Davenport, St. Louis, Nashville
Arriving in Davenport after a three and a half hour drive, Davenport looked kinda desolate. I drove in from Chicago so it was quiet a big difference, few people in the streets not a lot bars or traffic. The reason I passed by Davenport is that the guide I’m using for my ‘Midwest’ travels, The Blues Highway, pointed me out here promising me some Jazz and Blues landmarks. Upon my arrival Saturday evening I drove straight to Cols, which is a big ballroom where a lot of great jazz legends used to play in the ‘old days’.
Legends such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton etc. made the dancers’ feet hot in the swing jazz era.
It was a beautiful venue still but when I entered I was a bit surprised seeing/hearing a band playing ‘Only You’, a PLatters song if I’m not mistaking? The average age of the people present was 68 I guess. So there wasn’t a lot of dancing fun for me. The ballroom looked great though 😉
So after my short visit at Cols ballroom I continued my trip to another jazz landmark called The Dancehall. This is a place were Bix Beiderbecke used to play a lot. In fact, Davenport is the Bix Beiderbecke town. He used to live here and there are some nice landmarks to be seen such as the house where he used to live, his gravestone in the Oakdale memorial grave.
There even is an annual festival in his honour. So back to the venue. A bummer. Upon my arrival there were a lot of Mexican people outside, all dressed up. Inside a Mexican wedding party was going on… My Bachata moves aren’t great so no dancing for this fella, again 😉
Davenport has got a blues scene though, kept alive by Hall Reeder, owner of a bar called The Muddy Waters. He even has got a magazine talking about the blues stuff in and around the Quad cities (Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, East Moline, Rock Island). Another music ‘institute’ is the River Music Experience.
I must say that cops in this town seemed pretty strange to me. I’ll tell the whole story. I rented a car in Chicago and drove it up to Davenport. I parked myself on the parking space of the Col’s ballroom to check it out. When I came back in my car I started looking up the details on the next venue I wanted to visit. Car was running, lights were on. I must say I rented a little jeep thing, a bit bigger than a normal car just in case if I needed a couple of hours of sleep I could just do it in the car. Anyway, looking in my book, found the details on the venue and wanted to take of when a cop all of a sudden runs to my car and stops me from taking of…. I was a bit nervous, you’re in strange country with different rules, I lowered my passenger window where the cop stood. He asks me if I could turn on the lights on the roof of the car. Are there lights on my roof I wondered? Ok, I tried every possible knob and thing that I could explaining him I just rented the car (trough Relayrides, highly recommended for cheaper renting) and didn’t know how to turn on those lights. Just then I discovered a little thing I didn’t try…. Bam; lights went on. The cop takes a few steps back to look at them and nods. He comes back to the car explaining he has the same jeep and was looking to buy those lights on the internet to put on his roof as well….. He wished me a pleasant stay in Davenport.
An hour later I found myself in a bar talking to a guy with a real nice pimped up Harley, drinking beers, having fun… Turns out to be the deputy Sheriff of Davenport. Hopefully nobody stopped him to take an alcohol test when he was riding his bike 😉 at least I didn’t feel so fresh in the morning after those beers we had 🙂
Perhaps a little intermezzo on the mo’ (mustache) I’m wearing. I’ve got two hints on former legends that wore the same mo; there’s still hope for me 😉 First one is a former baseball pitcher called Rollie Fingers. I hope I don’t look as dorky with my mustache as Rollie does 😉 Second one and of course more my look-a-like :)) is John L Sullivan, a former boxer from the late 1800’s, died in 1918.
So, ok, I had my first Jeep sleep in Hannibal. A small little town on my way to ST. Louis. If it wasn’t for the writer Mark Twain probably no one would have known this town. Desolate place. Nice riverside though…..
Destination St.Louis. My second day in St. Louis and the weekly social takes place. Hosted by the wonderful Christian and Jenny, my hosts for the next seven days…
The DJ for that night is John Bedrosian, an old-timer in swing, specializing in St.Louis shag. You can tell by the bpm’s of his songs he’s dj-ing that he likes St. Louis-shag. Super friendly guy. All of a sudden he asks trough the mic if anyone has not been on the social before. That’s probably me. So I go up to the dj-booth and receive a cd compiled by John himself 😉 Sweet.
St.Louis is a really nice place to stay, if you’re not in the city centre. Christian took me for a bike ride to discover a bit of areas that have a lively young atmosphere. There’s definitely an effort from young enthusiasts to get the town on the right track.
Nice bands, bars, shops, all very creatively set up. Seen some nice bands play, I’ll list them a bit lower.
Landmarks will be, for sure the Scott Joplins house.
The Thaxton, a building built in the early 1920’s by Kodak, the plan was to build 50 but only 10 were build because of crisis. The one in STL is the only remaining.
The City Museum, what a bizarre yet fun experience this was 😉
The Big Muddy Blues Festival is worth visiting. Three stages, of which two are free of admission. Soul, jazzy, rock and off course, ze blues…
Bars n bands
Quite a change if you’re in a search for jazz and blues. Country it is in Nashville, nothing but country music. It’s really nice to see people enjoy this music and dance. Some of them have boots with metal plates underneath (much like tap shoes) to tap on the country music. That was new to me 😉
The most important thing here for me was the Johnny cash museum. It’s a great historical museum, lots of insights (letters, personal stuff etc.). I takes you about two hours to see it.
Boots and hats all over, no McDonalds on Broadway. I think people eat hats or boots instead.
As country music is so big here, a lot of record companies have headquarters here making billions of dollars each year. The only remark I have here that there’s so many really good musicians that it becomes difficult to find like a really, really great band. Cause everybody is great at what they do. Broadway is literally packed with bars playing live music from 3 or 4 pm.
Oh yeah, the police over here is pretty harsh, got two parking tickets. One that was obvious just didn’t see the sign. The other was a bit dubious. As I got my first ticket I was very keen on parking on the right spot. After seeing a band the day after my first ticket I found another ticket on my window. A parking violation for 10 dollars stated; ‘Other’ on the parking ticket. Still don’t know what for 😉 Must have been the Chicago license plate in Nashville 🙂
Back to Chicago it is 😉
Two days Chicago before I leave to NYC.
State fair in Sandwich on saturday, wiii. Omg, just amazing, tractor pulling, animals, fair, weirdo’s, root beer, corn dogs, you name it!
I’ll leave you with this joyous feeling 🙂