Tennessee Music Pathways
Mountains of East Tennessee to Beale Street in Memphis
10 Days | Year Round
Starting At $Flexible Pricing
American Music beats in the history of Tennessee. It started on the porches of Smoky Mountain farmers and sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta south of Memphis. It was first recorded in Bristol, evolved through the decades moving to Studios in both Nashville and Memphis, and from the stages of Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry House. The Tennessee Music Pathway is lined by Music History.
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Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Saturday – Arrive Bristol, TN – Carter Family Fold
Today is travel to Bristol, TN for a two night stay. Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant. Following which your group has a 45 minute, hill country drive to Hiltons, VA for an evening at the Carter Family Fold. Dedicated to the First Family of Country Music, the legendary Carters (A.P. Sara and Maybelle), who were at the 1927 Bristol Session, and who have been given the greatest share of the credit for giving birth to commercial country music industry.
You will have time to visit the A.P. Carter Cabin and the Music Center whose objective it is to promote the old-time music. You will see family artifacts and hear conversation from docents about them – including a famous son-in-law. But the highlight is the Carter Family Fold music show. In keeping with their traditional music style, no electrical instruments are allowed (it’s all acoustic). This is not your typical Country Music show, it’s old time joyful music with local folks who come every week and dance for the sheer joy of it. (D)
Day 2 – Sunday Gospel Brunch – Birthplace of Country Music – Front Porch Pickin’
It’s Sunday Morning in Southwestern Virginia and you will enjoy a Gospel Brunch at Heartwood. A modern artisan center in nearby Abingdon, Heartwood blends Appalachian heritage, local craftsmanship (arts) with culinary delights. You will hear live Gospel Music from local mountain musicians and find a beautiful buffet filled with farm fresh Virginia foods. You will also time to shop for Virginia Mountain art and craft work.
The afternoon features the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. An affiliate of the Smithsonian this museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Bristol Sessions, an event that Johnny Cash called “The Big Bang of Country Music.” It is perhaps the single greatest moment in recording history – the first commercially successful, music recording session. In 1927 a talent scout for the Victor Talking Machine Company installed a portable recording device (it took four men to carry it) in a hat factory on State Street in Bristol. He advertised, inviting musicians to come, record the music of the Appalachians. Among the first few were The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, both destined to be legends. Through this museum the authenticity of that single moment and this region’s rich music legacy sing loud and proud today.
After the museum you have free time in downtown Bristol where State Street separates Virginia from Tennessee. There are many quaint shops, antiques, boutique clothing stores, fine art and more. You can take pictures with the famous Bristol sign, stand in Two States at once, and buy yourself a milkshake at the Burger Bar (rumored to be the restaurant where Hank Williams ate his last meal).
Then tonight you enjoy a country dinner and a little Front Porch Pickin’. A traditional Appalachian evening with musicians coming together for no other reason than the joy of playing. It’s through these impromptu gatherings that much of the old-time country, gospel and bluegrass music has been preserved. This is a very casual night. (B.D)
Day 3 – Monday -Dollywood – Country Tonite
From Bristol you have a short drive to Pigeon Forge where you enjoy the day at Dollywood Theme Park, known for its world-class entertainment, amazing thrill rides, and family friendly adventure. At Dollywood you’ll enjoy live stage shows, the Dolly museum, real train rides, the American Eagle habitat. You’ll also enjoy watching Dollywood’s master craftsmen and artisans at work proudly continuing the centuries-old traditions of hand-making their arts & crafts with daily demonstrations. Dollywood offers you the chance to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains and the incredible spirit of its people. We invite you to taste award-winning recipes, a dinner voucher is included.
This evening at Country Tonite Theater you enjoy another fantastic show. In this fast-paced production you will enjoy a variety of dynamic singing and dancing, side-splitting comedy, powerful gospel, and American patriotism. From the strong talent of the youth performers, to the experienced veterans of the Country Tonite stage and song, the love of God, family and country resonates throughout the show. (B,D)
Day 4 – Tuesday – Pink Jeep Tour – Foothills Parkway – Cades Cove
Your morning begins with great excitement onboard the open-air Pink Jeep Tour. Your adventure guide will narrate as you motor along The Foothills Parkway, “the prettiest drive in America” with scenic viewpoints offering spectacular views of the highest peaks in the Smokies. This tour ends at the Apple Valley Mountain Village in Townsend, TN where your bus is waiting. Here you find lunch at the Apple Valley Café followed by a visit to The General Store.
