a quick lunch.  Yum!

P1140841.JPG

Next, we visited the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, located just across the street from the café.  Although smaller in size and not as fabulous as the Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum, we still enjoyed the exhibits.

P1140840.JPG

CarlPerkinsGuitar.JPG

Carl Perkin’s guitar

When it started to pour down rain later in the afternoon, we decided to board American Queen’s hop on-hop off bus, and enjoy Memphis in dry comfort. One of the bus stops was at Sun Studio; however, we didn’t have enough time to take the tour.  No worries; we’ll see it in January, when we return to Memphis for our American Duchess cruise.

The final stop for the bus was Bass Pro Shops, and we figured we had enough time to take a quick run around the huge store before the next—and last—bus arrived to take us back to the ship before departure.

P1140886.JPG

P1140894.JPG

This boat was for sale, as were all the others floating in their ponds.

This Bass Pro Shops location wasn’t your ordinary Bass Pro Shop store (although, none of their shops are ordinary!); it was housed in a 320-foot high glass pyramid, the 10th largest pyramid in the world, and quite the spectacle!

From beginning to end, we made a (very) full day of seeing—and thoroughly enjoying—Memphis!

Next up:  “Blues Boy” & Delta Blues

 

 

 

 

FROM PASSENGER TO PERFORMER ABOARD THE AMERICAN QUEEN

The entertainment aboard the American Queen paddle wheeler was top-notch during our three-week Mississippi River cruise.  From the guest entertainers to staff singers/dancers and musicians, we were quite impressed with the quality of the shows we enjoyed after dinner each evening.

38

Damon.JPG

P1140913.JPG

Bobby.JPG

Bobby was also the Riverlorian and gave presentations on all things Mississippi River and riverboats.

Even the captain had us impressed when he sat in with band with his electric guitar made from the planks of the ship’s old paddle wheel.  That guy could play!

P1140702.JPG

Following one of the shows early in the cruise, we made our way back to the Engine Room Bar to listen to the duo performing covers of classic rock tunes.  The setting back there had a cool vibe—an ornate tin ceiling, a lot of dark wood, and port hole windows; just as you would expect on a vintage-style ship or riverboat.

Norman-Jim-Gary-Sax

Through those port holes, I was mesmerized by the turning of the huge red paddle wheel, as I listened to the music.  During the break, I stepped out on deck to enjoy the view up close.

39

It was during those early days of the cruise that I tried to convince Bruce to ask if he could sit in with the guys and play his harmonicas.  He had brought a few harps with him and played a little bit on deck when nobody was around; however, I knew Bruce would enjoy playing with the guys.  He had played drums and harmonica in bands back in high school and college, and I’ve seen him get enthusiastic applause and glowing compliments each time he’s played since getting back into music.  He only plays occasionally now, and sits in from time-to-time with a really good rock and blues band, when they perform fundraisers for local charities.  They love to have him join them, and he fits right in.  Not to brag about my husband, but the guy is good.

P1140201.JPG

P1140203

Not wanting Bruce to regret being too humble to ask to sit in with the guys on board, I stepped in with a little nudge.  I told Jim and Norman that Bruce had a few harmonicas with him, and he would love to sit in.  Oh yeah… and, Bruce is good.  I’m sure they thought to themselves, “Yeah, that’s what they all say; we’ll let him join us—for just one song.  Period.”  To me and Bruce, Jim actually said, “Sure, bring your harmonicas with you next time, and I’ll bring you up to sit in on a tune.”

The next night, that one tune was all it took.  They invited him back onstage for another, and another, and… Every time we saw Jim and Norman around the ship, they wanted to know if Bruce was going to come sit in at the Engine Room bar that night.  One time, Bruce went to an afternoon Dixieland Jazz performance that included the show band and Engine Room performers, and Norman sent him back to the cabin to get his harmonicas!  When Bruce protested that he played blues, and Dixieland wasn’t his genre, Norman shot back, “That’s ok; you’ll figure it out!”

P1140921

Jim-Bruce.JPG

P1140920.JPG

P1150377.JPG

That’s Norman, the American Queen Steamboat Company’s musical director on piano and Jim, on guitar.

Now, Norman was not only the musical director for the American Queen, but he was also the musical director for the other two American Queen Steamboat Company riverboats, the American Empress and the brand new American Duchess.  He knew his stuff!

At the end of the cruise, when I told Jim how much Bruce enjoyed sitting in with him and Norman, he told me how skeptical he was when I first asked him to let Bruce sit in.  Having had nearly all give-it-a-miss experiences with passengers sitting in, he was prepared for Bruce to be a one-and-done.  Let him sit in once, so he could have that memory to tell all his friends, and then never invite him back on stage.  Instead, Jim told me I should have asked earlier in the cruise, instead of waiting until the last week!  Norman echoed the same sentiments, and they both kept thanking him.

Bruce learned his lesson, and I’ve learned mine.  Harmonicas have been added to the packing list for our upcoming American Duchess and American Empress river cruises, and if Bruce leaves them behind the first night, I’ll bring them myself!  After all, I can just tell the band, “Norman and Jim told me to ask you if Bruce can sit in.  They said you wouldn’t be sorry.”

 

Coming up next, I back up one week to August 21, 2017, the day after visiting Hanibal, Missouri.  Our next port was Alton, Illinois, our home-base for the day while visiting St. Louis in the morning, and Alton in the afternoon for the solar eclipse.