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What's not to love about America's music cities

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Sophie Cullen 18 July 2018

Are your vagabond shoes longing to stray? Are your boots scooting? Or have you opted instead for a blue suede variety?

Regardless of how they are currently clad, traipsing the music trail in the States is a leap your feet should definitely make once in their lifetime.

Step into cities such as Nashville and New Orleans, where the twang of country guitar or sweet serenade of saxophones will be the soundtrack to your holiday. Music will become the perfect tool for prying open decades of fascinating and turbulent history, hitting the nail on the head when it comes to capturing the heart and soul of a region.

Those feet of yours will soon be tapping along.

All that Jazz – New Orleans

Legend has it that jazz was born in New Orleans’ Congo Square, emerging from west African slave rhythms. Congo Square is now dedicated to top-dog trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. On the banks of the Mississippi, the brassy, sultry vibes of New Orleans seduce jazz novices and know-it-alls alike. Bourbon Street is probably the best-known hub of NOLA’s distinctly gritty jazz sound, but for more authentic flavours, stop in at Frenchmen Street and Royal Street.

The sounds of the streets will echo in your thoughts long after you leave this funky town Picture: GTS Productions/Shutterstock

Two types of music; country and western – Nashville

Dolly Parton’s big break, at the tender age of 10, was her first encore at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, where she encountered Johnny Cash. Somewhat of a country music institution, the Opry used to be a radio broadcast hosted at the Ryman Auditorium. It is now a weekly live concert, earning Nashville its fame as the “Music City.”

You can still experience the southern country charm, rhinestones and all, at the Ryman Auditorium and other honky-tonk hotspots such as The District. Stop in at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Throw yourself into foot-stomping country music and Americana in Nashville Picture: f11photo/Shutterstock

It’s got to be – New York

Unique New York is made thus by its diversity. Nowhere else in America is there a broader spectrum of genres in so concentrated a space as in this famously arty city. Disco and punk began on its streets. Hip-hop arose from 1970s block parties in Harlem and the Bronx. From musicals on Broadway to jazz bands in clubs, New York is a great host to concerts and shows. Everyone who is anyone plays at the renowned venues of Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Apollo Theatre and the Lincoln Centre. On a side note (pun intended), you can hear the dulcet tones of a conch shell played by staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of musical instruments.

The facades of theatres on Broadway Picture: MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski

Smells like teen spirit – Seattle

In the 1990s, grunge crashed on to the music scene out of Seattle. Far from sleepy, this seaside town boasts associations with Pearl Jam and Nirvana, who cut their first demo in a studio on Seattle’s Leary Way. The Washington city was also called home by Jimi Hendrix. At the interactive Museum of Pop Culture, you can trawl through the Hendrix gallery. Worthwhile venues include Moore Theatre and Comet Tavern.

Museum of Pop Culture has one or two guitars! Picture: Natasha Keller

The land of the delta blues – Memphis

Memphis is all about the rock ‘n’ roll. It is said that Sun Studios accidentally recorded the first rock ‘n’ roll song in 1951 when equipment distorted the sound of Ike Turner’s Rocket 88. Visit Sun Studios, Stax Museum, Gibson Guitar Factory and the legendary B.B. King’s Restaurant and Blues Club on Beale Street.

Alongside B.B. King, Memphis’ most famous patron is a different King altogether. You can visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion, where he lived his final years, for a tour. 


Explore this MyDiscoveries tour of America's Music Cities