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Remembering Elvis, Memphis, and the Queens of Comedy


View The Music Legends Tour - April 2018 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Just a quick reference to this blog for when I read it later. I am on my second week being house bound trying to avoid the corona virus. Many people have posted online about all of the projects they have completed around their home. They have posted all of the wonderful meals they have cooked. Some talk about time bonding with family. Me? I have been sitting in my family room daily with the TV playing in the back ground. I have not bothered to change out of my sweat suits. My dog is gaining weight from sharing all of my snacks I have been eating while watching the TV. And I am finding that I am not really hating it. It's becoming my new norm. I have travel plans that we cancelled which is minor in the grand scheme of things. I collect coffee mugs when I travel. So to entertain myself I have been having my morning coffee in a different cup each day, and have posted a imaginary travel moment with the cup on Facebook each day. This morning I used my Memphis Music Hall of Fame coffee cup and traveled to Memphis. This immediately sparked some memories, both good and bad, from my visit to Memphis. My movie on TV is a little boring this afternoon so I decided to write a blog about my memories of the visit to Memphis.

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Larry with quarantined beard and Memphis coffee mug

We traveled to Memphis in April of 2018. This was part of our Music Legends car trip with our friend Gillian from England. We drove from our home in Baltimore south through the Smokey Mountains and had many fun music related experiences. To me personally Memphis was the least exciting part of our trip. To be fair to Memphis though we had spent three days previously in Nashville. Nashville is a city that is alive all day. The streets are busy. The honky tonks have life music playing non stop. And the streets stay full of tourists. We were expecting a similar experience in Memphis. But we arrived to find empty streets and empty honky tonks. Beale Street, which is Memphis's main entertainment street could not compare to Broadway in Nashville. In Memphis defence we did not get to spend any evenings in Memphis as our hotel was about fifty miles south in Tunica, Mississippi. But our days in Memphis found Beale Street to be almost vacant.

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An empty Beale Street in Memphis

Away from Beale Street there was still much to see and do. We spent some time along the water front. We visited the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. That does not sound exciting but it was quite fascinating and well worth visiting. It sits on the bank of the Mississippi River. It is huge. At one time it was a basketball arena. And it is very impressive. It contains a hotel, a tropical forest with live alligators, and a beautiful bar at it peak with a deck over looking the river.

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We spent quite a bit of time exploring the pyramid. Much of this was spent enjoying the bar and some cool drinks of course. We had to take the worlds tallest free standing elevator to reach the bar. So that gave us one fun fact to add to our list of accomplishments.

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World's Tallest Free Standing Elevator

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Mark and Gillian surrounded by an aquarium at the bar

The bar is located at the top of the elevator. It has an over sized aquarium filling the area behind the bar. It was a beautiful place for a drink. There was a large glass deck outside of the bar with a view of the Mississippi River.

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Larry, Mark, and Gillian on deck at top of the pyramid

Of course if you are in Memphis one of the must see attractions is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. I am a huge fan of Elvis. I believe Gillian also likes Elvis. But Mark on the other hand really has not opinion one way or the other on Elvis. So Graceland was kind of a non event for him.

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On the bus to Graceland - a less than enthused Mark in the middle

In the end Mark did enjoy the tour. But just not on the level that I enjoyed it. The house was a big tacky, dated and bizarre. But if you love the legend of Elvis you expect and appreciate this.

Graceland

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Elvis' Peacock Living Room

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The TV Room and The Famous Jungle Room

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Elvis Grave and Memorial at Graceland

Of course knowing me I had to take at least one funny selfie in Graceland. I found the perfect location going down the mirrored stair case into the Jungle Room.

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All in all the three of us did have fun touring Graceland.

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On a more somber note there are other historical sites to visit in Memphis that are not laughs and fun. We visited the Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr Memorial at the Lorraine Hotel. This was not a place for fun selfies or laughs. It is just one of those places you feel you must visit. It was very moving and heartbreaking to see the location of the murder of Dr. King. I am a child of the 60's and have emotional memories that will never leave me from the day of his murder. Seeing the location and the memorial brought all of those back to mind. It's a place to think. A place to show respect. And a space to feel no shame in shedding a tear.

