Before there was “rock”, there was “rock ‘n roll”. In the mid-60s, the “roll” bit slowly fell away, and today the broader genre is mainly known as rock music. The United States is generally considered to be the birthplace of rock and roll. And even if it wasn’t, even if some obscure town half a world over was in fact the first to hit the right beats on the right instruments, no country has had such a massive influence on the genre as the USA. Which means that this is the place you want to go to if you want to really delve into this musical world.
However, without proper preparation, you’ll find yourself in cities and towns that barely know what the genre means. You can also find yourself stranded at the airport if you don’t get your ESTA sorted out. There are specific places you want to head to and here we’ll go over three of the most important rock ‘n roll places in the USA.
Sun Studios, Memphis
You really can’t call yourself a fan of rock if you don’t know the importance of Memphis to the genre. Indeed, the city in Tennessee is often called the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. It boasts the very first rock ‘n roll song ever recorded, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. Sun Studios, at the time known as the Memphis Recording Service, was host to such illustrious figures like Elvis and Johnny Cash. Memphis has taken full advantage of its unique title as birthplace of rock ‘n roll. In additions to Sun Studios, you can find a wide variety of shops and museums dedicated to the genre, such as the Rock ‘n Soul Museum. You can also visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion where he lived until his death in 1977.
Woodstock Museum, New York
The Woodstock Rock Festival of 1969 was one of a kind. Many festivals have tried to replicate its breakout success but have found it impossible to capture the same feeling of those bygone days. Yet one place where this feeling still lingers is at the Woodstock Museum in New York. And this is no surprise, since it is located right on the site of the original festival. The museum has a host of interactive features and exhibits, and also delves into some lesser known aspects of Woodstock, such as the social and political background that gave rise to it.
Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
One would think that Memphis or maybe New York would be home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. They would be wrong, because the museum is located in Cleveland, Ohio. Whether you agree with the location or not, none can deny that Cleveland has a storied history when it comes to this music genre. Many consider Cleveland to have given rock ‘n roll its first real exposure by playing early tracks on the radio. Inside the museum you can find relics of rock history such as Elvis’ cars, handwritten lyrics, original clothing and many other things you won’t find anywhere else.
Getting an ESTA to travel to the USA
Any self-respecting fan of rock would want to see these places up close, and if you get the chance to do so, you naturally have to make the proper preparations. The distances between the three locations aren’t anything too outrageous for American standards, but they still take a decent chunk of time. But if you get yourself a good car and some nice music, the roadtrip itself will be an experience you’ll never forget. Renting a car in the USA comes with a number of requirements, such as certain age requirements and potentially even an international driving licence. And if you’re from the UK, always remember: right side of the road!
Another important thing that has to be arranged is applying for an ESTA travel permit. The ESTA is an electronic substitute for the standard US visa, but it is only available to citizens from countries that are included in America’s Visa Waiver Program. The United Kingdom is one of the included countries, which means that British travellers do not require a visa to travel to the USA. This saves both time and money, since an ESTA can be applied for online and costs a fair bit less than a visa. An ESTA does have stricter requirements, for instance with regard to your travel history. If your ESTA application is rejected, you still have to go to the embassy to get a visa.
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