American culture and identity is deeply rooted in the music its diverse people have created, from the jubilant jazz first played by the African American community in carnival-loving New Orleans, to the seductive Latin rhythms brought over by Miami’s immigrants.
America’s Musical Journey is released in cinemas next month, tracing the routes of American music and presented by singer Aloe Blacc. In terms of client bookings and enquiries it’s expected to do for music cities what America Wild: National Parks Adventure featuring Robert Redford did for the US national parks in 2016.
In honour of the movie’s release, we round up some of the greatest US cities to recommend to music lovers, whether they’re Elvis enthusiasts or buffs of the blues.
For jazz fans, it doesn’t get better than a trip to New Orleans, the city where the sound was born. Walk the Big Easy’s cobbled streets and the lilt of the saxophone, trombone and bass guitar echo from matchbox-sized jazz clubs such as Preservation Hall and The Spotted Cat.
“The best place to see authentic live music is Frenchmen Street,” says Neil Jones, UK and Ireland account director for New Orleans and Louisiana. “No neon lights; only plain wooden signs outside dozens of music clubs. It’s not the first place most visitors know to visit, but inside the clubs and even outside on the street, you’ll hear some of the best live music produced anywhere in the city.”
Book it: North America Travel Service offers a Simply Southern Music 14-night fly-drive starting in New Orleans and ending in Memphis from £2,410pp, based on two sharing and including flights, accommodation and car rental.
Hip hop sprang out of New York in the late 1970s, when its punchy rhymes emanated from south Bronx street parties. Hip hop fans should head to the neighbourhood of Williamsburg to watch live acts: two of the best venues include bar-cum-club Baby’s All Right and Brooklyn Bowl, where clients can watch rap acts after knocking down some pins.
“I also recommend music lovers visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Fanfare exhibition, the first of The Met’s four renovated musical instrument galleries,” says Jenny Basham, product manager for the Caribbean, North America and Mexico at Carrier.
Book it: Carrier offers three nights’ room-only in New York from £1,150pp, based on two sharing at The Surrey, including flights from Heathrow and private transfers. Price is based on March 15 departures.
It might be most renowned for its movie-making credentials but the City of Angels has also nurtured countless musical stars and genres, whether it’s the surfer dude tunes of The Beach Boys, the gangster rap of N.W.A or the head-banging hard rock of Van Halen.
Francine Sheridan, regional director for Europe and the Middle East at Discover Los Angeles, says: “Hollywood’s world-famous landmarks and underground music venues offer concert-goers some of the best places in the world to listen to live music. It’s home to numerous clubs and live music venues, like the iconic Viper Room, as well as outdoor amphitheatres such as the recently renovated Ford Theatres and the Hollywood Bowl, which is the largest in the US.”
Book it: Funway Holidays offers three nights in Los Angeles staying at The Garland from £839pp based on two sharing, including Norwegian Airlines flights from Gatwick and departing March 15.
Georgia’s capital is a mecca for R&B, a genre that pays tribute to the blues and Afro-Caribbean melodies, and whose influence has spread all over the world.
It’s not just Atlanta that boasts music making prowess: the Georgian city of Athens is famed for its college music scene, annual music and arts festival AthFest, and for being the home of R.E.M. and the B-52s. Meanwhile, Augusta is the birthplace of James Brown, aka the Godfather of Soul.
“Every visit to Augusta should start at the Augusta Museum of History, home to the first major exhibition dedicated to James Brown,” says Emily Murray, senior communications specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The historic downtown is also worth a stroll, and make sure you stop and have your photo taken with Augusta’s life-sized James Brown statue.”
Book it: America As You Like It offers a seven-night Georgia package from £1,549pp based on two sharing room-only and including three nights in Atlanta, two nights in Athens, two nights in Macon, car hire and flights from Heathrow to Atlanta.
Chicago’s got the blues – and it’s delighted about it. The genre originally took root in America’s South, but it was Chicago that played the greatest role in its development, as rural African Americans moved here during the Great Migration looking for jobs, bringing their music with them.
The genre is arguably one of the most pioneering, influencing almost every style of music that’s followed it, from soul to R&B and rock ‘n’ roll.
“Opening next year, The Chicago Blues Experience will celebrate the artists and generations of musicians who have been influenced by the blues and carry on its traditions,” says Cory Jobe, state tourism director for Illinois.
Situated near Millennium Park, the vast centre will be filled with interactive displays, tributes to local legends and memorabilia, and comes complete with its own performance lounge.
Book it: Jetset offers a three-day package to Chicago from £129pp, excluding flights, based on two people sharing.
Created to help pass the time while working, Texan cowboy music also calmed cattle or encouraged them to move to pastures new. It was mostly sung a cappella or around the campfire with guitars and fiddles, with lyrics lamenting lonesome nights out in the wild.
Today, the Texan city of Austin is a hub for music, famed for being the live music capital of the world, and for hosting festivals including South by Southwest and Austin City Limits.
“Although perhaps less known to UK visitors, Lubbock in northwest Texas has more live music venues per capita than anywhere else,” says Tim Greathead, US product executive at Premier Holidays.
“It offers a thriving music scene and is the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly, so it’s definitely a must-visit for fans.”
Book it: Premier Holidays offers a five-night fly-drive to Austin and Lubbock from £1,249pp, including three nights in Austin, two nights in Lubbock, car hire and flights from Heathrow.
The birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll is where stars including BB King, Booker T and Elvis Presley started out. Clients can begin their musical journey in Memphis’ many cultural institutions, including Stax Museum, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Sun Studios, where countless legends recorded tracks.
Make sure clients spend an evening in the music clubs of thriving Beale Street, where the likes of Aretha Franklin and Roy Orbison performed. Then, of course, there’s Graceland, offering fascinating insight into the bizarre and captivating world of Elvis Presley.
“The Guest House at Graceland reflects Elvis’ personal style and the unique character of Graceland,” says Laura Kirton, product executive at First Class Holidays. “For those who loved the King this is the perfect hotel stay, where guests enjoy royal treatment and world-class amenities that would have made Elvis proud.”
Book it: First Class Holidays has a 13-day Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rockets and Elvis self-drive trip from £1,429pp including accommodation and car rental.
■ Country-music crazy Nashville.
■ Latin-loving Miami.
■ Grungy guitars and lyrics in Seattle.
■ Motown in Motor City, Detroit.
■ Native American music in Bismark.