The Lorraine Motel - National Civil Rights Museum

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You can actually walk through the hotel room 306 where he stayed. However the museum was closed the day we were there and I was actually kind of glad about that. I can not imagine the emotion of walking through that room. I don't think I could have walked into the room.

The Queens of Comedy

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Adele Givens , Laura Hayes, Mo'Nique and Sommore - The Queens of Comedy

One of the biggest highlights for Mark and I in Memphis was the chance to see the theater where the video The Queens of Comedy was filmed. For the uninitiated The Queens of Comedy is a wild irreverent hysterical comedy concert filmed in Memphis. The comedians on the show were Laura Hayes, Adele Givens, Sommore, and our fellow Baltimore favorite Mo'Nique. Mark and I own the DVD of the concert. We have watched it many many times and each time are in tears with laughter. Gillian had not really heard of The Queens of Comedy so we had to teach her all about it. When the ladies arrive in Memphis they drive across the Mississippi River on the Hernando de Soto Bridge aka The Big M. As the cross the bridge in their car the raise their hand and shout MemPHIS with the accent on the PHIS. So when we crossed the bridge Mark and I both yelled MemPHIS. This was not the only time we yelled MemPhis while in the city. We yelled at at any given opportunity in the city. Even from the top of the Pro Bass Shop pyramid. Just ask Gillian

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You must yell MemPHIS when crossing this bridge if you visit, just for Mark and I

We talked with a lady at the Memphis visitors center. We mentioned our love of The Queens of Comedy and she laughed. She asked us "Do you guys really remember that show? That was a long time ago." And then Mark quoted some jokes to her and she cracked up. She said to us you guys are real fans and then shared a joke she remember from the show also. Poor Gillian was lost to all of this but she is used to that. We lose her at least once on every trip and have to explain to her our enthusiasm.

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We talked with a lady at the Memphis visitors center. We mentioned our love of The Queens of Comedy and she laughed. She asked us "Do you guys really remember that show? That was a long time ago." And then Mark quoted some jokes to her and she cracked up. She said to us you guys are real fans and then shared a joke she remember from the show also. Poor Gillian was lost to all of this but she is used to that. We lose her at least once on every trip and have to explain to her our enthusiasm.

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Mo'Nique we did you proud in Memphis. We shared your jokes. We yelled MemPHIS. We educated Gillian about your show. You are our home town Baltimore Academy Award Winning Actress. We are you fans.

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Mo'Nique

If you travel to Memphis and you see the Orpheum give a big MemPHIS shout for Mark and I and our girl Mo'Nique. And if you come to visit us at our house we will play the DVD for you

One last suggestion

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One last fun note about Memphis. If you visit the Hard Rock Cafe you can see Shakira's bra. If you are a fan it's worth the journey.

Posted by littlesam1 19:24 Archived in USA Tagged tennessee mississippi_river graceland memphis quarantine pandemic beale_street shakira the_queens_of_comedy mo'nique dr._martin_luther_king_jr lorraine_hotel bass_pro_shop_pyramid elvis_presley self_isolation coffee_cup Comments (8)

Bad Ass Beer at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge

Exploring the historic Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville with my daugher


View The Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes Tour - Nashville on littlesam1's travel map.

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My daughter Katie had to travel to Nashville in October 2017 for a work conference. As part of my 65th birthday celebration year she invited me to travel with her to Nashville for the week. I had never been to Nashville before so I was glad to be invited. She would be busy all day at her conference which allowed me lots of time to explore the Music City and see what kind of trouble I could get into.

