Tennessee is home to two of the world's most famous music cities and although being to the USA many times, I'd never visited the state, so in May 2019 with some spare time in the USA, I made sure to check out what this part of middle America had to offer.
Third Man Records
First stop of the record store journey is the infamous Third Man Records. The label and retail outlet established by Jack White is more a museum experience than a record shop. Everything inside is meticulously curated and aesthetically designed to fit the image of the brand. Stock wise you can buy all of the Third Man catalogue including plenty of their limited edition 7”s along all sorts of merchandise and novelties related to Third Man and The White Stripes. It doesn’t end with the retail aspect though, these is a display cabinet where you can see Grammy’s he has won, clothes they have worn on stage and master tapes of their releases, and if you fancy yourself cutting a record, you can do that as well in their vocal booth, they then cut the record for you while you wait.
Third Man Records
The Groove Records is my next stop, the shop is in a house on a seemingly suburban street, the wall out the front is decorated with paintings of albums from the likes of 13th Floor Elevators, Captain Beefheart, Nirvana and more, we’re off to a good start. When you enter the shop you feel like you’re entering someones house, and inside doesn’t disappoint, a really strong and well curated selection of second hand records across a wide variety of genre’s with plenty of new releases and reissues also gracing the shelves. Pricing is real-good and if you have the time, you’ll be able to spend hours in this place.
The Groove Records
Grimeys is a pretty legendary fixture on the Nashville scene, and on the wider American record store scene in general. The shop hosts regular instore shows and is your go to as far as new releases go. If it is a good record and has come out recently, or if it is a must own album that is available on vinyl, you’ll be able to find it here. It doesn’t stop there though, there is also lots of great pre loved vinyl in stock as well. I spend some time at Grimey’s before heading back towards downtown and some food at the Sun Diner. My last record store stop in Nashville is The Great Escape store which has some fantastic records but pricing is definitely on the higher side.
After a couple of days in Nashville it is time to jump in the car and drive across to Memphis, another legendary music city. The musical history of the city begins when I arrive at my hotel, situated right next to Graceland. The hotel has a guitar shaped pool, and my room is adorned with pictures of Elvis. It’s evening time so I take a walk down the street, checking out some of what the area I’m staying in has to offer before heading back to my hotel to get to some work and prepare to check out the record stores (and historical musical landmarks) of Memphis the next day.
I’ve long been a fan of the Goner Records label so I’m excited to kick off my Memphis record store visit there. As well as stocking plenty of their own releases (including the the brilliant freshly release album from Sydney’s Low Life) there are lots of other well curated new releases and great second had vinyl in stock as well. The label has long had a connection with the underground Australian punk scene of the 80’s and I manage to come across some records from the likes of The New Christs, The Lime Spiders and more that have sat on my want list for a while.
Shangri La Records
Memphis is a pretty small city so everything is within a relatively short drive from each other and my next shop visit is Shangri La Records. The second hand stock here is great and segregated into fairly specific genre’s but once you get a feel for that I’m pretty certain and crate digger will find something they like here. I spend a good amount of time here, grab some records and get ready to check out some of the historical musical sites of the city.
First up is Stax Museum. I highly recommend taking the tour as it kicks off with an interesting documentary about the history of the label, giving plenty of context to the walk through the various exhibit rooms that follow. No matter how much you know about the label, you’ll still learn something. Not far across town is another iconic United States record label/recording studio, Sun Studios. Here you’ll get to see where Elvis and many of the very early pioneers of rock n roll cut their first recordings and how the label coming out of middle America influenced and changed the music world as we know it. You can buy records from both these labels in their respective gift shops.
That’s my visit to Tennessee, a great couple of days in both of the states two main cities who both have an extremely rich musical history. For any music fan, these two cities are a must visit!