Home to music, culture, history and food, it’s time to indulge yourself in the ‘real America’.
The Deep American South holds endless opportunities for a memorable road trip experience. And with a new British Airways' direct service between Heathrow and Nashville operating five times a week, it's never been easier to explore.
Positioned between three interstate highways, Nashville makes a perfect starting point, with Memphis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans within easy reach.
You can tailor make your route or follow the tried and trusted.
Take in the culture and history of Alabama and explore the horse capital of the world, Kentucky, the birthplace of Muhammad Ali and makers of much of the world's Bourbon.
The state capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge is packed with interactive museums, rich in significance, and famous for its Cajun and Creole cuisine.
In Tennessee, venture out beyond Memphis and Nashville to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life and the beauty of its Southern Appalachian mountains.
But let's get back to the reason we're here. The music.
New Orleans is universally considered to be the birthplace of jazz while Mississippi is the spiritual birthplace of America's music where you can follow the Blues Trail. And then there's the foot-tapping, head-bobbing, soul-saving sounds of Country, Blues and Rock. Not just heard on headphones, but on stages, porches and street corners. You can't download it. You can only experience it. The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.
The fiddles of Appalachian settlers and musical depth of African slaves set the foundation for today's rock ‘n' roll, soul, blues, bluegrass, Americana, roots, rockabilly, country, gospel and everything in between. Seven genres of music trace their origin to Tennessee. The locals say the music is “in the water we drink.” Probably so. It flows through the state like a mighty river. Elvis drank it in with his freshman release, recorded at Memphis' Sun Studio 60+ years ago. Both sides of his debut single were covers – a Delta bluesman on the A-side and the Father of Bluegrass on the flip. Elvis reinterpreted both and, in the process, set the course to become the king of rock ‘n' roll. His home Graceland, and the accompanying entertainment complex, Elvis Presley's Memphis immerses guests in his life and career.
Must-see museums include ones dedicated to Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and George Jones with the Merle Haggard Museum set to open later this year. And a visit to the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School in Brownsville showcases the Queen of Rock n Roll's musical journey. Each year Nashville also gives the writers centre stage hosting the largest songwriters' festival in the world, Tin Pan South.
The Bluebird Cafe hosts acoustic music daily. Catch big names at The Cannery Ballroom and Mercy Lounge, or make a pilgrimage to the headwaters of country music, the Grand Ole Opry or Ryman Auditorium, known as “the Mother Church of country music” and regarded as one of the country's premiere live music venues.
In West Tennessee, Sun Studio, Beale Street, Levitt Shell, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis Rock ‘n' Soul Museum and The Memphis Blues Hall of Fame Museum are obvious reference points for experiencing Tennessee's musical past while bearing witness to its lasting influence.
In East Tennessee, let music history unfold before your eyes at the Songbirds Guitar Museum in Chattanooga, featuring a timeless collection of rare vintage guitars.
We might be 90 years past the “big bang of country music,” but this landmark event is memorialised in Bristol's Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Beyond the artifacts, the museum embraces Tennessee's musical forbearers' legacy by making space for original creation, such as mixing your own Bristol Sessions tunes. Hear it come full-circle on “Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited,” including original Bristol Sessions songs performed by artists including Brad Paisley, Keb' Mo', Sheryl Crow, Steve Martin and Ashley Monroe as well as native Tennessean and legend, Dolly Parton. Dolly's popular theme park Dollywood in Pigeon Forge celebrates music with the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame and live shows celebrating music all year round.
When you're in the Deep South, it doesn't matter whether you're reminiscing on the past or reveling in the present — it's easy to simply be swept away by the music. In conjunction with our friends at Premier Holidays, we offer a range of self-drive tours with fully inclusive compact car hire.
Favourites include the 14 night Six State Southern Explorer, the 12 night Southern Rhythms & Revolutions or the great value 10 night Deep South self-drive which is currently booking for this November from only £1599 per person based on two adults sharing and including return Heathrow flights, a saving of up to £300 per person.
To make a booking, or find out more, get in touch.
NB Tennessee images kindly supplied and owned by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.