Our World Explore America's music history with Matt Layton

Photo of Stephen Scourfield

From New Orleans to Memphis and Nashville. From jazz to blues to country. America’s music cities tell their story through song, and who better to guide visitors through the classic sounds of the States than radio host Matt Layton.

Matt is SpiritFM radio station’s Spirit Drive afternoon show host, airing through much of WA.

We have worked together on Talking Travel, Spirit Drive’s travel segment, for about three years.

And there’s a very big radio moment during the tour you are leading to America’s Music Cities. For the travellers will visit Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, where hundreds of stars have played… Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Howlin Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Costello, Foo Fighters and John Butler Trio to name just a few.

It is also the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, the world’s longest-running radio program. Visiting will be a highlight for Matt, who started his own radio station, 104.1 Rock FM in a spare bedroom when he was 11 and went on to his first professional job at 2GB 873, Sydney’s top radio station, when he was 21.

Matt says: “I have always loved music. It’s always been a part of me.” And so this is a poignant journey to the roots of so much of contemporary music.

It’s a great opportunity to travel with Matt, and his colleague Dillo, a SpiritFM presenter in Bunbury.

The America’s Music Cities tour is in partnership with our trusted friends at Collette — which couldn’t be better. This is a third-generation American family company.

The tour is eight days, with 10 meals included, and from $6295 per person, twin share — including flights from Perth, accommodation… and all those experiences.

It departs on November 3 this year.

All the details are at westtravelclub.com.au.


The Ryman story

The Ryman Auditorium’s roots are tangled up in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

With the railroads in disrepair, freight had to be moved on the region’s big rivers, and steamboat entrepreneurs made a killing — among them riverboat captain Tom Ryman.

As fortunes rose, plying the Mississippi and Cumberland rivers, he met evangelist Sam Jones at a “tent revival”.

Sam had been a talented young lawyer who fell into drinking ways, until one day he saw himself in a bar room mirror. In his own words: “I saw my hair matted, the filth and vomit on my clothes, one of my eyes totally closed and my lips swollen. And I said ‘is that all that is left of the proud and brilliant lawyer Sam Jones’.”

He cried out, fell to the bar room floor, stood up a new man — shaved, bathed, bought new clothes and went home to his wife and children.

He set out to spread the world and was a powerful speaker credited with converting around half a million people to Christianity.

When Tom Ryman saw him in Nashville, he was inspired and offered Sam a down-payment on what became the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

Tom stopped selling liquor and stopped gambling on his boats, yet still became, reputedly, the biggest entrepreneur in the south. He built a mansion overlooking the Cumberland River in Nashville.

When Tom died in 1904, Sam gave the eulogy and proposed changing the Union Gospel Tabernacle’s name to the Ryman Auditorium.

Forty years later, the Grand Ole Oprey radio show moved into the auditorium and from 1943 to 1974 the Ryman was synonymous with country music.

(Top image: Matt Layton. Picture: Stephen Scourfield)


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