OTHERWISE we might never have got off our arses and organised the tour of the USA we had been talking about for nearly 40 years. Camo and I always thought about driving Route 66 but when he had his little brush with death we did a bit of research and decided Route 66 might not be what we always dreamed of. So it ended up being a four-week trip taking in NYC, Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans. And what a hell of a trip it was. So many highlights but I would bore the tits off you if I did a day by day because almost every day had a highlight. So I’ll just mention a few things.
Among many wonderful experiences, NYC gave us the chance to see three guitar heroes. Dave (“I do love my brother but geez he’s a grumpy bugger”) Davies and Robby Kreiger both did shows at City Winery. Dave tore apart those absolutely timeless Kinks riffs and served up a great show. Robby had his son singing and while he’s no Jim Morrison, I guess no one is and Kreiger Jnr did it all in the spirit of the great man. The third of the great axe-men was Jorma Kaukonen who still fronts Hot Tuna. They played at a beautiful old Art Deco theatre on Staten Island and apart from having the chance to see a master at work, it gave Camo a chance to feel good about himself. He looks in reasonable shape compared to the bunch of aging drugged out hippies who turned up on the night. A concert we will remember forever, for any number of reasons.
Another highlight was Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens (neither of us are great fans of Chilli Bowl but he turned on a great show and New Yorkers love him) after which we adjourned to the Australia Bar to watch a live telecast (at 3am) of the mighty Dockers beating the Demons by two points at the MCG – what a night! Also got along to BB King’s Blues Bar twice – first to see Kinky Friedman and second to listen to the Harlem Gospel Choir. A pretty unimpressive venue but both great shows. Also just a tip if you are lucky enough to be in NYC, book a Rock Junket walking tour with Bobby Pinn. A must for any music fan.
Then to Memphis. Only stayed a few days as all we really wanted to do was tour Graceland. Kind of glad we did that as Memphis has little else to offer. Having said that, touring Sun Records was a treat. But getting back to Graceland, the tour is very touristy and full of kitsch but we loved it. Hard to put in a few words but for a couple of blokes in their 60s, this was as close to spiritual as it gets.
Next stop, Nashville. Loved the joint. I would go back tomorrow. Everything we hoped for. Had some great nights just wandering from bar to bar listening to all the music, and what a hell of a lot of music there was. Highlights were many but just a few include seeing Tom Petty at Bridgestone Arena (so lucky to be there for obvious reasons), touring RCA Studio B and standing on the spot where Elvis sang Are You Lonesome Tonight and seeing Brandi Carlile at Ryman Auditorium. Now we had never heard of Brandi Carlile but wanted to see a show at the Ryman. Well, what a stroke of luck. Brandi was just wonderful. At one point she wanted to demonstrate the exceptional acoustics at the Ryman, so she and the twin brothers who support her stepped in front of the microphones and sang a’capella with no amplification. I get goose-bumps just thinking about it. Unforgettable sound.
Then to New Orleans to attend a few days of the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Put this on your bucket list. The range of acts is exceptional and the food choices amazing. From memory there were about 70 different food stalls around the venue. But back to the music, you have a choice of 13 different performance stages. We kicked off each day at the Gospel Tent (Oh Happy Day!) then wandered between various other stages seeing all kinds of great acts. Again, too many highlights to list them all but special mention should be made of a second chance the see Tom Petty, and great gigs from The Mavericks, Harry Connick Jnr (when he just does jazz he is fantastic and his band is very polished), Dr John and the Gris-Gris Krewe, The Travellin’ McCourys, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Unbelievable festival and very well organised.
All in all we had the most amazing four weeks. If you have something like this on your bucket list, just do it. Don’t wait for the perfect time – it might never happen.