Road Trip with All-American Musical Theme

Roger Petterson
March 3, 2009 - 1:35AM

It's always time for a road trip getaway, and a good road trip always needs music. So gas up your car (before the prices rise again) and get your ears in shape for a trek through the Delta, the region of rich soil and King Cotton along the west side of the state of Mississippi that helped shape the blues.

The basic route to follow is the Mississippi Delta Great River Road _ http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/64069/ _ part of the National Scenic Byways Program. It follows state Route 1 along the river from a point north of Clarksdale south to Vicksburg, passing through towns where you can stop to hear music, visit museums and just soak up the atmosphere. By the way, the photos on this Web site aren't much, but you'll need the map.

Heading south from the Delta road's starting point, take a jog to the left to visit the city of Clarksdale and the Delta Blues Museum _ http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org/ _ where exhibits include part of Muddy Waters' cabin home from his days as a sharecropper, plus mementos of other blues greats. Click on "Plan Your Visit" for a bit of background on why Clarksdale is important to the blues culture, and for "Where to Hear Music and Festival Info" on some of the few remaining spots to hear live blues in the Delta. One festival they list is the Juke Joint Festival _ http://www.jukejointfestival.com/ _ in April.

Get back on Route 1 and head to Rosedale, or just take U.S. 61 south to Cleveland _ http://www.visitclevelandms.com/home.html _ which styles itself the Crossroads of Culture in the Delta. Click on "Blues" to learn more about the background of the music in the area, and check out "Special Events." Then hit "Attractions" for details on Rosedale, which says it is mentioned in "Travelin' Riverside Blues" by legendary blues pioneer Robert Johnson. Before you move on, stop by their "History" section to learn about the events that shaped the area's culture.

Head back to Route 1 again and head for Greenville _ http://www.visitgreenville.org/ _ where the "Festivals & Events" calendar includes blues and jazz festivals in the summer. You might want to stay long enough to try one of the suggested local itineraries, including a full-day schedule of strolling and sightseeing. It's also the home of the Highway 61 Blues Museum & Festival _ http://www.highway61blues.com/ _ and you can click on "Links" to find casinos; wildlife refuges; the Delta Fair, Balloon Festival and Car Show; and the Mississippi River Trail.

The Delta road continues south along Route 1 to U.S. 61 and then to Vicksburg _ http://www.vicksburgcvb.org/ _ a historic river city with numerous 19th century homes and other buildings. There's so much to see that they provide a directory of outfits that provide guided tours; look on the left side of the page for "Historic Tours," then look there again for "Scenic Drive" with instructions for do-it-yourself driving tours.

Want more places to visit in the Delta? Visit Live from the Birthplace of American Music _ http://www.birthplaceoftheblues.com/ _ and look for "Blues Landmarks" to find a map. And the Delta Center for Culture and Learning has a Web poster _ http://www.blueshighway.org/BluesPoster09.pdf _ with dates of blues festivals all year long in Mississippi.

For a broader view of the Delta, with info on golf courses and other things to see and do in the towns and counties, go to the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association _ http://www.visitthedelta.com/ _ which also provides a short photo gallery. "Touring the Delta" has suggestions for other road trip itineraries, and "Events" has dates for everything from music to car shows to food festivals.

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