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Most of what I knew about Nashville I learned watching Ralph Emery on Nashville Now which was on the CMT channel in the 1980's. I worked night work back in those days. When I would get home at midnight I would turn on Nashville Now and my daughters Katie and Danielle would crawl out of their beds and come out to join me watching the show. So it was very appropriate that Katie and I got to share this trip now that she is an adult. When we arrived I knew I wanted to go find Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway in Nashville. All of the stars on Nashville Now used to talk to Ralph Emery about sneaking out of the back door of The Ryman Auditorium and go into the back door of Tootsie's for a quick drink between shows of The Grand Ole Opry. So after my tour of The Ryman Auditorium I knew I would want to go out that back door and head over to the back door of Tootsie's. You can see the brick wall of the back of the Ryman on the left in the photo and the back door of Tootsie's on the left.

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Tootsie's is a tourist trap. No question about that. It opens at 10:00 in the morning and the crowds are waiting for the doors to open. There are bars with music on all three levels of the building including a roof top deck with music also. I arrived at 10:30 that morning. The bar was already crowded. When I went in the back door I followed the sound of the music and found the front bar on the first floor. There was a band playing and everyone in the bar was singing along with the band. The woman who was lead singer of the band was standing on top of the bar singing Patsy Cline songs. She was singing Walking After Midnight at 10:30 in the morning. It was all that I could have hoped for.

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It was early morning but after all I was in Nashville so I had to have a beer. I stood at the end of the bar and asked for a beer menu. It did not take me long to decide. I saw the name Badass Beer. What could be more perfect than to have a Badass Beer at Tootsie's my first day in Nashville. And it gives a good travel story to share. I can tell everyone I had a Badass beer in Nashville.

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I finished my beer, walked to the front door, left a tip in the bucket for the band, and then found my way back out to Broadway. As I left there was still a small line of people waiting to get inside Tootsie's. They should have watched Ralph Emery in the 1980's or at least read a guide book. Use the back door folks. There is no line!

Katie's conference ended two days later. I took her into downtown Nashville to show her all that I had discovered while she was working. So I course I had to show her Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. We walked down Broadway and when we arrived the lines were twice as long at Tootsie's as they were in the morning of my visit. She looked at the line and said "Dad we will never get in there tonight but it looks like a fun place." I told her follow me. I know a secret. I took her to the alley behind the Ryman Auditorium and showed her the back entrance to Tootsie's. There was no line. We were able to get inside, fight the crowds and get up to the rooftop deck. It was too crowded to bother trying to get a beer at the bar. But she was able to experience Tootsie's the way the stars did back in the day. Through the back door in the alley.

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Posted by littlesam1 22:05 Archived in USA Tagged beer tennessee bars nashville tootsie's_orchid_lounge tourist_traps bad_ass_beer nashville_now ralph_emery Comments (3)

The Great Smoky Mountains and the Three Amigo's

Traveling with our sister Gillian in the Great Smokey Mountains


View The Music Legends Tour - April 2018 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Mark, Gillian, and Larry - Newfoundland Gap Overlook - Great Smoky Mountains

Families of choice and extended families are wonderful. Our friend Gillian calls Mark and I her Bmore Bros. We think of her as part of our family also. We first met in person while on our honeymoon in Greece 11 years ago. Since that time we have had many adventures together. She visits us in Baltimore frequently. We have shared family events together. And we travel together frequently. She has met many of our local friends. My daughter in Atlanta calls Gillian her Manchester cousin. This past April Gillian flew across the pond from England to Baltimore once more and we took a road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

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I love the Great Smoky Mountains. I have traveled there many times. My family spent several vacations in the Great Smoky's when I was growing up. I took my children there when they were young. Mark also loves the Great Smoky Mountains, particularly the Gatlinburg area. So we were very excited when Gillian told us she would like to do a southern road trip through the Smoky Mountains. Although we are very good friends and have spent a lot of time traveling together we had never really done a road trip together. And I was a bit concerned how we all would survive ten days in a car together without driving each other crazy. On an extended road trip there is always one person who tends to drive the others a little crazy before the trip is over. I just never realized that person would be me.

