Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cruising the Blues Trail

Our wanderings in Mississippi are taking us to the stomping grounds of Son House, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, and many others who have shared a gift. We are on Highway 61 in the Mississippi Delta, aka "The Blues Trail."  What led us here? We met a young man named Brian Dempsey this summer while volunteering at the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro Tennessee whose passion outside his curatorial work is music. Brian told us enthusiastically about his involvement with the Blues Trail project in his home in the Mississippi Delta. The project will eventually place markers at 120 historic points all over the state of Mississippi where legends were made. We were instantly interested, so our travels this month led us here.  (Thanks, Brian.)

No, we won't be locating 120 markers. But we are having fun picking a few spots at random in our journey on Highway 61 along the mighty Mississippi. We're learning more about the people, their surroundings, their influences and the soul of the blues.


So for the next few posts here, I thought I'd share some of the stories.

First stop – while in Natchez we located the blues trail marker for “Natchez Burning” commemorating the horrible disaster in the city's Rhythm Club where 200 people died. Spanish moss decorations caught fire that night in 1940 with 550 people listening happily to the music they loved. The metal structure of the exterior of the building kept the fire inside.  New safety laws were enacted after the tragedy.  And blues singer Howlin Wolf played his haunting song about this sad day.

Then we left Natchez, moving north on 61, stopping where we can pull over in Ferd. For instance,  when we saw one of those familiar brown signs pointing us off our highway, we turned left at the tiny town of  Boyle, MS, toward our next blues tale.



As we walked across the road to read what part of the history might have occurred here,  we noticed how this tiny, crossroads town had an unusual-looking,  wide, tree-lined pathway down the center leading as far as we could see in each direction. Yeah, you guessed it – an old railroad line. The Peavine branch of the Mississippi and Yazoo Railroad inspired many songs. The local bluesman, Charley Patton, sang about the railroad, what it meant to some who escaped their poor lives in the area and blues artists traveling between juke joints.
We all have heard many a lyric about the feelings that connected with the railroad in some way.

A little further up the highway we made our temporary home in Tunica, MS. We had a great location behind the Hollywood casino for our first two nights, boondocking next to an large open field lined with trees. We enjoyed watching the heard of deer grazing in the evenings. Then we moved across the road to the Sam's Town RV Park where we could use the laundry, get water, etc.  It's been a pleasant home base and reasonable at $15.40 per night.  There's lots to see from this point.  We've  had sunny days to explore the area and found several interesting  sites to talk about. I'll share more later.


Meanwhile, if you are a blues fan who would like to read a little about this project, go to:

http://www.msbluestrail.org/blues_trail

1 comment:

  1. Brian defended his dissertation and is now Dr. Brian. (:

    ReplyDelete

Hi: Thanks for your thoughts.