Go East, Young Man

On the recommendation of my friend, Karen Bell, my first destination of the day was Mountain View, Arkansas, a small jewel of a town tucked in the northern Ozarks. Like Guthrie, Mountain View is another one of those Glenn Ohrlinhappening little communities one comes across in the Midwest. It is filled with artists, craftspeople, and musicians. Though nothing was going the day I was there, I couldnít help but notice the circle of chairs in front of many of the businesses that rimmed the town square. This, smiled I, is sho 'nuff pickiní country. Indeed, during the summer months, Mountain View hosts a slew of acoustic music festivals, when the population might swell from 2000 to 20000, with visitors camped all over town. Although it sounds like something of a zoo, I hear that the locals are cool with that and I say great. A cowboy singer friend of mine, Glenn Ohrlin, has lived in Mountain View for decades. Strange place to find a cowboy? Well, you have to meet Glenn.

Then it was on down through the rest of Arkansas, across the mighty Mississippi, and on into Memphis, Tennessee, home of Sun Studios and Graceland. As the afternoon was wearing on, I had to choose between two cultural icons: Sam Philips or Elvis. E won out.

GracelandUnlike the Beverly Hillsí mansions so painstakingly hidden from the public, Graceland sits in plain view right smack dab on a busy commercial boulevard. Elvis didnít hide his success. It is somewhat interesting that he Graceland interiorchose to keep his permanent home in Memphis, not the most glamorous of cities. It wouldíve seemed logical for him to move out to LA -- or at least to Nashville, just up the interstate apiece. In truth, he did spend quite a bit of time in Los Angeles, but always came home to Graceland.

While Graceland is rightfully referred to as a mansion, itís not an exceptionally large one. But compared to the tiny house in Tupelo where Elvis was born and raised, it mustíve seemed like the White House when, just twenty-one, he first stepped Elvis graveinside. The over-the-top, garish interior decorations are pure Elvis and whisk you right back to the 70s. It was interesting to see the film clips of him cavorting about the grounds on horseback. There was a cowboy somewhere in Elvis. Too bad he didnít stay in the saddle. Vaya con dios, E.

The sun was sinking fast as I jumped onto yet another of the dread interstates (40 this time) and headed out across Tennessee. It was well after dark when I pulled into the Ontiverosí place near the Swiss-flavored town of Howenwald. I had gotten acquainted with Little Joe and Elaine at The Home Ranch, where both worked before retiring the previous year. Now, along with Elaineís sisters and spouses, they share a rambling living complex that was originally intended as senior citizensí home. It is exceptionally lovely, with plenty of room for all, even roving cowboy singers. After a fine dinner I warbled a few tunes for an appreciate audience. Hey, Iíll always sing for my supper and a soft bed.

Next: Nashville. The Big Time.


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