This road trip will take the traveler to the major music hubs of the USA, the origins of the music that is uniquely American. There is no start or finish but the route can be accessed anywhere along its extent and followed as long as the driver desires. It is not a designed as a loop, so to get back to origin requires backtracking. Total length (without extension) is approximately 1100 miles – can be done in a week or less depending on time available.
Stop #1 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cleveland, Ohio, is a fitting tribute to the history of rock and roll music, with emphasis on the individuals and groups who shaped its development and popularity. An immense collection of memorabilia is displayed in interesting and imaginative ways. Note that cameras of any kind are not allowed beyond the lobby.
One of the most popular sections is the Hall of Fame Wing with its multimedia presentation which tells the stories of those who have been inducted.
Many of the exhibits are interactive and the visit is a truly nostalgic trip down memory lane for rock and roll aficionados. While at the Rock Hall, sing along as you listen to the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.
From Cleveland, travel south along Interstate 71 through Columbus and Cincinnati and on to Louisville, KY, then pick up Interstate 65 south to Nashville, TN, a distance of approximately 525 miles, doable as a long day trip (although it is all highway) or perhaps with one stop along the way.
Stop #2 – Nashville, Tennessee
The Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee, is the nation’s longest-running radio program, having begun broadcasting in 1925. The original venue, in downtown Nashville, has been abandoned in favor of a 4,400 seat auditorium on the grounds of Opryland (now the Gaylord Opryland), just outside the city. Tickets are available in advance. Shows are available on Friday and Saturday evenings year-round, and on Tuesdays from mid-April to late December.
Nashville, because of its recognition as the "Country Music Capital of the World", is also the location of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum which chronicles the history and features the major stars of this popular genre.
Because of its extensive musical heritage, the city of Nashville is known as “Music City USA” and anyone with a desire to become a recording artist has probably spent some time here.
Opryland was a major theme park for many years, with thrill rides and other activities focusing on music in general. It went out of business for a while but has reopened and attracts many visitors each year. It is offered as a diversion on this trip, especially for kids.
From Nashville, travel west on Interstate 40 to the next stop, Memphis, TN, a distance of approximately 220 miles.
Stop #3 – Memphis, Tennessee
Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee is the birthplace of the “Blues,” soulful jazz first written by its founder, W.C. Handy. Not far from Beale Street is where “Rock and Roll” truly emerged, thanks to the collaboration between Elvis Presley and Sun Studio. Thus much of the city is imbued with music. Plan to experience some of this musical heritage in one or more of the various establishments throughout the city.
Of course, the most important attraction in Memphis is Elvis Presley’s Graceland, his 14-acre estate in town. The complex, which includes the mansion and a number of museums, as well as an entertainment facility, has become a pilgrimage site for Elvis’ many fans, as well as a curiosity for others who visit the Memphis area. Separate admissions to the various venues are available or the Platinum Tour pass can be purchased which includes admission to all areas of the estate.
For a different kind of activity, drive, walk, or take the monorail to Mud Island Park, and stroll its Riverwalk, a scale model of the Lower Mississippi that extends for many blocks. A Mississippi Cruise may also be in order, and is available from Riverside Drive. Memphis is also, unfortunately, the location of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, an event commemorated by a sculpture called “The Mountain Top” at Civic Center Plaza.
From Memphis, travel south on Interstate 55 to New Orleans, LA, a distance of about 400 miles.
Stop #4 – New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and great music can be found at almost any time of the day or night. The architecture is interesting, because of the wrought iron balconies, many draped with flowers during the spring and summertime, the pastel-colored buildings and the beautiful courtyards showcasing the lovely 19th century houses. Preservation Hall offers a glimpse of vintage New Orleans’ jazz nightly. This is the place where many famous jazz artists were discovered or honed their craft.
Bourbon Street at night is blocked off from traffic and people party every evening till the wee hours (visitors can even buy alcoholic drinks from street vendors).
Jackson Square, a beautiful park in front of the distinctive St Louis Cathedral is an ideal place for relaxing or taking pictures. The nearby, colonnaded French Market has several shops and restaurants, some with live music. Actually, music is everywhere in the city, from morning to night and can be experienced with street-performers, or at bars and clubs.
Possible Trip Extension
From the northern end of the road trip, in Cleveland, interested travelers can travel west on Interstate 90, then north on Interstate 75 to the city of Detroit, Michigan.
Extra Stop – Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the home of another uniquely American music genre, Motown, first made popular in the 1960’s. The Motown Historical Museum pays tribute to the artists and songs with this distinctive sound.