VIDEO: Feel the Music in Nashville, Austin and Detroit

by Community Manager ‎02-11-2015 01:46 PM - edited ‎03-05-2015 09:04 AM (3,098 Views)

Music lovers will find plenty to fuel their passions in these three iconic music cities—mile-markers on the map of American jazz, blues, country and rock.


Whether you want to hear live music from up-and-coming performers or explore the roots of America’s musical legends, you can do it all in these three cities. They’re packed with downhome dance halls, storied concert venues, hip clubs, museums and more.


Nashville: Country’s City

Fans of the hit television show Nashville know this city is a complex place: Its cozy neighborhoods and Southern manners say “small town,” but its musical reputation is world-class. Nashville’s recording industry was built on country, but these days, rockers like Jack White and Kings of Leon also call the city home. And while Nashville’s booming economy has recently made headlines, it will forever be known as Music City.


Hear: Live music streams from Lower Broadway honky-tonks like Robert’s Western World and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, where country music’s storied singers and contemporary crooners wet their whistles before taking the stage next door at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Across town, The Bluebird Cafe puts songwriters before sparkle, spotlighting the Music Row pros behind country’s biggest hits. And tickets to the live broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of the longest-running radio programs in the country.


Experience: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum plumbs the genre’s history with displays of famous instruments, costumes and multimedia from its extensive collection. At Historic RCA Studio B—where Elvis Presley cut more than 260 songs—a tour of the recording studio offers insight into the Nashville Sound, which combined lush string arrangements and background vocals to help revive the genre in the 1960s. Nearby, Hatch Show Print’s one-of-a-kind letterpress posters make classic souvenirs.


Where to stay: Gaylord Opryland Resort

Glass atriums arc high overhead at this AAA Four Diamond-rated resort, where cafes and shops nestle among 9 acres of indoor gardens, and pathways wind by rushing waterfalls and brick storefronts. By night, old-fashioned streetlamps light the way to the resort’s 17 restaurants, including Jack Daniel’s, which serves up live music along with pecan pie.


Austin: Texas Twang

Austin bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and its 250 venues and the annual South by Southwest music festival make a good case for the moniker. The music scene’s roots stretch far past its blues heyday in the 1930s to the city’s German beer gardens of the late 1800s—fertile ground from which a host of modern superstars have emerged, including the Dixie Chicks and Willie Nelson. The city whose ubiquitous bumper sticker reads “Keep Austin Weird” continues to draw young guitar-slingers today.


Hear: To sample Austin’s live music scene, you can’t go wrong on Sixth Street, Austin’s lively entertainment district. The iconic Continental Club, where the diverse crowd on the cozy dance floor reflects an even more varied cast of performers on stage, is also a don’t-miss. Just a few miles away is the Broken Spoke, the “Last of the True Texas Dance Halls,” with a reputation bigger than the Lone Star State itself. Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff and George Strait all have played the Spoke, and Willie Nelson even stops by just for the chicken-fried steak.


Experience: Austin Music Heritage Tours uncover the city’s music scene with a trip through 50 years of club hopping, mapping a landscape of Texas rock, blues, country and jazz. Another don’t-miss spot is Threadgill’s. This Southern-style restaurant is a  former gas station and tavern where Janis Joplin developed the raw singing style that won her international fame.


Where to stay: The Driskill Hotel

Just steps from the Sixth Street music scene, this AAA Four Diamond-rated grand dame welcomes guests with its distinctive archways and two-story porch. Built in 1886 by cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the hotel is filled with  elegant details, from intricate woodwork to stained glass. In the 1886 Cafe & Bakery, once heralded as “Austin’s socializing parlor,” the chocolate cake is still made according to the hotel’s original 1886 recipe.


Detroit: Motown Mojo

While much has been made of the city’s challenges, Detroit’s musical legacy remains undiminished. From jazz to blues to rock ’n’ roll, plus punk, rap and techno, Detroit played a vital role in every major music movement of the 20th century. John Lee Hooker, Diana Ross, Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, Eminem, Madonna—the list of Detroit artists reads like a family tree of American music history, and  the city and its venues still resonate with their tireless inspiration.


Hear: With its nearly 90-year history as one of Detroit’s premier venues, the Royal Oak Music Theatre is known for hosting an eclectic lineup of acts—from George Clinton to comedian Bill Burr to dance troupe Tap Dogs. For discovering new live music, the best bet is The Magic Stick, dubbed Detroit’s underground music headquarters by Rolling Stone. (Visit the rooftop patio, The Alley Deck, between sets.) Memorial Day weekend brings the Movement Electronic Music Festival, and on  Labor Day weekend, don’t miss the free Detroit Jazz Festival at Hart Plaza and other venues.


Experience: Detroit’s musical legacy comes to life at the Motown Museum. It houses Studio A, where timeless hits by The Temptations and The Supremes were recorded, plus legendary costumes, photos and memorabilia—including Michael Jackson’s famous jeweled glove. Motown artists also recorded hits just over a mile away at United Sound Systems, but this studio’s ongoing list of clientele also includes Bob Seger, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Parliament-Funkadelic and more. Today, the space hosts live performances, special events like their recent Detroit Rockabilly presentation, and tours (by appointment only), which are rare for a working studio.


Where to stay: Westin Book Cadillac

This AAA Four Diamond-rated gem was the world’s tallest hotel when it opened in 1924—a soaring ode to Italian Renaissance-style architecture (eagle eyes can spot sculptures of Detroit historical figures adorning the Michigan Avenue entrance). After a careful restoration, spacious rooms boast modern amenities. Just outside, downtown destinations await—pose with tiger statues at the baseball stadium or browse stalls filled with fruits, flowers and more on Saturdays at the historic Eastern Market.


To plan and book your trip, visit or contact your local AAA Travel Consultant.


A version of this story appears in the March/April 2015 issue of AAA Living magazine.


Image credit/source: Nashville CVB

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