Bluegrass to Blues
From the glitzy music venues of Nashville and Memphis to the state less-travelled, Arkansas, this tour is all about the music. Starting in Nashville, 'Music City USA', where country and bluegrass battle in the bars and clubs of Second and Broadway, then on to Memphis, one of America's most lively and colourful cities where the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Otis Redding stormed the charts the world over with rock & roll and soul. Next, Arkansas, the state that inspired Johnny Cash, for a taste of authentic, small-town USA. Head into the spectacular scenery of the Ozarks where local musicians provide the soundtrack of bluegrass, folk and blues. In the Mississippi Delta you'll see the plantations where blues was born before stopping off at Muscle Shoals, Alabama- home of the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and Fame Studios where anyone who is anyone in the music biz has recorded.
- The Grand Ole Opry
- Beale Street
- Sun Studios
- Johnny Cash's Childhood Home
- The Ozark Mountains
- Mississippi Blues Trail
Welcome to Nashville, ‘Music City USA’, home of country music and some of America’s biggest recording companies. Trawl the outstanding music venues of Second and Broadway or head out to the Grand Ole Opry, the ‘church’ of country music.
With two full days to explore Nashvillebe sure to visit the famous Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame or RCA’s Studio ‘B’ where Elvis Presley recorded over 200 of his best-loved hits. Or you might choose to wander Music Row hoping – like thousands before you – to be ‘spotted’ by a talent scout!
Collect your rental car and drive to Memphis, the place where blues came of age and where rock & roll was born. We recommend you park the car at your centrally-located hotel and walk over to Beale Street for a night of great music. Beale Street was a key arena in which bluesmen from BB King to Howlin’ Wolf made their names. BB King’s Blues Club is now one of Beale Street’s best clubs.
Tour Graceland and Sun Studios and visit the exceptional Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum as well as the Stax Museum of American Soul -learn about the incredible contribution Memphis has made to blues, soul and gospel music.
Drive out to the Full Gospel Tabernacle where Al Green is the resident preacher and gospel music is featured weekly and visit the National Civil Rights Museum housed in the old Lorraine Motel, where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated. It’s one the most moving and insightful museums in the States.
This morning you’ll leave Memphis for Arkansas – the state less-travelled by UK visitors and an absolute ‘must’ for anyone looking for the heart of the real American South. Pass fields of cotton and soybeans in the Arkansas Delta and stop off for home-style mac and cheese, fried chicken and purple hull beans at The Wilson café – you might even meet Hank Williams’ granddaughter if you pop into the shop next door. Next, continue to Dyess for Johnny Cash’s Childhood Home, the story of the historic Dyess colony and its impact on his music.
Take the scenic route west past Walnut Ridge, where Beatles Park commemorates the day the Beatles stopped by in 1964, and onto Mountain View on the edge of the Ozark National Forest for 2 nights. Catch a folk or bluegrass performance at Ozark Folk Center State Park or look out for impromptu music sessions in the town square. Mountain View is known as the ‘Folk Capital of the World’.
Another scenic drive today takes you to Eureka Springs, where houses cling precariously to the slopes leading to a quirky Victorian-era downtown. Take a trolley tour or stroll through the village before heading off to your home for the next two nights, Bentonville. If you are feeling adventurous try the 2-hour Ozark Mountain zipline tour on the way! Not only is Bentonville home to the very first Walmart store and the Walmart Museum, the Walton family have been integral in making the area a magnet for music and art lovers from around the world. Take in an outdoor concert at the Arkansas Music Pavilion or enjoy a burger and listen to local bands in one of the many small venues like Jerry’s Red Door Bar and Grill.
Today you will be travelling to Little Rock, the state capital for a further 2 nights. The city has been featured in numerous songs including Johnny Cash’s recording of ‘I’ve been everywhere’ as well as Collin Raye’s 1994 song “Little Rock” which peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Country charts and was Number 14 for the entire year. On the way, call into Fort Smith on the Oklahoma border which retains a wild west vibe or visit Hot Springs, the vacation destination of choice for the famous gangsters of the prohibition era.
Little Rock has a great music scene with both local bands and national tours coming through. From rock at Vino's, jazz at The Afterthought, to the big bands at the Simmons Bank Arena, Little Rock has music to please all everyone.
Your next and penultimate stop will be Clarksdale, Mississippi. A key destination for Blues fans, Clarksdale boasts live music 365 nights a year (you’ll have 2 nights to enjoy!) as well as several festivals and two blues museums. Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club, Red’s Lounge and the Crossroads Cultural Centre are just a few of the great music venues in town. In the daytime, explore the Mississippi Blues Trail (Clarksdale and Coahoma County have 15 markers commemorating famous musicians and events) or the Mississippi Freedom Trail, recognizing people and places in the state that had a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement.
You’ve been to Memphis and visited Graceland for a glimpse into Elvis’s adult life but today takes you through Tupelo where you can stop at Elvis Presley’s birthplace and museum to see where his journey started. From here it is on to Muscle Shoals – home of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and Fame Studios where so many of our favourite hits were recorded. The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles and Lynryd Skynyrd are just a few of the great names that have recorded here along with ‘The Swampers’ who can be heard backing many a hit. Stay 1 night.
Nashville and home
Return your hire car to Nashville Airport in time for your return flight to the UK
- Return flights from London (please ask about other departure airports)
- 14 nights hotel accommodation and room tax
- Memphis Music Attraction Pass
- Nashville Music Attraction Pass
- Fully insured compact car from day 4
- A travel pack containing a detailed day by day itinerary, driving instructions, maps & suggested excursions
Daily departures year round.
We can offer this itinerary in a wide range of other accommodation types, including superior hotels, character properties and small inns.