By Bill Clevlen
As we all gear up for what could be one of the biggest years for domestic road trips, I’m super excited that I have a brand-new travel book set to hit the shelves this spring. It’s called The Ultimate American Music Bucket List– and you’re going to want a copy for every music lover and travel enthusiast that you know. Based on my own memorable musical experiences as I’ve traveled across the country, the new guide will direct you to nearly every notable place in American music history. You’ll be able to find recording studios, record labels, historic homes, museums, statues, murals, memorials, and gravesites – in addition to venues that can accommodate your group’s next event.
St. Louis Legends
Missouri has produced its share of music legends and successful entertainers over the years– including Sheryl Crow, Nelly, Sara Evans, Porter Waggoner, Eminem, Burt Bacharach, Shorty Baker, and Clark Terry, to name a few.
My own love of music history probably stems from the fact that I grew up in St. Louis– hometown of one of America’s most famous musical pioneers, Chuck Berry. His revolutionary sound was a culture shock for many, perhaps illustrated perfectly in the 1985 film Back to The Future. A rock-n-rollin’ Marty McFly wraps up a Berry-like guitar solo only to have a gymnasium full of doo-wopping teenagers staring in disbelief and shock. Berry, who is laid to rest at Bellerive Cemetery in St. Louis County, is also immortalized with his own statue in the Delmar Loop near downtown St. Louis. It sits across the street from Blueberry Hill– a restaurant/music venue where he was known to regularly play small concerts for years before his death.
St. Louis is also home to the National Blues Museum. It’s one of several museums across the U.S. dedicated to preserving the history and early stories of how the blues genre was first conceived. The museum has interactive exhibits and displays and is a must-see for fans of blues music when passing through the area. It also has a facility for hosting parties or meetings.
One other notable musical stop in St. Louis is the house where many believe Scott Joplin composed the classic 1902 instrumental, The Entertainer. It’s a popular site for fans of ragtime music, as Joplin lived in the apartment for two years. Inside you’ll find exhibits, instruments, and a guided tour operated by Missouri State Parks.
Kansas City Jazz
On the Kansas City side of the state, you’ll find no shortage of links to jazz history and live music venues. The historic jazz district (18th & Vine) features the American Jazz Museum, which is packed with interactive exhibits and listening stations. The museum is also home to the Gem Theater, a 500-seat performance venue, and The Blue Room, a working jazz club. The historic district is where jazz legends like Charlie Parker, Count Basie and others helped to create the distinct sound of jazz music. And while not related to music, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is absolutely incredible, and located in the same building as the American Jazz Museum.
Sounds of Branson
Branson is still Missouri’s undisputed leader of live music venues and shows, with over 100 to choose from. Though many of the nightly shows focus on things like magic or comedy, quite a few feature strictly music and feature stars of yester-year. If you like country music, you’ll find acts like The Oak Ridge Boys, Neal McCoy, Mickey GiIley, and Tony Orlando. Many of the venues, like Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater feature “legends” themed shows with tributes to acts like Elvis and Buddy Holly. The late Andy Williams was the first non-country performer to open a venue in Branson and performed an annual Christmas program there for many years. These days, his Moon River Theater features popular entertainers and tribute shows. On any given night across Branson, you can find soul music, rock and roll, country, or pop performed live by talented musicians from around the country. The local theaters also host popular traveling musicals, like Mama Mia or Million Dollar Quartet.
Travels Far and Wide
If you’re hitting the road this year and traveling outside of Missouri, be sure to pre-order a copy of The Ultimate American Music Bucket List and find other amazing musical attractions around the Midwest and across the entire country. You can find more info at americanmusicbucketlist.com or on my travel website, billontheroad.com. The book will be published by Publishing Concepts LLC, the publisher of MEET Missouri magazine.
Bill Clevlen is a contributing writer from St. Louis.
About the Book
The Ultimate American Music Bucket List takes you on a musical journey across the United States to stand in some of the most important places in music history. You’ll be guided to recording studios where legends such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Dolly Parton, The Rolling Stones, and Aretha Franklin recorded some of their most notable songs. You’ll also see statues and murals dedicated to your favorite artists and bands.