Road-tripping Discoveries: Clyde Hopkins

On Beale Street, in downtown Memphis, an elderly gentleman caught my eye for his dapper clothing – resplendently suited and booted, smelling of nice cologne and with a twinkle in his eye.

Clyde Hopkins, legendary blues singer, 91 years of age, comes down to Beale Street every Wednesday, to chat to folk and to plug his CD, still on sale in the Memphis Music Store (of course we bought one!) He’s even got his own brass music note on the Beale Street walk of fame.

Born in 1921, in his mother’s blues club, Big Baby’s, Clyde says he learned from the greats who played there when he was a small child, and by the 1930’s, he was himself playing in the clubs in Memphis. An inspiring gentleman, and just goes to show, following your passion keeps you young at heart!

Road-tripping Discoveries: The Peabody Duck March!

The Peabody, built in 1925,  is a beautiful hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, famous for the Peabody Ducks that march daily from their home on the rooftop to swim in the fountain in the lobby.

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The Duckmaster announces the arrival of the Ducks! Celebrity ‘Duckmasters’ at the Peabody have included Stephen Fry, Patrick Swayze, Kevin Bacon and Oprah Winfrey.

Each morning at eleven, the Ducks march from their penthouse on the roof of the hotel, via the elevator to the lobby. To a musical fanfare, they march across a red carpet, and step into the fountain, oblivious to the crowds that gather everyday to see them.

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Happily waiting for the Duck March! I am easily pleased!!

Then, having had their daily swim, at five o’clock each evening, the ducks are ceremoniously led back to their penthouse home! The custom began in the 1930’s when the hotel manager, returning from a hunting trip, allowed his decoy ducks to swim in the fountain. The guests loved it, and the tradition was born!

Road-tripping Discoveries: Jeff Buckley…The Last Goodbye

2013 has so far rocked and rolled its way into autumn with all of the light and the dark of life being lived. Betwixt it all, there came significant birthday milestones for both myself and the better half. With that, the excuse to embark on some much-needed escapism in the form of three weeks of celebratory vacation time that took us from the auld hometown of Dublin, Ireland and encompassed Chicago, Illinois and Orlando, Florida, with an exciting road trip in between that covered Nashville, Memphis and Franklin, Tennessee, and Tupelo, Mississippi. So many highlights, too many to mention, but some too good not to share!

Starting with a poignant reminder of the fragility of life…

While strolling close to the Beale Street Landing, along the banks of the Wolf River in Memphis, we came across a bench, bearing a small plaque inscribed with a tribute to singer and songwriter, Jeff Buckley. Placed there by Mike Todd and his family in September, 2013, you can see Mike’s message to me in the comments section below…a beautiful gesture.

buckley 2 Memphis 2013

Posthumously famous for his haunting cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, Hallelujah, Buckley moved to Memphis in 1997 to work on his album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. During this time, he also played weekly shows at ‘Barristers’, a downtown bar, located beneath a parking garage off Jefferson Avenue. On the evening of May, 29th, while waiting for his band to arrive from New York to work on his recordings, Jeff, having swam there several times before, dived, fully clothed, into the Wolf River for a spontaneous swim.

Wolf River, Memphis 2013

Wolf River, Memphis

The River, which enters the Mississippi near the northern end of Mud Island, north of downtown Memphis, is also the route for many tugboats. Jeff tragically drowned, his body found six days later, having been pulled under the wake of such a tug vessel.

Despite some rumours of depression and suicidal tendencies, the subsequent autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in Jeff’s system and his death was ruled as an accidental drowning.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUq9sgPqfJ8&list=RDisYhMK3tP0c

His passing  inspired musical tributes from many of his contemporaries, including Chris Cornell’s Wave Goodbye,  PJ Harvey’s Memphis. Rufus Wainwright’s Memphis Skyline, and Aimee Mann’s Just Like Anyone. He was just 30 years of age.

Hope he’s resting in peace there, on his very own bench, on the Riverbank…