Going south, what should I not miss?
January 19, 2017 8:55 AM   Subscribe

In a couple months I am planning to fly to Dallas, rent a van, drive and drive and drive, sleep in van and basically spend 6-8 weeks exploring the South with a strong emphasis on music. What should I not miss?

Here's roughly the history I know I want to explore:

Oklahoma City - Flaming Lips
Tulsa - JJ Cale, the Tulsa Sound
Dyess - Johnny's birthplace
Memphis - Sun, STAX, Graceland and so much Big Star
Nashville - Ryman, Grand Ole, general history of Country Music
Muscle Shoals - Swampers, etc
The Crossroads
Athens - Pylon, REM, B-52s, etc
New Orleans - come on, it's New Orleans, everything
Austin - Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, Spoon, etc

Based on the interests expressed above what are the other music places, venues, sites where things happened, etc that I don't know about and shouldn't miss?
posted by Cosine to Travel & Transportation around South Burlington, VT (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Lubbock is a little (lot) out of your way, but Buddy Holly is worth it.

If you're going from Tulsa to Dyess, you could probably swing by Branson.

Kentucky bluegrass.

Tom Petty is from Gainesville, Florida.

Chapel Hill - Ben Folds, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, etc.

You don't mention any hip hop, but if that interests you, Atlanta and Hampton Roads, Virginia (especially the former) are pretty important.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:27 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tulsa - Keep an eye out for any shows you may be interested in at Cain's Ballroom. Known as the House the Bob (Wills) built, t's historically the home of western swing, but they book all kinds of acts these days. From there, it's a short walk (right past Prairie Ales Brewpub if that's your kind of thing) to the Woody Guthrie Center. Guthrie Green, the small greenspace in that area, often has food trucks and concerts as well. If you want to catch a local red-dirt act, the Mercury Lounge is a good place to go. They even have their own beef jerky-infused vodka if you're feeling brave.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:33 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Athens, GA — You should definitely catch a show at the 40 Watt Club. There's of course lots of music venues in town, but that one's pretty legendary. For REM lore, there's the trestle from the Murmur album cover that's down on S. Poplar St. (sans kudzu now, I think). Weaver D's (proclaiming to be "automatic for the people") is perpetually closing and re-opening, but will probably be serving up good food when you come through. Also the recently-restored steeple behind Nuçi's Space is the last remnant of REM's first show location if you want to stand on what I guess is hallowed ground (it's mostly a parking lot now, though Nuçi's is hoping to change that). The B-52s' Love Shack got hotter than an oven and burned down, sorry.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 9:43 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

These are great! More!

(Somehow I forgot Woody Guthrie!)
posted by Cosine at 9:46 AM on January 19, 2017

Since you're going to be in Oklahoma, I'd recommend checking out whether your visit coincides with any pow wows that are open to the public.
posted by neushoorn at 10:11 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

neushoorn: I am now adjusting my schedule to fit this in, what an awesome, outside the box, suggestion.
posted by Cosine at 10:19 AM on January 19, 2017

Little Rock, Arkansas:
Whitewater Tavern;
Midtown Billiards (looks like a janky dive bar from the outside, which it is, but it's open until 5 am and is a local legend in terms of people just showing up and playing if they're passing through and want a late night whiskey; "private club with membership available at the door" = it's a cheap cover, like $5, and is how they get around late night ordinances; I once saw a Fairly Famous 90s Actress get slapped in the face for trying to swish to the front of the line and cut in front of a woman who was not having it, so she went to the back of the line--it's that kind of place).

Mountain View, Arkansas:
The Ozarks are a hotbed of bluegrass, old country, and traditional instrument-making (like dulcimers);
If you're traveling in April, the 52nd Annual Arkansas Folk Music Festival is well worth a visit. I went with my parents every year growing up. My grandma used to yodel there (although she just called it hollerin');
The 15th Annual Mountain View Bluegrass Festival is in March.

Brockwell, Arkansas:
Get you some gospel! The Brockwell Gospel Music School has performances in the afternoon on the second Sunday of each month. In June you can also take a two-week course in the shape note style.

Helena, Arkansas:
Home of the longest-running radio show in the U.S., King Biscuit Time, which you can listen to here, and the legendary King Biscuit Blues Festival, in October.

Dyess, Arkansas:
Johnny Cash's boyhood home.

