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Road Trippin 

A ride through some of the wildest, coolest, strangest and most interesting musical landmarks of the Southeast

Join us, won't you, on a twisted musical travelogue of the Southeast. Over the years, a lot has happened in this cluster of states, from Florida up to Virginia and over to Tennessee. How about, for starters, the birth and rearing of blues, country and rock ´n' roll? That in itself establishes the Southeast as the nexus for the development of American popular music.Some of our most important musicians were born or made their mark here. They've gotten drunk, stoned, laid, jailed, beaten up, broken down, schooled, discovered, inspired and adored here. They've crashed and burned, and even died here.

For our itinerary, we searched through the wild world of pop history to find a series of musical events, from watershed moments to tasty trivialities. We skipped the typical stuff — Elvis walking into Sun Studios — and opted mostly for the arcane (Hank Williams copping dope), the mythical (Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil) and the plain bizarre (James Brown going on a shotgun rampage). Taken as a whole, it's something of a snapshot of the Southeast's rich musical heritage. Hop in. Let's get going.

- Eric Snider

Hairy Situation

Vanilla Ice's album titles are telling. The rapper's 1990 debut, To the Extreme, spoke to his meteoric rise to stardom, and 1998's Hard to Swallow was an implicit acknowledgement of his wack-assedness. By the time Ice's Bipolar hit record store shelves (and soon dollar bins) in 2001, anyone who still cared could've assumed he was dealing with some mood issues, and sure enough, on Jan. 3 of that year, Ice (nee Robert Van Winkle) was arrested for pulling out a plug of his wife Laura Giarritta's hair. Though he doesn't deny it, Ice did offer a motive of sorts, saying that he did it to prevent Giarritta from jumping out of the truck he was driving. Maybe it was his effort to finally get some pimps-up, 'hos-down street cred. But at that point, none of us gave a shit.

- Mark Sanders

Blind Ambition

There's a scene in the biopic Ray, where the young Mr. Charles tries to join an all-white country band, but is first given a lot of flak by the band's racist leader. It made for a good movie moment. But according to Charles' own autobiography, Brother Ray, this wasn't the way things really went down. Charles actually hooked up with the group, called the Florida Playboys, in 1948 after meeting one of the members at Tampa's Arthur Smith Music Store. From there, things were all good. Charles pulled in about $20 a night playing the piano and sometimes taking the mic. "I was accepted and applauded along with everyone else," Charles wrote. "A lot of the black/white thing in the South was caused by white men worrying 'bout black cats fucking with their women. Since I couldn't see ... I wasn't much of threat. In their minds, there was no way I could be checking over their little ladies."

- Craig Seymour

Hey Man, Nice Shot
On July 31, 1955, during his second trip to Tampa, 20-year-old Elvis Presley hit the stage at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory as part of a variety show fundraiser for Tampa's Sertoma Club. Though still relatively unknown outside the South, Elvis was a hot commodity in the region because of his early Sun Studios singles. The shows were booked by a savvy promoter with Tampa connections named Colonel Tom Parker. Parker, who would go on to control every aspect of Elvis' career, was convinced that the young rock 'n' roll singer would be "the biggest thing in show business." He even hired a Tampa photographic company, Robertson & Fresh, to document the shows. One of the shots ended up on the cover of Elvis' eponymous debut.

- Scott Harrell

Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, 506 N. Howard Ave.

She Looked like She'd Been Trampled by Horses
It was Jan. 23, 1977, and punk queen Patti Smith was in the midst of a tour, rather improbably opening for the shit-hot Bob Seger. Smith, known for her energetic performances, worked up such a frenzy that she spun off the stage. (The exact venue has been lost, but given Seger's popularity at the time, our money's on the old Tampa Stadium.) She fractured two vertebrae in her neck, and required 22 stitches at a local hospital to close her lacerations. Smith largely spent the rest of the year recuperating. But she did find time to make a few hometown appearances in New York City (wearing a neck brace), write her fifth book of poetry, Babel, and compose several of the songs that would comprise 1978's Easter album, her biggest commercial success.

- Scott Harrell

"Satisfaction" Guaranteed

On May 6, 1965 — four nights after they played the Ed Sullivan Show for the second time — the Rolling Stones rolled into Clearwater for a concert at the Jack Russell Stadium. But the show didn't go as they planned. The Stones hit the stage, before a crowd of about 3,000, and performed four songs when a couple hundred teenage boys tried to crash through a line of Clearwater cops. The kids tried to tear up the place, throwing rolls of toilet paper and tossing chairs onto the field. The band fled the stage to a white station wagon, which was then chased by fans. The Stones were spirited away to the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel downtown, where, later that night, Keith Richards woke up with the fabled "Satisfaction" guitar riff in his head. He quickly committed it to tape, and then returned to the sack. The next morning, he came up with the vocal hook, "I can't get no satisfaction." But far from recognizing it as a future rock classic, Keith was initially underwhelmed by his new creation. Nevertheless, that same year, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" went on to reach No. 1 on the pop charts and stayed there for four weeks. On a side note, the hotel, now called the Fort Harrison, currently serves as the "worldwide spiritual headquarters" of the Church of Scientology.

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