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10 Great American Music Landmarks

Whether it’s the famed spots where rock and country icons created legendary hits or new locations to wallow in pop culture, these are the music meccas that every fan wants to visit

Broadway is major thoroughfare in Nashville, Tennessee. It includes Lower Broadway, a renowned entertainment district for country music.

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In truth, every state in the union has a location that would attract a music lover looking to find the source of inspiration to their favorite songs or musicians.From Southern touchstones to museums that have collected instruments and iconography, these are 10 of the spots that aficionados and novices alike flock to when they want to learn more about the roots of the country’s music origins.

The legendary crossroads of highways 49 and 61 outside Clarksdake, Mississippi. In the juke joints around Clarksdale, Mississippi, Robert Johnson was known as the kid who could barely play the guitar he often carried. Stories are told of musicians inviting Johnson to join them on stage, knowing that, before he got very far, the audience would be laughing. He disappeared for a while. When he returned, no one who heard him could believe he was the same man. He blew everyone away, playing the songs that would make him famous, among them "Cross Road Blues" and "Me and the Devil Blues." Rumours started and a myth was born: Johnson did a deal with the devil here at the crossroads of highways 49 and 61 and sold his soul in return for his musical abilities. | Location: Clarksdake, MS, USA. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images

The Crossroads (Clarksdale, Miss.)

The crossroads where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil is a real, functioning intersection in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Marked by a big sign with three painted guitars, the busy intersection of Highway 61 and Highway 49 is a must-stop destination for any music fan interested in tracing the history of rock & roll. The entire Mississippi Delta is filled with countless must-see destinations for music fans, but even in Clarksdale alone, blues lovers can also visit the Delta Blues Museum, open since the 70’s, the birthplaces of Sam Cooke and Ike Turner, and the former home of Muddy Waters. Fans who want to spend the night can stay at Clarksdale’s historic Riverside Hotel, where artists like Howlin Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson used to stay. —JONATHAN BERNSTEIN

CHANHASSEN, MN - NOVEMBER 02: General view of the "Under the Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge" Room of Prince's Paisley Park Museum during a media preview tour on November 2, 2016 in Chanhassen, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Paisley Park (Chanhassen, Minnesota)

Paisley Park, a 65-thousand-square-foot complex constructed in in Chanhassen, Minnesota for $10 million in 1987, served as Prince’s recording sanctuary, raucous party space and personal residence all at once. When he died in 2016, the complex was turned into a museum, a process overseen by the same organization that cares for Elvis Presley’s Graceland. It’s a remarkable window into the life of an artist who was notoriously good at keeping the public at arm’s length. The complex contains thousands and thousands of Prince’s possessions, including 2,000 pairs of shoes — mostly ankle boots with three-inch heels — over 100 guitars, notebooks overflowing with lyrics, the singer’s treasured Walkman, the ping-pong table where he challenged visitors to fierce games and some pet doves. (Yep, Prince kept a pair of pet doves, Divinity and Majesty, while he was alive.) A mural traces both the star’s influences — Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell — and his web of influence, extending to collaborators like Sheila E. and the New Power Generation. The preservation is remarkable, though not everything is exactly as it was: For safety reasons, the candles that Prince left strewn around the house have been replaced with artificial ones. —ELIAS LEIGHT

People enter Sun Studio for a visit in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 28, 2015. Sun Studio, a recording studio where rock and roll, country music, and rockabilly artists, including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Ray Harris, Warren Smith, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded throughout the mid-to-late 1950s since its opening by rock pioneer Sam Phillips on January 3, 1950. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Sun Studio (Memphis, Tennessee)

