Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mississippi Blues Trail

The Mississippi Blues Trail is an ongoing project to recognize some of the most iconic blues artists and showcase historical sites on the growth of blues throughout Mississippi. Over 180 blues markers are located in the state. Scott loves blues music so during our holiday break we decided to embark in a new adventure and take a road trip through Mississippi. I will say that even if you are not a die hard blues fan, this is an incredible trip through the state. We went to places we had never been, met some wonderful people, and ate great food!  
Stumbled upon this cute restaurant and wanted to stop here for lunch but they were already closed. 
 We didn't have a set agenda but Scott did have an idea on where he wanted to go. A couple weeks before we left, he downloaded the Mississippi Blues Trail app for his Ipad and got a general idea on a route. Once we arrived into Mississippi we stopped at the vistors center in Woodville, picked up a state map and visitors guide book and started our adventure. I highly recommend the MS Blues Trail app. It shows all the blues markers, background of the artists, videos and you can create your own itinerary. 

Our first stop in Mississippi was in Natchez to visit a few blues markers. Driving into town we came across the Dunleith Historic Inn so stopped to walk around. 
After visting the Dunleith, we walked around the historic downtown and found our first blues marker for Bud Scott. He lead one of the most popular dance bands in Mississippi in the early 1900's.
In 1940 one of the deadliest fires in American history occurred in Natchez. Over 200 people died included the bandleader Walter Barnes and nine of his members of the orchestra.
We stumbled upon this restaurant and immediately were drawn by the smell of BBQ.
This place was fantastic!!
 After lunch, we headed an hour north to Vicksburg to see the Willie Dixon marker.
The Blue Room was one of the most popular night spots of the South. Ray Charles, Fats Domino, BB King, Louis Armstrong and Little Milton were among some of the artists who performed there.
  Headed 45 minutes north to Rolling Fork, population of 2,100 people, the birthplace of McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters. 
 Our last destination for the day was Greenville. We planned on listening to some blues that evening on Walnut Street but unfortunately they were closed. When we checked into our hotel a guest told us we must go to the original Doe's Eat Place for dinner. He said it is an experience we will never forget!

Doe's Eat Place was established in 1941 in this little house. When you walk into the front door you actually walk into the kitchen. After saying hello to the kitchen crew you walk into the next room which is another kitchen and restaurant. There are no menus because they only offer 5 items. (10 oz Filet, Ribeye, Porterhouse, Sirloin or Shrimp) There are newspaper clippings of the restaurant and pictures of famous people covering the walls, the tables are different styles all covered with vinyl table cloths and the ladies in the kitchen are laughing and singing. The gentlemen at the hotel was right, it was an experience we will never forget. But most importantly the food was fantastic!!
The view from our table.
Enjoying breakfast at our hotel the next morning we met Miss Belvis. Ironically she is from Columbus, OH and her children are still in Columbus. Of course I had to have a photo with her and Brutus.  

Day Two in Mississippi...
Just outside Greenville is Leland where Johnny Winter was born.  
Next we headed to Indianola to go to the BB King Museum along with many blues markers around the town. Grave site for Charley Patton, in Holly Ridge, just outside Indianola.
The BB King Museum was really well done. Having worked at House of Blues I had the opportunity to see BB King perform several times so it was great to learn more about his life from hardship to triumph.
Located on the corner of 2nd Street and Church street is a dedicated blues marker for BB King called B.B.'s Corner.  This corner he often played for tips as a young man. 
Club Ebony, which is still open, featured some of the world's greatest blues artists.  
About 20 minutes south of Indianola is Belzoni, known as the Catfish Capital of the World. In addition to the three blues markers in the town, we planned to tour the Catfish Museum and of course have catfish for lunch.
The Catfish Museum had handcrafted exhibits along with a video presentation showing the complete life of a catfish from fingerling to frying pan! The town also took the idea from other cities and had the Catfish on Parade. There are 42 beautifully painted catfish sculptures throughout Belzoni all painted by local artists.
The town was pretty quiet and there were not a lot of people walking around so we walked into the Guaranty Bank of Belzoni to ask if they could recommend a place to eat catfish. What we thought would be a quick 30 second interaction turned into 20 minutes talking to the entire staff at the bank and some locals who were banking. They could not get over Scott and I traveling around Mississippi stopping in all these random towns. It is unexpected moments like this that really make for a great trip and wonderful memories! We ended up going to The Varsity for catfish, on their recommendation, and loved it!!
After filling our bellies with catfish we headed back north about 20 miles to Berclair to see BB King's birthplace. We knew his home was no longer there but wanted to see the blues marker. To get there, we drove out on a country dirt road for about 10 miles. No much out there now other than cotton plantations.
Passed this very yellow home on our way to BB King's blues marker.  
It was quite beautiful with the sunset as we left Berclair on our way to Greenwood.
We originally planned on spending the night in Greenwood but decided to just stop at Robert Johnson's blues marker and then drive to Clarksdale for the night. Clarksdale was only another 45 minutes heading west and there was several places we wanted to see the next day.

Robert Johnson's blues marker is located at a cemetery with nothing around it but fields. Since we arrived at dark it was pretty comical of us trying to find his tombstone.
Day two in Mississippi as come to an end and we arrived into Clarksdale. Ground Zero Blues Club is one of the most popular clubs in the city. It is also co-owned by Morgan Freeman, a Mississippi native.  We did a lot of driving the past two days so we were definitely ready to unwind for the night. 
We stayed at this wonderful Bed and Breakfast called The Clark House.  

Day three in Mississippi...
In the morning we headed to the Delta Blues Museum. The museum is packed with memorabilia and artifacts. 
Outside shot of Ground Zero Blues Club.
Another popular blues club called Red's.
WROX Radio was Clarksdale's first radio station.
Blues legend has it that Robert Johnson met the Devil at the crossroads and this is where he got his talent to play the guitar. It is said it took place at the intersection of Highway 61 and 49, which are two main highways through the Delta. The roads have moved and they don't meet where they used to but there is a dedicated intersection, close to Highway 61 and 49, in Clarksdale.
Hopson Plantation, another popular place to hear blues and experience the history. 
One of the Blues Brothers cars from the movie.
Miss Shelia, from the bank in Belzoni, also told us about the Shack Up Inn which is located next to the Hopson Plantation. It consists of 10 former sharecropper shacks that are updated with indoor plumbing and air-conditioning. If we ever get to Clarksdale again we will definitely stay at this place.  

This "building" is where you check in and has a restaurant / bar.
The shacks!
 Before we left Clarksdale we stopped at Abe's BBQ for lunch and to try their famous BBQ sauce. Yet another great meal.
John Lee Hooker, one of the most successful blues singers, spent his earlier years with his family in Vance.
Our last stop in Mississippi is Tupelo, Elvis Presley's Birthplace and Museum. It is 2 hours east of Clarksdale on the other side of the state. 
 Scott hanging out on the front porch of Elvis's two-room shack where he spent his early years.  
Our trip through Mississippi has come to an end. I would highly recommend anyone who appreciates the blues and is looking for a fun and unique trip to spend time traveling through Mississippi. We only traveled on the east side of the state (River and Delta regions) so Scott and I have talked about going back and spending time on the west side (Pines and Hills region).

After Tupelo we headed to Memphis, TN to hang out on Beale Street and of course, listen to some more blues music!
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