I drove the first day. Everything went well. Mark sat next to me in the front of the car. Gillian sat behind us in the back seat. I was focused on the road so my attention was occupied with road signs and highways. Mark and Gillian chatted and looked at landscapes. The day was pleasant. The second day Mark drove the car. I sat in the front seat and once again Gillian rode in the back behind us. The dynamics were a little different. I was not as occupied with the road and ended up playing with the radio and changing channels and music frequently. I think I even sang along a good bit with the music. Mark and Gillian for the most part overlooked all of this. We stopped at an Arby's for a quick lunch and I bought the greasiest sandwich on the menu. Gillian questioned my choice. And Mark said I would probably not travel well after eating it. Of course I paid no attention and then complained the rest of the day about an upset stomach and indigestion while still playing with radio most of the rest of the day.

Day three was a big game changer. Mark drove once more. But today Gillian and I switched seats so she could ride in the front and see more of the scenery. For sixty five years it never dawned on me that I might have a touch of A.D.D. I was never restless in school. My teachers never complained about me being hyper or anything. I sat in the back seat of the car and grew more fidgety by the hour. I laughed too much. I told too many jokes. I complained too much. And then I realized that I was the pain in the ass of the trip. The bad part is that after realizing this the more I tried to control it the worse it. When we finally arrived in Gatlinburg Mark and Gillian could not wait to escape the car. I won't go into details about the evening activities in Gatlinburg. I will say I tried to make amends for being so antsy in the car during the day. I was well aware that I had been a little bit hyper and tried my best to behave better that evening in Gatlinburg. Returning to our hotel after our first evening meal in Gatlinburg we passed several moonshine tasting establishments. I pointed out the first one but Mark and Gillian did not think it was the best idea. We were all a little tired and it had been a long day so they were ready to head back to the room for the evening. When we passed the third moonshine tasting location I decided to go inside with or without them. They patiently waited for me to complete the tasting. The samples were only in small thimble like cups. But after fifteen samples even cups that small tended to take an effect. Let's just say my hyperactivity in the car was nothing compared to my actions on the walk back to the hotel after the tasting.

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The observation tower on the peak of Clingman's Dome

The next day all was forgiven. We had a fresh start. We did a wonderful drive and hike through a an area with restored mountain cabins. Then we decided to go to Clingman's Dome. Mark and I had both been to Clingman's Dome in the past and both really enjoyed it very much. At 6,643 feet, Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The trail is only half a mile. But there are warning signs that the trail is very steep. I first climbed the trail at Clingman's Dome fifty years ago when I was fifteen. Of course there is a big difference between being fifteen and being sixty five. And I felt everyone of the fifty years difference climbing the trail. Mark trudged onward up the steep trail while Gillian and I took a moment to rest and catch our breath. We were sitting on a bench in a rest area talking. A man walked over to us and said "Do you mind if I ask a question." We both said of course not. So he said to us "Can I ask where your accent is from?" Before Gillian even had a chance to answer Mr. Hyper Active Larry blurted out with a laugh "Oh I have a Baltimore accent." The man and Gillian both looked at me like I was crazy. Gillian said "Larry I think he is asking about my accent. I am from Manchester England." Well of course he was talking about Gillian. . Later we saw the same man on top of the tower and he once again made a joke about my saying I had a Baltimore accent. In my defense I have spent so much time with Gillian over the years that I don't really notice any accent. So of course I thought he meant me!

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Larry on the observation tower at Clingman's Dome

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Mark and Gillian on the Clingman's Dome trail back to the parking lot

We still had six more days left to our car trip. We had three days planned in Nashville and three more in the Memphis, Tennessee/Tunica, Mississippi area. For the most part I behaved myself. Gillian and Mark did not disown me. We returned home still good friends and have more travel adventures planned together this year. Please don't judge me. After all we all know who the real trouble maker is and I will use this photo below in my defense.

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Gillian waking Mark up on a train in Germany

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The Three Amigos

Posted by littlesam1 07:24 Archived in USA Tagged friends tennessee united_states road_trips great_smokey_mountains car_trips Comments (0)

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