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ON the ROAD with CHRIS EPTING
Author & cultural historian
Chris EptingChris Epting is an accomplished roadtripper, cultural historian, and the author of eight books including James Dean Died Here, Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here, Roadside Baseball, and Elvis Presley Passed Here. He is a regular contributor to a variety of travel publications and the spokesperson and co-creator for the Hampton Inn's "Hidden Landmarks" program. Originally from New York, Chris now lives in Huntington Beach, California, with his wife Jean and their two children.

DANCING IN THE STREETS... OF NEW YORK
by Chris Epting
[HOW TO VISIT THE SITES IN THIS STORY]

The birth of Rock and Roll
may have taken place in Memphis (or Cleveland), but New York City can still claim many great landmarks tied to what Muddy Water's referred to as "the baby that the blues had" -- rock and roll.

PUT YOUR GLAD RAGS ON…

In April of 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets
entered the Pythian Temple Studios to record the seminal rock and roll classic "Rock Around the Clock," which held down the Number One spot for eight weeks and went on to sell 45 million copies worldwide. Bill Haley, who performed on the revival circuit throughout the 1960s and 70s, did get to see his signature song become a U.S. hit for the second time in 1974 when "Rock Around the Clock" appeared on the soundtrack for both the George Lucas film "American Graffiti" and the hit TV show "Happy Days." Back then this building, located at 135 West 70th street, was a meeting hall for the Knights of Pythias, and Decca Records used the building's ballroom as a recording studio. The building still maintains its odd, temple-like appearance, but it is now a condo.


Sniffen Court, immortalized on the Doors' "Stange Days" album

 

 

YOU CAN'T JUDGE AN ALBUM BY ITS COVER…

Two of the most iconic album cover photos in history
were shot on the streets of New York . The Doors' classic "Strange Days" was photographed at 150-158 east 36th street between Lexington and Third Avenue -- what is called Sniffen Court. A surreal photo with circus performers, the image helped make this one of the band's most memorable efforts. The courtyard was built in 1863 and 1864 as stables, and converted to housing in the 1910s. Led Zeppelin also created album cover magic, downtown in New York's east village. An old brownstone at 96 St. Mark's Place served as the cover for the band's 1975 album, "Physical Graffiti." This is also the building where Keith Richards sat with a bunch of Rastafari waiting for Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones' 1981 video, "Waiting on a Friend."

TO BE ON YOUR OWN... A COMPLETE UNKNOWN


161 West Fourth Street: Dylan's apartment building

 

New York is laced with many sites related to the early career of the great Bob Dylan. The White Horse Tavern at 567 Hudson Street is an 18th century bar that was a popular Dylan haunt back in 1961. (It's also famous as the place where the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas ate his last meal before drinking himself to death.) The second oldest bar in New York City, it was founded in 1880. Nearby at 161 West Fourth Street is where Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo first lived together. Outside the apartment in the middle of West Fourth Street, Dylan and Suze were photographed together in February 1963 for the cover of "The Freewheelin'" Bob Dylan album.

THE KING IN NEW YORK

While never fully based in New York, Elvis Presley did brush up against many places in the city. At the old RCA Studios at 55 East 24th Street, Presley recorded "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Blue Suede Shoes" in the mid-1950's. (Today there are classrooms where Studio A used to be.) It was at the former "Tonight Show" theater where Elvis famously performed the song "Hound Dog" -- to a dog. The Hudson Theater, where Steve Allen's "Tonight Show" emanated from still stands at 1145 west 44th street. As well, whenever Elvis stayed in New York he could be found at the elegant Warwick Hotel, his home base in the city, located at 65 West 54th Street.


The cast of "All Shook Up"

 

Continuing on an Elvis note -- thankfully, the spirit of Presley and his brand of rock and roll still beats loud and clear in New York, in the form of a new Broadway musical called "All Shook Up." "All Shook Up" officially premieres on March 24, 2005 at Broadway's Palace Theatre. For more information, please visit www.allshookup.com.

Chris Epting
March 13, 2005

 

GETTING AROUND:

New York is still one of the great walking cities in the U.S., and most of these sights are can be visited in a couple of fairly easy strolls. The Doors album cover, the "Tonight Show" theater, the old RCA Studios, the Warwick and the Palace Theater are all in midtown Manhattan. The Zeppelin cover and Dylan sites are close to each other in lower Manhattan (easily reached from midtown in a few subway stops or quick cab ride) and only the Bill Haley site reaches out a bit farther up on the west side. Still, it's just a few subway or bus stops though, or a nice walk on a pleasant day (figure about a mile for 20 street blocks).

West Side Map (Pythian Temple area)

Midtown Manhattan Street Map

Lower Manhattan Street Map

Subway Map

The Bob Dylan Village Walking Tour

Ferry Map to Midtown

Manhattan Neighborhoods

 


 

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