This unassuming brick building situated on the busy Memphis thoroughfare Union Avenue may very well be the place where rock & roll was born. As the popular version of the story goes, Jackie Brenson and the Delta Cats cut their “Rocket 88” there in 1951 and used a raunchy guitar tone that was caused by a damaged amplifier, creating what is arguably the first rock record in the process. Regardless, producer Sam Phillips’ studio — originally named Memphis Recording Service — witnessed an incredible period of transition and reinvention in musical history, playing host to Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and Junior Parker and capturing early rock and country icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins as they put their stamp on a wild new sound. It still hosts the occasional session all these years later — recent guests include Margo Price and Elle King. —JON FREEMAN

Electric Lady Studios

Electric Lady Studios (New York City)

Fifty years ago, Jimi Hendrix used some of the proceeds from his new stardom to buy a defunct rock club in New York’s West Village and transform it into a psychedelic studio playground. He only got to record there briefly before his death in 1970, but the legend of Electric Lady has only grown since then. Today, it’s one of the coolest studios in the world, with plaques on the wall that reflect the marquee names who have recorded here — from Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and David Bowie to Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Lana Del Rey. For many fans, the key to Electric Lady’s mystique is the late-Nineties, early-2000s era in which it became an unofficial home base for the neo-soul-leaning artists known as the Soulquarians: D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, The Roots’ Things Fall Apart and Common’s Like Water For Chocolate were all recorded in large part here, carrying Hendrix’s cosmic torch into the future of hip-hop and R&B. —SIMON VOZICK-LEVINSON

 

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 20:  Attendees take in the Sky Church and Marvel visuals on screen during the opening night of the exhibit Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes at MoPop on April 20, 2018 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images for Museum of Pop Culture)

Jim Bennett/Getty Images

Museum of Pop Culture (Seattle)

This is the only museum to host both Kurt Cobain’s MTV Unplugged cardigan and Luke Skywalker’s severed hand from The Emperor Strikes Back. Formerly known as the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the simply renamed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) dedicates itself to music, science fiction, horror cinema and video games. Located next to the Space Needle, the museum proudly showcases Seattle’s music history with Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Pearl Jam exhibits, next to a mammoth sculpture of guitars and a Sound Lab where visitors can play instruments. It’s also where the new statue of hometown rock hero Chris Cornell was unveiled after his tragic death. The MoPOP also holds the annual Pop Conference, in which music writers, scholars and musicians hold lectures. —ANGIE MARTOCCIO

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (at 3614 Jackson Highway), Sheffield, Alabama, Sheffield, Alabama, 2010. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Muscle Shoals, Alabama

This small town in Northwest Alabama became the center of pop, rock and soul music-making in the 1960s and 1970s, with everyone from Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge to Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones making special trips to the Shoals to work with the unparalleled team of songwriters, producers and session-men who occupied the town’s two rivaling studios. Today, tourists can take tours of both of those studios: the original FAME Studios, located in a shopping center next to a CVS, is still a fully operational recording studio that offers daily tours. Five minutes away, the newly re-opened Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the studio opened up by the town’s famous session band, the Swampers, is now a museum. The town has never fully capitalized on its musical history, but that makes visiting the Shoals region all the more exciting, with its musical treasures quietly nestled amongst the town. In Nearby Florence, the new label Single Lock Records is carrying on the region’s rich musical history. —JONATHAN BERNSTEIN

A tour bus rounds the corner at Music Square East and Chet Atkins Place on Music Row in Nashville, Tenn., . The Curb Records building is seen in the backgroundMusic Row, Nashville, USA

A tour bus rounds the corner at Music Square East and Chet Atkins Place on Music Row in Nashville, Tenn., . The Curb Records building is seen in the background Music Row, Nashville, USA

Mark Humphrey/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Music Row, Nashville

Spanning a mile-long stretch of 16th and 17th Avenues South, Nashville’s Music Row is the historical seat of power for the country music industry. In the late Fifties, “Nashville Sound” pioneers Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were instrumental in helping the area flourish as they found crossover success with signature recordings by Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold. Studios, labels and publishing houses followed the gold rush to Music City and set up shop in the buildings and Craftsman-style houses that line the streets. Though some companies have migrated to other parts of Nashville in recent years, many others have remained in operation on the Row. RCA Studio A, founded in 1964 by Atkins with Owen and Harold Bradley, was given a last-minute reprieve from being demolished in 2014 and added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the facility is operated by producer Dave Cobb, who recorded Chris Stapleton’s Traveller there. —JON FREEMAN