I could go on and on and on. I grew up in rural Arkansas and eventually went to college in Little Rock. I don't live there anymore, but I still go to these places/events (and many others) whenever I can get back. Arkansas' events get looked over, especially because of the Memphis proximity, so events are less commercialized and a bit more rooted.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2017

In Nashville the Country Music Hall of Fame is pretty good. There's also a cool legendary bluegrass bar called the Station Inn that's worth checking out.
posted by ghharr at 10:42 AM on January 19, 2017

If you're going to be in Austin, take one day to drive a hair farther south down I-35 to New Braunfels to visit the Gruene Dance Hall. That's been a thing since 1878.
posted by telophase at 11:10 AM on January 19, 2017

If you're going to swing by Chapel Hill, might as well drop by Durham for Merge Records. Fit in a visit to Cat's Cradle in Carrboro (they were originally on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill back when Superchunk was first playing shows). Depending when you swing by, you could be in Durham for Moogfest, which runs May 18-21.
posted by research monkey at 11:38 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the timing works out, Houston's 30th Annual Art Car Parade!. And you can also see the Rothko Chapel, sculpture gardens and the MFAH and Menil usually has surprisingly excellent exhibits thanks to a few oil and gas families desperate to prove they're just as fancy and cultured as the oligarchs in New York.

I also hear the food scene has exploded since I left 7 years ago. I can vouch for Uchi, but would recommend research to find something for your particular palate.
posted by politikitty at 12:07 PM on January 19, 2017

Tour North Mississippi and West Tennessee with American Dream Safari. Basically, cool people will pick you up in a vintage Cadillac and show you the (often under-the-radar) sights.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2017

Asheville, NC does both hippie-fied funk and bluegrass better than just about anywhere.

And: a friend just ate at Weaver D's in the last month. So you could go there (as referenced by cyclopticgaze) for both the history and the food.
posted by concertedchaos at 1:39 PM on January 19, 2017

No Bristol, TN, Birthplace of Country Music?

And while in Nashville, Hatch Show Print
posted by Miko at 3:58 PM on January 19, 2017

From how I read your schedule Austin is at the end of your sojourn, so you might be exhausted and cranky by that point, but Guy Clark has a new album coming out in July - his site is wobbly about tour dates, but I'll bet there might be an event at Waterloo Records. Waterloo is great anyway (if you can avoid grousing about the swank surrounding it, which I can do...sometimes). Continental Club on South Congress still has it; otherwise, in terms of live venues, I tend to send people either to the Sahara Lounge (right at the edge of what some people still call the bad part of town, whatever the heck that means, but the BEANS and the music I guess...) or to Cactus Cafe, which is rightly legendary. Kenny Dornham's backyard is another gem in the middle of gentrification, big mix of shows that could mostly fall under the "world music" umbrella. Great west African food truck too, and I don't know if it's open but right down the street is the Victory Cafe which was a big spot on the original Chitlin Circuit.

Or watch the Devil and Daniel Johnston and do a tour of related sites, like the Hi, How Are You frog (Jeremiah the Innocent) and the McDonalds where he worked. I pass the house where he was on mtv every day.

Listen to KUTX all the time you're here.

Also, it's pricey, but check the schedule for the Moody Theater (where they shoot ACL these days). The acoustics are amazing, and if there's a show you're really into then it's worth the $. Think of it as a final hoorah!

I love this stuff, feel free to PM me if you want more suggestions!
posted by theweasel at 4:36 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another possibility if timing/availability work- the 35 Denton music festival ought to occur in March, but I only see a placeholder website right now. Denton is on the outer rim of Dallas. It was fantastic when I saw it in 2013. You might see a lineup here?
posted by JulesER at 5:07 PM on January 19, 2017

I am swamped with wonderful planning, you are all awesome, some PMs heading out for more details.
posted by Cosine at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2017

Houston was/is also a center for hip hop (Screwston!) and has a long history of black music. The Third Ward was home to Lightnin Hopkins (there's a historical marker) and the El Dorado Ballroom, which still hosts shows. Also, Beyonce/Destiny's Child, if you're into that.

Some awesome '60s performers like Barbara Lynn, Archie Bell and Roy Head are from there (and still performing). Herb Remington, who played lap steel for Bob Wills, still performs there. Defintely check the listings for both Continental Clubs — there's one in Houston and one in Austin. Though not originally from Texas, Lead Belly did a rather long stint at the state pen in Huntsville and his music always reminds me of the Piney Woods of deep East Texas.

Wanda Jackson is from OKC as well. In downtown OKC there are a number of streets named after famous Okies (musicians and otherwise — there's also Mickey Mantel Blvd and TOBY KEITH DRIVE!!!) The Cowboy and Western Hall of Fame is pretty fascinating and has a whole section on music.

If you haven't read it already, this book about the Chitlin Circuit seems like a good companion for your trip.
posted by Brittanie at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2017

And Flaming Lips Alley!

(did not know Wanda from from OKC, awesomeness)
posted by Cosine at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2017

« Older ID: scene from a movie where a man hails a cab   |   Crash Course in All Things China Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.