Who were the original “influencers”? One could argue they were musicians who became pop culture giants, from Elvis and Bob Dylan to The Beach Boys to Motown’s roster of talent. In their own ways, they laid the groundwork for everything that followed. While your kids or grandkids may not be familiar with the bands and singers who defined your generation, a music-inspired trip can do wonders in bonding, bridging generations and sharing ideas.
Here is a following playlist of destinations you may want to consider, from the obscure to the obvious.
Detroit: The first thing that always comes to mind is Motown, the seminal soul record label founded in 1959 that begat such definitive artists as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5. The original headquarters at 2648 West Grand Blvd., is repurposed as the Motown Museum. That said, Detroit is the point of origin for many other artists spanning different genres, including Eminem, the White Stripes, Iggy Pop and Madonna, who came of age in suburb Rochester Hills before reinventing herself in New York City.
Athens, Georgia: While college towns have traditionally been hotbeds for up-and-coming bands and artists, Athens’ roster is a veritable who’s who of “alternative” bands in the 1980s and 90s who redefined the mainstream and whose members still make an impact today. They include R.E.M., the B-52s, The Black Crowes, Matthew Sweet and Widespread Panic. The free and self-guided Athens Music History Tour from the Athens Welcome Center features 24 music-related stops, from sites of R.E.M.’s and the B-52’s first gigs, to the railroad trestle gracing the back cover of R.E.M.’s 1983 debut album “Murmur, ” to local institution Wuxtry Records, serving picky music lovers since 1976.
Asheville, North Carolina: The Asheville area has long boasted a who’s who of Grammy winners, including Doc Watson (bluegrass), Warren Haynes (rock), musician/storyteller David Holt, soul singer Gladys Knight, R&B vocalist Roberta Flack and the legendary Nina Simone. The next generation of award musicians, as well as local favorites, can be found tuning up in the River Arts District, home to the Asheville Guitar Bar and waterfront music venue Salvage Station. The Grey Eagle, meanwhile, is renowned for its excellent acoustics; calendar of roots, rock, Americana and other acts; and a prolific collection of portraits by photographer and bartender Sandlin Gaither of bands that have graced its stage.
Austin: Austin is home to more than 250 music venues, including the Moody Theater, where the enduring PBS series Austin City Limits is filmed. At the entry of the theater on Willie Nelson Boulevard (a.k.a. Second Street), one will find a statue of Willie Nelson. A statue of guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan looks back at Willie from across the river. Austin is also known as the “record store capital of the world,” and three of its top stores (End of an Ear, Waterloo Records and Antone’s Records) don’t disappoint thanks to their prolific selections. There are also plenty of genre/niche shops catering to connoisseurs of soul (Breakaway Records), electronica (Exploded Records), hip-hop (Mindzai Art & Vinyl), metal (Encore) and vintage country, rock and soul (Groovers’ Paradise).
Minneapolis: The late Prince spun much of his magic at his once secretive studio complex Paisley Park, located in Chanhassen, a suburb 20 miles southwest of downtown. Today, it is open to the public with guided tours that monumentalize his groundbreaking achievements. Back in Minneapolis, fans can do a pilgrimage to First Avenue, prominently featured in the motion picture Purple Rain, and where he played on several locations.
Los Angeles: The Grammy Museum L.A. is conveniently located in the downtown L.A. Live entertainment district. Venture to West Hollywood, and you’ll stumble upon The Rainbow Bar And Grill, a historic hangout for top rockers, including members of Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, KISS and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with good food and great memorabilia that puts a certain restaurant chain to shame. The Troubadour, opened in 1957, served as a launch pad for Elton John, the Eagles, Neil Diamond, James Taylor and even comics Steve Martin and Cheech & Chong. LA Hood Life Tours offers guided trips through hip-hop’s early days, including Compton, made famous by NWA’s 1988 album “Straight Outta Compton.”