Then you visit the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, a Tennessee Mountain History Museum with 13 historic buildings, including cantilever barns, a chapel, a sawmill, a smokehouse and wheelwright shop. Two galleries display Native American and early settler artifacts dating from 10,000 BC to the 1930s. Another display chronicles the evolution of transportation from horse-drawn buggies to motorized vehicles.
Also this afternoon, you journey in tourist vans, with another adventure guide, on an 11 mile, one-lane looping road into remote Cades Cove. This hidden valley is framed by picturesque mountain peaks and was hunted by the Cherokee for centuries before Europeans arrived around 1820. Many of the original 19th structures from that community of almost 300 people still stand, including three churches, log homes and a water mill near the visitors center. Here you are literally walking through history with nature by your side. The Cove is one of the Smokies best wildlife viewing areas with herds of white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, turkey, raccoon, and others.
Returning to Pigeon Forge you enjoy either Dolly Parton’s Stampede Show or The Hatfield and McCoy’s Dinner Feud. (B,D)
Day 5 – Wednesday – Nashville Troubadour Tour – Ryman Auditorium Backstage Tour
Following a morning drive to Nashville, you will make a lunch stop before meeting your Singer/Songwriter guide for a Troubadour City Tour. This is an “Only in Nashville” kind of experience. Bringing new meaning to the phrase “Entertaining Narrative” it’s sightseeing with a singer/songwriter guide. The tour will include Downtown Nashville’s colorful history with drive-bys of the historic Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Honky Tonk Row. You will hear what it’s like trying to break into Nashville’s music scene, both the struggles and the victories.
This afternoon also includes a guided tour of the Ryman Auditorium. Built in 1892, the Ryman Auditorium is a National Historic Landmark. Home of the Grand Ole Opry during country music’s formative years, 1943-1974, the Ryman is known as “The Mother Church of Country” – the building was once a church. Its stage has been graced by legends from Houdini and Hank Williams to Bob Hope and Bruce Springsteen.
Then tonight you get your Honky Tonk On with dinner at one of Nashville’s newest restaurants and music venues. In the heart of Downtown, Ole Red is inspired by Opry member Blake Shelton’s clever, irreverent song about the Warden’s dog, Ole Red. (B,D)
Day 6 – Thursday – Studio B – Country Music Hall of Fame – Johnny Cash Museum – Nashville Nightlife Dinner & Show
Get ready to be a Star! Your day begins with a group recording session at Historic RCA Studio B. Here legends like Elvis and Dolly have recorded timeless classics. Then you visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, the keeper of priceless Country Music Treasures. Your self-guided tour is a walk through history, one that leads you from the earliest folk traditions to the music that thrills millions of fans today. Every tour ends in the Hall of Fame Rotunda, the never-ending Circle, and storied home of the inductees.
This afternoon you’ll find an immediate connection to Bristol, at the new Johnny Cash Museum. Johnny was, of course, that famous son-in-law, married to June Carter Cash the daughter of Mother Maybelle Carter. This Nashville museum features the largest and most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world. It chronicles the life of the “Man in Black” with interactive technology, artifacts, stage costumes, instruments and personal letters. You will walk away with a wonderful introspective on both Johnny and June.
This evening, you enjoy the Nashville Nightlife Dinner & Show. Come and experience a celebration of Country Music from both past and present. Hear songs from many of the great artists in country music history along with today’s hottest superstars. Enjoy the music of everyone from Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline to the superstars of today like Sara Evans and Toby Keith! At any given show there may be guest stars appearing including: (Grand Ole Opry Star) Jeannie Seely, “The Fiddle Man” Tim Watson, Diana Murrell, “Nashville’s favorite” Brenda Best, Paula Poe Murrell (from the Tammy Wynette show) and many others. (B,D)
Day 7 – Friday – General Jackson – Madame Tussaud’s – Grand Ole Opry
To begin the day your group has the option of a uniquely Nashville themed city sightseeing tour either:
– The Homes of the Stars Tour will drive past homes of some of the biggest names in Nashville like Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Reese Witherspoon, Little Big Town, and more. This is a great tour for country music fans and Nashville celebrity fans alike!
– Nashville Redneck Comedy Tour is a laugh-filled experience. You will see the most famous and historic sites. See all of the popular landmarks in Music City, maybe a country star, and some cowboy wannabes! Ever wonder if you qualify to be a hillbilly or a redneck? Find out aboard this fun-filled two-hour wild ride!
