Ray Charles. Otis Redding. James Brown. Gladys Knight. All of the Pips. Little Richard. Lil Jon. Alan Jackson. Trisha Yearwood. Travis Tritt. Robert Cray. The Black Crowes. The Indigo Girls. The B-52s. R.E.M. OutKast. And let’s not forget the outside-the-mainstream greats including jazz pioneer Fletcher “Smack” Henderson, Ma “The Mother of Blues” Rainey and Mattiwilda Dobbs, who died just last year after becoming the first black opera singer to perform at La Scala in Italy. Georgians all.
The Peach State has long been a nurturing cradle of original sound, the birthplace of all the above (what a list!) and more. And the beat goes on in Savannah, whose marinas offer walking or taxi access to some of the most soulful, rousing and raucous performances you’ll find anywhere. Tie up, grab a bite and wait for the sun to go down. That’s when the volume cranks up.
If you’re in the mood for crowd-pleasing requests, head to Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos. It’s just what the name suggests in terms of music, and they welcome boat-worn flip-flops while offering 50 types of beer and 70 kinds of bourbon. If you’ve had a rough ocean passage en route to Savannah by day, then start your night here with the Dr. Feel Good shot.
If you’re more the type to seek out the next great sound, then head instead to the Congress Street Social Club. Its featured acts on any given night range from The Southern Belles (funky Southern psychedelic rock) to Kota Mundi (reggae-rock fusion).
For more classic-style performances, try the Jazz’d Tapas Bar. It books single-name acts and duos, and serves them up with a menu of flavored martinis, wines, ports and more. Jazz’d is probably also the only bar in Savannah serving truffle frites, escargot-stuffed tomatoes and Mediterranean lamb chops.
I don’t know about you, but thinking about all the options, I’m right back where I started, with Ray Charles and the state song of Georgia. I’ve definitely now got her on my mind — with Savannah as a must-add waypoint.
The open-air sheds at River Street Marketplace are recreations of structures that lined the Savannah River in the 1800s. Today, watching the boats cruise past means seeing all kinds of craft, but it’s easy to imagine schooners landing here with bags of coffee and sugar.
The Trustees Theater is owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design. It has 1,200 seats and hosts everything from film screenings to live shows. When the theater reopened in 1998 after renovations, the legendary Tony Bennett performed here.
That’s the nickname of Tybee Island,which has ocean-facing and riverfront beaches alike. Bring the kayaks from your boat to explore the salt marshes (bird-watchers, grab your binoculars too).
River Street Sweets still uses the same praline recipe that made the shop famous in the late 1970s: cream, butter, sugar and fresh Georgia pecans. Classic, chocolate and mini versions are now on the menu.