A trip to Memphis is on the must-do list of every music fan. This article in the New York Times gives some good tips on where to go once you go to the must-see spots (Graceland, Sun, Stax, Civil Rights Museum etc.). In my visits to Memphis I haven't had the time to go much beyond the obvious but I'll have this article with me the next time I go back.
The last time I was in Memphis (finishing some research on the book) my son and I were walking through the lobby of the Peabody Hotel on a late Sunday afternoon. Who should we bump into but none other than Robert Plant...just standing there casually talking to a few people. No entourage. Dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt. Very unassuming. Needless to say, we were sort of excited. My teenage son is a huge Zeppelin fan (at the time, When The Levee Breaks was his ringtone) and wanted an autograph. I told him to be polite and if Plant acted like he didn't want to be interrupted, to just back off and scram. He approached Plant with a pen and a postcard of Graceland and said "Excuse me Mr. Plant. I'm a huge fan. Could I please have your autograph?" Plant was more than cordial and asked my son for his name.
Plant: "Well Alex, what are you doing in Memphis?"
"My dad and I are checking out some old music stuff."
Plant: "Well, Alex...you just checked out some old music stuff..."
Great exchange and it was cool how nice he was to the kid.
The next day Alex and I are in Studio B at Ardent with Jody Stephens. I'm taking the photo of Jody you see in the book. Alex is sitting on one of the Smashing Pumpkins' road cases. Jody's phone rings and it's Robert Plant's assistant. Plant had planned on swinging by Ardent that evening to say hello but was tired from a long day in the 100-degree heat going to Graceland and a few other music spots. Checking out the old music stuff. He had finished his tour with Alison Krauss on Saturday night, gone to to the tour party, and then gotten up Sunday and driven to Memphis to "check out some old music stuff." Places he's probably been to many times The next day he was driving down to Clarksdale to soak up more of the old music stuff.
We thought it was really cool that one of the biggest rock stars ever finishes a tour and instead of heading home with his money decides to spend some time soaking up some inspiration and vibes at the source. Not surprising then that he turned down 100 million for the Zep reunion tour with the explanation that he already had enough money, but only had some many years left to explore new musical directions. I understand that Plant has another album going with Krauss but I'm hoping he returns to working with Strange Sensation. I saw them on their last tour a few years back and they were strikingly fresh and creative. I enjoyed them as much as any band I've seen this century.