When it comes to musical heritage, few places have more of it than the Deep South of the USA. The birthplace of a number of styles, including blues, jazz and country, and an even greater number of music stars, the region is a must-visit for anyone on a tour of the USA who likes to tap their feet to a good tune.
Even if you’re not a fan of those genres, they are the root of many of the other genres we listen to on a regular basis, including rock, pop and metal, so you’ll really be able to appreciate the pioneering work of the Deep South’s musicians.
One of the states right at the heart of the action was and still is Mississippi, where you can take both a blues and a country music trail, learning a huge amount about not only music, but the wider history of the state to boot.
Unless you’ve got a serious amount of dedication, it’s unlikely you’ll complete the entire Mississippi Blues Trail, simply because it’s got so many stop-off points (more than 100).
However, even by visiting just a small number of locations on the trail you’ll gain an understanding of the bluesmen and women of Mississippi and how the places and era in which they lived influenced their music.
The sites, including city streets, cotton fields, train depots, cemeteries, clubs and churches, are marked by impressive and appropriately coloured blue signs featuring text information about why the location is important to the history of the blues.
These include the birthplace of BB King, one of the most famous blues guitarists of all time, in the town of Berclair; the Edwards Hotel in Jackson, the site of temporary studios set up in 1935 to record blues artists such as Bo Carter, Robert Wilkins and Isaiah Nettles; and the site of the now defunct Trumpet Records, also in Jackson, which launched the careers of Elmore James and Willie Love.
Country Music Trail
Country music, like so many other genres, is a direct descendent of the blues, but unlike some of the other forms of blues-derived guitar-based music out there, it has its roots firmly planted in the Deep South.
And as for the blues, country has its own trail, this time marked by red information signs that are largely concentrated in the north of Mississippi.
Although not as numerous as the blues sites, the country music locations on the trail are no less interesting, focusing on the lives of individuals who defined the genre as opposed to places of note.
This includes exploring ‘Elvis Country’ in Tupelo; Tremont, where Tammy Wynette was raised; and Waynesboro, the birthplace of Jesse Rodgers.
Of course, it would be pointless learning all about the history of music if you don’t actually experience any. Luckily, there are plenty of cracking live music venues in Mississippi where you can hear both blues and country performed.
If you’re visiting Jackson, get yourself down to Hal & Mal’s bar on Commerce Street, which puts on regular gigs featuring local, regional, and national bands. One of it’s regular events is Blue Monday featuring the Central Mississippi Blues Society band, who are sure to knock your socks off. The bar also serves a great selection of beers to enjoy with the music.