Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rockabilly Rocks

I'm goin' to Jackson, I'm gonna mess around,
Yeah, I'm goin' to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber

They say in Tennessee that no matter where you are, you never have to drive more than an hour and you are at a state park. Driving west on US40, I would say that this is true. Sometimes an exit would pop up and there would be signs to not one, not two, but three state parks all off of that one exit. I think I read someplace that Tennessee state parks are considered among the top five state park systems in the nation.

I spent the night at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, just outside of Nashville. Paid a whole $17 for full hookups. I'm loving Tennessee state parks. Miko and I hiked a few of the trails – nothing really exciting, just sort of a lovely afternoon in the woods.

I always thought Cedars were either those tall, skinny trees that are all around cemeteries or they were something like an oak tree. Nope – they are lacy evergreens.

Picture from web:

Cedar of Lebanon

When we left Cedars, we moved on to Jackson Tennessee. I had several goals in mind when I headed this direction. First on the list was the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson. It is located in a store front on a side street downtown. The door was locked so I rang the bell and met the proprietor and founder of the museum – Henry Harrison. Who? Henry Harrison is in his late seventies and first achieved fame as a Golden Globes boxing champ. Said he was in the same competitions with Cassius Clay. He also went to Elvis' high school in Memphis although he was a year behind Elvis. He was close personal friends with Carl Perkins, W.S. Holland (only drummer for Johnny Cash), D.J. Fontana (drummer for Elvis), Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee and a host of others. This museum was basically a lot of Henry's memorabilia from his associations with these guys. Henry has tried to preserve history and has interviewed thirty five of the Rockabilly greats. For the ones who were no longer alive, he recorded their band members. So he has an oral history library. When I asked him if he ever shared any of these interviews with researchers, he was a little hesitant. He said that he really wanted to present these artists' human side and did not want to have others capitalize in any way on his heroes' fame.

We wandered around the several rooms, with Henry telling stories. He would interject little videos of some of his interviews. One was of Wanda Jackson – another was a patriotic commercial from around 1988 that had General Westmoreland and Johnny Cash drumming up support for Freedom Train – a Vietnam Veterans organization.
Carl Perkin's Jacket and boots (he had big feet). The chair on the left is from Carl Perkin's tour bus

Glad All Over  written by Carl Perkins with a foreign royalty check below.  $1,265 in 1958

He then got me up on stage, behind D.J. Fontana's drum set and started teaching me how to play drums with W.S. Holland's actual autographed drum sticks. I sort of got into it – there is something very satisfying with wailing on a drum kit. Bam, Bam, Bam. I must say I rocked it.

My stage and my audience


After an hour and a half, I told Henry I really had to go. I think his feeling were a little hurt that we didn't get all the way through his collection. But I had places to go, things to see.

I was heading for the Blair Chapel CME Church Cemetery for a very special task. I had heard that there was one grave that I needed to find. Of course the guy I was looking for had died in 1944 and the church had moved it's location so it was a little difficult actually finding the grave. I finally found the old road that the church had moved from and started down it. Tiny little gravel road, not much around. Oh, did I mention it was starting to get a little dark? I found a graveyard and got out of the car. As I'm tooling around, a car drives past and stops. I ask if I'm in the right place and the man says – no, you need to go further down the road. Ok, I get to the next cemetery, get out and look at the graves. Nothing. Then, off in the distance, I see in the middle of a bunch of gloomy trees, some very old gravestones. I climb up into this area and find the grave I'm looking for. I hadn't told Tony I was going to do this, I wanted to surprise him. So....Surprise!!!!!!
The road to the grave
The spooky woods

On the way back to the RV, I stopped at a little market looking for bread. This market had hardly anything in it except for beer, chewing tobacco, cigars and some fried cheese sticks. I decided to try them. Deep fried, when you bite into them they are tough and chewy and hollow. It is like the cheese in middle all disappeared and sort of melted into the husk. They were oddly compelling.

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