– Old Town Trolley Tour is more than just a sightseeing tour, it is a fun and educational adventure as your trolley conductor provides an entertaining narration that includes little known facts and behind-the-scenes tips. To view popular attractions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Parthenon and Bicentennial Capitol Mall, hop aboard the Old Town Trolley!
Then you board the General Jackson, the world’s grandest showboat. It offers a delicious meal and world-class entertainment while cruising the majestic Cumberland River. After your cruise you stop at Opry Mills for a lyrical adventure at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. See and hear the music from the 1950’s when families gathered around their radio listening to the Grand Ole Opry. Hear the creativity flow as the lyrics carry you to a time and place where Rock & Roll was all that mattered, Jerry Garcia & Janis Joplin are here celebrating the summer of 69. You can dance, sing, and take a selfie with yesterday’s music legends and today’s Top 40’s icons.
Dinner is provided by the Grand Ole Opry who manages the Opry Backstage Grill on Music Valley Drive. They serve signature Southern Cooking paired perfectly with Live Country Music. Here your love of food and your love of music will meet in our casually cool restaurant. And at the Opry Backstage Grill, your waitress might even jump on the stage and sing a country favorite or two.
Next, it’s showtime. For more than 85 years, country’s best performers have mesmerized audiences at the Grand Ole Opry – a continuously broadcast Live Radio Show. Each Opry features a variety of new stars, superstars and the legends of music. You’ll hear the very best in country with a little bluegrass and comedy added in. This is live and unrehearsed, you never see the same show twice.
The 1927 Bristol Sessions were the ‘Big Bang of Country Music’ and you visited the birthplace, the very spot where the explosion first sparked; now tonight you find yourself seated in the center of this ever expanding Musical Universe filled with brilliant lights and glorious lyrics. (B,L,D)
Day 8 – Saturday – Memphis – Carl Perkins – Tina Turner – Rock n Soul’ Museum
Leaving Nashville you are bound for Memphis. Enroute you visit the Carnegie Legends Museum in Jackson, TN. Here in the alleys and honkytonks of Jackson a rich mixture of country music and blues, fueled by moonshine, created the setting where the first rock music (Rockabilly) was heard on planet earth. It was written and played here by Carl Perkins and others even before it was recorded it in Memphis.
Rock and Blues is somehow in the air here, how else can you explain Jackson is the source for the Hard Rock Cafe and The House of Blues? Jackson was the site of the very first Hard Rock Cafe in America, launched by the hometown boy, Isaac Tigrett. And you can revisit this magic and touch the greatness standing at ground zero for the birth of Rock N Roll.
Continuing south you visit the childhood school of Tina Turner. Located on the West Tennessee Heritage Center grounds this one-room schoolhouse was attended by young Anna Mae Bullock (aka Tina Turner). It has a collection of the Queen of Rock’s personal memorabilia including costumes and gold records. Even her high school yearbook is included among the treasures.
On arrival in Memphis you visit the Rock N Soul Museum and discover the birth of rock and soul music. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, tells the story of musical pioneers who, for the love of music, overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook the entire world.
Dinner is at the Blues City Cafe where you sample some of the South’s favorite dishes. After dinner, you will have time to explore Beale Street on your own. (B,D)
Day 9 – Sunday – Memphis, TN – MoJo Tour – Sun Studio – Graceland
Morning sightseeing begins with the Memphis MoJo Tour, where a musician tour guide shows you the sights of the city while history sings. As you rock on down the road you will also visit Sun Studio’s, the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll and walk the halls where Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny, Carl Perkins and a hundred others made music.
You also visit Stax Records. The first exhibit in this museum tour represents the true birthplace of soul music – a modest country church. Just as Stax’s music found its roots in the sounds of Southern gospel music, the museum opens in a real, circa-1906 Mississippi Delta church that has been carefully reassembled inside of the building. Located on the original site of the Stax Records studio in Memphis, this museum pays special tribute to the artists who recorded there, as well as many other American soul legends.
Next is the Elvis Experience Tour at Graceland. This a one-of-a-kind experience will lead you on Elvis’s fascinating journey to superstardom. You will experience the cultural changes that led to the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll and see, first-hand, how Elvis became the most celebrated entertainer in the world. Your admission ticket includes a tour of the mansion and a tour of his airplanes.
Dinner is included tonight at a conveniently located restaurant. (B,D)
Day 10 –Monday – Departure
Your tour ends this morning after breakfast.