For the last two weeks, my family and I have been on vacation. Two glorious, relaxed weeks of doing what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it (mostly). It is the first time in 20 years of marriage that my wife and I have had two weeks together. And aside from the sudden rude jolt of returning to reality at the end of it, I could get used to it! In fact, I think three or four two-week vacations in a year would be just about perfect.
We spent a week in Gatlinburg, TN, gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), and the second week at my brother's place in northern Virginia. Well, suffice it to say that photography was a big part of the trip. I had to be careful, though, to balance my desire to spend hours and hours photographing with my family's desires to do something else. I think we struck a nice balance. I had prepared a reasonable shot list before I went. My shot list amounted to six specific locations within GSMNP (yes, only six; I exercised remarkable restraint!) specific locations. One sunset, one sunrise, some streams and waterfalls, and a cabin or two.
Now that I'm back behind my iMac where I can really take a good look at the images, I've decided to doll them out on the blog a few at a time over the next several weeks. I'll make the posts location-based and chronological, so there's some coherency to both the arrangement and the flow.
Today's post concerns itself with the first leg of the trip - Memphis, Tennessee. From Abilene, we figured we could make Memphis the first night. And what better place to have dinner than someplace on Beale Street. We used to live in Memphis, but I choose a place we'd never been - B.B. King's Blues Club. There were two reasons for this choice. First, B.B. King's has the reputation of having some of the best music on Beale Street, and I wanted to give my son (who is starting college this fall as a music major) a musical interlude to our trip. Second, unlike some places on Beale Street, where you basically have a bar and a band, B.B. King's actually served food. After a long day in the car, a good meal would definitely be in order.
Once we parked a few blocks away and started walking, we came across this guy, drumming away on his plastic bucket. Music is everywhere in Memphis, and he was really getting into it. I gave him a few bucks and took this image:
We listened to him for a few minutes and then moved on. We actually got to Beale Street before the bulk of the crowds did, which was nice since it was a Friday night, and the crowds were sure to grow spectacularly over the next few hours.
Once inside B.B. King's, we were seated and spent some time enjoying The Will Tucker Band, the early evening house band at B.B. King's. The music was spectacular even though the photos aren't. I wasn't really there for photography, but of course I had my camera. There was virtually no light in the club; it was one of the darkest places I've ever photographed. So ISO was in the stratosphere and shutter speeds were still slower than I liked. That's Will's band in the opening shot above, a panorama of five stitched images to provide a sense of the place. The club is not large, but it was packed with people.
On the wall near our balcony-level table was framed B.B. King's guitar, affectionally named "Lucille." Her name was also emblazoned in Neon to the left of the stage. The guitar was signed by some of the greats.
We all ordered ribs because we were hungry, we all love good ribs, and we were in Memphis after all. I can't say they were the best ribs we'd ever had, but they were darn good. Well worth the money.
We were sitting right next to the sound man and I captured this image.
As we ate, the Will Tucker Band finished their set and THE house band took the stage for the rest of the evening - B.B. King's Blues Club All-Star Band.
The club had a modest dance floor, and sitting at our table in the balcony, we had a birds-eye view. Some of the guests had clearly been imbibing the adult beverages fairly heavily, which affected their dancing. Really, it was fairly amusing to watch. In the photo below, you can see two women giving it their best (they were out there almost the whole time we were). What you can't really see, though, is the guy behind the two women. He was an elderly black gentleman, who was giving it his all on the dance floor. If you remember the opening to the old Bill Cosby show, and can picture Bill doing his "Cosby Dance," you'll have a fairly good idea of what it was like to watch this guy. He was awesome! He'd probably been coming to that club since B.B. King himself played there. I hope I've still got the energy (and the moves) when I'm his age!!
We stayed as long as we dared. But before we left, we visited the gift shop, attached to the club. A large mural of B.B. King himself covered one wall.
On the wall adjacent to B.B.'s mural was this silhouette drawing of blues guitar legend Walter "Furry" Lewis.
By the time we got outside, the street was packed with people. Fairly normal, I think, for a Friday night. I took a few more photos before we walked back to our car and headed for the motel. It was a fantastic night on Beale Street, full of good food and great music. If you ever get a chance to go, do yourself a favor and go!
More to come . . . .