People pose for pictures outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, . A new exhibit called "Power of Rock," opens July 1 and will give fans an taste of what it's like to be a star inducted at the Rock and Roll Hall of FameRock Hall Exhibit, Cleveland, USA - 29 Jun 2017

People pose for pictures outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, . A new exhibit called "Power of Rock," opens July 1 and will give fans an taste of what it's like to be a star inducted at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rock Hall Exhibit, Cleveland, USA - 29 Jun 2017

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, Ohio)

Since it opened its doors on Labor Day in 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been the home to rock’s most important archives and artifacts. Located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, the museum’s items range from Taylor Swift’s handwritten lyrics of “Welcome to New York” to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust suit to the plane debris Otis Redding tragically died in. Visitors can gaze at the guitar gallery, check out Alan Freed’s studio or step into a theater and catch a film that captures key inductions from the Hall of Fame over the years. —ANGIE MARTOCCIO

A fan takes a photo of herself at the Meditation Garden where Elvis Presley is buried alongside his parents and grandmother at his Graceland mansion on August 12, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee.Elvis Presley, American icon and King of rock n roll, transformed popular culture, sold over a billion records and is idolized as ever on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death.His Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee -- the second most famous home in the United States after the White House -- expects more than 50,000 people to descend for the biggest ever annual celebration of his life 40 years after his death aged 42 on August 16, 1977. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN / With AFP Story by Jennie MATTHEW: Elvis: 40 years since the death of an American icon (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Graceland (Memphis, Tennessee)

Elvis Presley purchased the property originally known as Graceland Farms in March 1957. He moved in later that year, shortly after his parents, and lived there for the rest of his life. The mansion, which stands on a 13.8-acre estate, opened to the public in 1982 and has since become America’s most legendary musical tourist attraction, hosting 600,000 visitors a year. Today, guests are treated to an iPad-equipped tour — hosted by none other than John Stamos — offering glimpses of Elvis’ parents’ bedroom, the pool room, a racquetball building and the famously kitschy Hawaiian-themed den known as the Jungle Room, where the icon made his final recordings. (In case you’re wondering, the infamous second-floor bathroom is off-limits.) Outside, you can even board the King’s custom airplane, the Lisa Marie. —HANK SHTEAMER

DETROIT - MAY 24:  Motown Museum (Hitsville U.S.A.), original home of Motown Records in Detroit, Michigan on May 24, 2018.  (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The Motown Museum (Detroit)

No institution did more in the 1960s to export soul music to the masses than Motown, and this museum sheds light on the modest beginnings of a label that thrived in Detroit until it relocated to L.A. in 1972. The centerpiece, near the city’s New Center neighborhood, is the unassuming white house — remember, this was an upstart indie label — that became known as Hitsville, complete with Studio A, where singers like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross sang their early hits, and the control room where recording engineers captured each impressive note. Elsewhere, visitors can find a piano that has each key covered with a piece of tape spelling out the note beneath, to help singers learn their scales, a case of costumes worn by the Supremes, one of Michael Jackson’s famous gloves and a restored version of the apartment of Motown founder Berry Gordy. As Robin Terry, CEO of the museum, puts it, “there’s no place else in the world where you can go and stand in the steps of musical icons — play the piano that Stevie Wonder played and stand at David Ruffin’s microphone. We’re allowing people to relive that.” Soon they will be able to relive it on a grander scale: The museum recently announced plans to expand to 50,000 square feet, meaning that there will be more space for items from its massive collection of memorabilia. —ELIAS LEIGHT