Posted by Paul Groves on December 5, 2017

Threatened by Creek Fire

Here in Sylmar, we get very high winds. We’ve had very strong winds for a day or two and today a fire started a few miles east of us. We are packed and ready to evacuate if needed. The wind is supposed to change direction (toward us) soon, so we are just watching and waiting. We went through this in 2008 and we hope it doesn’t repeat itself again.

Posted by Paul Groves on October 17, 2017

More Memphis—Fun and Not So Fun

The Peabody Hotel in Memphis has a unique attraction. Years ago, someone brought in several ducks (used as live decoys) and left them in the lobby fountain where the ducks swam and were apparently very happy and well-behaved. The guests enjoyed these creatures so much, that the hotel manager created accommodations for them on the roof and they now ride the elevator down to the lobby to swim in the fountain twice a day. They are well trained and managed by the official duck wrangler in an impressive red coat. Luckily, we were in the lobby at just the right time to observe the Peabody Hotel Duck March. The event is used as a fundraiser for the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital which is also a Memphis institution. Fun. Located around the bottom of the hotel is Lansky’s clothing store. Apparently, young, poor Elvis was not welcomed in a lot of other stores, but Mr. Lansky was nice to young Elvis. Elvis had Lansky outfit him for many of his performances.

In Nashville, we visited RCA Studio B where Elvis did much of his recording. Before that time, Elvis recorded his first songs at the Memphis Recording Service. Elvis paid $4.00 and recorded a ballad. The service was run by Sam Phillips who did not care for ballads. Elvis was persistent and Sam’s secretary championed Elvis, so after a year, Elvis was called back in for a recording session with two others. During a break in the session, Elvis played a more lively song that impressed and inspired Sam. The trio of musicians and Sam worked and recorded Elvis’ first hit song. The Sun Studios label was created by Sam Phillips and his small studio was the starting place for some great artists, such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Sun Studios is called the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Again, this humble little recording room holds some amazing history.

We came out to have dinner at a wonderful little restaurant featuring Memphis-style barbecue, but just atound the corner was the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot and killed while he stood out on his balcony. James Earl Ray was the shooter and located in a building nearby. The Motel and adjacent building is now a civil rights museum. I remember the photo from LIFE magazine where everyone is pointing to where the shots came from right after Rev. King was shot.

Posted by Paul Groves on October 17, 2017

Graceland in Memphis

The home of Elvis Presley. They told us he purchased this nice home for his parents when he was only 22 for $102,500. It was huge for the day, but viewing it, it seemed very livable. The decor is certainly interesting looking at it from a 2017 perspective. My favorite part was the backyard where pastures, horses, and lovely white fences stretch out a ways.

On the side of the house is a meditation garden that Elvis had put in near the kidney-shaped pool. The family had Elvis’ grave moved here as well as his parents and one grandparent. Elvis also had a twin who was stillborn. A grave marker commemorates him, but his actual remains are buried elsewhere. I believe that this is a special place for Elvis fans to visit, especially on the anniversary of his death.
I have always heard of Elvis’ favorite snack, peanut butter and banana grilled sandwich, so after visiting the mansion, we stopped in the diner and ordered one. Mine was cooked in butter while Ron’s was cooked in bacon grease. The verdict? Pretty tasty, but I did have a bit of a stomach ache afterwards.

Posted by Paul Groves on October 17, 2017

More to Learn in Nashville

As we toured Nashville, one of my favorite sights was the Parthenon built in Centennial Park. It seems a little odd to see a Greek building in Tennessee, but Athens is a sister city to Nashville. My interest is increased because we just visited the Parthenon in Greece earlier in the year as part of our world cruise. Also, we had seen THIS Parthenon and the statue of Athena in the movie, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. Another interesting building in Nashville is the AT&T skyscraper that our tour guide called the Batman Building. I thought she was talking about the fact that with the two towers, the building resembled Batman’s cowl, but she really meant that the building was featured in a recent Batman film as the home of Wayne Enterprises. I guess I will need to catch up on my Batman films.

I don’t have a lot of prior knowledge or expectations when I visit places. I was impressed with how interesting the Country Music Hall of Fame was when we visited. I am interested in artists like Garth Brooks who made the music that I danced to in my CW dancing days, but the stories of how country music developed, how the various talented musicians that appeared in the background of the music added so much to the sound. I was also fascinated by the musical artists who came to Nashville, such as Bob Dylan, and added the sound to their music. It is great to learn these new things. It is also fun to see the various costumes of the performers… boy were some of those performers thin!

As I grew up, I certainly heard of the Grand Ole Opry. It was not my cup of tea, but I especially remember Minnie Pearl with her hat and price tag. Hearing the history of the show and getting to attend an actual performance was a big highlight of this trip for us. The show is broadcast live as a radio program so the breaks for commercials were fun to experience. Anyway, this was a great show… four half-hour segments with four different hosts. Fun!

Before we left town, we toured the auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry was presented for years and years. This is the Ryman Auditorium. Ron remembers attending a show in this auditorium long ago, unfortunately all he really remembers from this visit was how hot and uncomfortable it was. The Opry moved to its new, modern home when the auditorium was showing its age. Luckily, after remaining vacant for several years, some country western stars raised money to refurbish and reopen the auditorium. The acoustics inside the auditorium are reputed to be amazing. It certainly was impressive to visit a building that housed so much musical history. I really liked the row of colored windows that make up the back side of the theater.

Posted by Paul Groves on October 15, 2017

Nashville Tennessee

Ron and I are on a week-long bus tour of The Music Cities, Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. Our first two days are in Nashville and we are staying at the huge Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This is a destination in itself with several enormous atriums (atria?) housing gardens and a river and shops and restaurants. The rooms are very comfortable, but an added bonus is that the hotel is beginning to decorate for Christmas. This hotel is about three minutes from the Opryland Theater. Fun!

I am someone who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge or expectations about places we visit, but that is especially true of Nashville. We visited the RCA Studio B where many recordings were made. Elvis recorded many of his hits here. It is rather an underwhelming place to visit until you hear the story of the place and the history it embodies… at which time it becomes rather amazing and impressive. In the Studio B, there are no fluorescent lights as would be typical for the time. Elvis thought fluorescent lights were rather cold and uninspiring. He had colored flood lights that could be changed to create the mood needed for various songs. The acoustics were such that the blue X on the floor designated the “sweet spot” where Elvis would stand for the best recording. One of this studio’s nicknames is the Home of a Thousand Hits because that is how many hit songs were recorded here during its years old operation.