Memphis - New Orleans

After Memphis, we’re heading for jazzy New Orleans. But we’re not really done with the blues just yet. First stop on the way south is Clarksdale, Mississippi. We follow the Blues Highway, Route 61, for about 60 miles into Mississippi. Initially we plan to start driving Monday morning, but we might leave on Sunday evening and spend the night in Clarksdale.

Clarksdale is called “the birthplace of the blues”, and is home to the Delta Blues Museum. Muddy Waters and Ike Turner were born here, John Lee Hooker was from the neighborhood, and many other famous blues legends were from the area.

Crossroads, Clarksdale, courtesy of Donna/luv2run
Crossroads, Clarksdale, courtesy of Donna/luv2run

But the one Delta blues musician placing Clarksdale on the map is Robert Johnson. He died young, 27 years old, in 1938, but still had time to achieve a reputation as one of the greatest bluesmen of the delta. According to the myth (and helped by several of his songs), he sold his soul to the devil in return for the gift to play the blues, and the event is said to have taken place at midnight at the junction of Highway 61 and 49 in Clarksdale. There are many crossroads in the Delta area, but the Mississippi Visitors Bureau has marked the “official” crossroads location at the intersection of Highway 61 and 49 - and we’ll stop by like all the other rubbernecks..

The actor Morgan Freeman owns a restaurant and a blues club in Clarksdale, and while Madidi (the restaurant) seems a little too fashionable for two humble travelers, we might very well check out his Ground Zero Blues club.

While in Clarksdale, we could also visit the Riverside Hotel (former hospital where Bessie Smith died after a car crash) - or stop by the Cat Head Delta Blues &amp Folk Art, Inc. If we end up leaving Memphis on Sunday to spend the night in Clarksdale, we could consider bunking at the authentic sharecropper shacks of Shack Up Inn. It might be a little too authentic for our delicate taste, but might nevertheless be a place we ought to stop by for a little photo shoot.

Cadillac Shack, Shack Up Inn, courtesy of Abby Ladybug
Cadillac Shack, Shack Up Inn, courtesy of Abby Ladybug

After spending some time in Clarksdale, we continue south through Mississippi towards New Orleans. On the way down we might stop by Itta Bena, where B.B.King was born, and continue past Jackson - or go by Vicksburg to Natchez (the oldest settlement on the Mississippi river, known for its many antebellum mansions and estates, buildt by 19th century plantation owners, who would often own farmland in Louisiana but locate their homes on the higher ground in Mississippi).

But - by monday night we ought to have reached New Orleans, so we’ll see what we’ll find time for!

Got tips? Comments? Do tell!