The most important contribution Mississippi gave to the world was a style of music called the Blues. The Mississippi Blues Trail winds through the state with hundreds of historical stops that have all played a role in the development of the Blues music as it has evolved today. Famous singers like Elvis Presley, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Memphis Minnie, Johnny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Rogers, Earl King, Etta James and Sam Cooke all just playing music and singing about everyday life. It is said that the Blues touch the deepest feelings of your soul and as a result will always stand the test of time.
The Blues Trail is a great way to explore the state of Mississippi because it touches every part of the state, each historical spot highlighting the contribution it made to the music and the legends of the Blues.
Rock and Roll got its beginning here as gospel music mixed with African American rhythms; its influence was deep and varied, only restricted by an individual’s imagination. Listening to the Blues, you will experience the deepest lows and the highest highs - like an emotional rollercoaster of your soul. In singing the Blues, you sing your way through the hardest of times and the happiest of times.
Some of the Blues Trail sites with historical significance include:
The Dockery Plantation was one of the most important farms in the Delta, virtually a self-sufficient town with its own money, stores and schools, toted as the Birthplace of the Blues.
Belclair was the birthplace of B.B. King who undoubtedly was the most influential musician in the history of the blues.
Tupelo is where Elvis Presley first encountered the blues when he lived in and around Tupelo for several of his younger years. He was impressed with Lonnie Williams and his own music was greatly influenced by the blues and gospel songs he grew up listening to in nearby neighborhoods.
Ace Records was one of the most successful recording studios in Mississippi during the 1950’s and 1960’s recording records for Mississippi Blues artists such as Frankie Ford, Jimmy Clanton, Sam Meyers, Pat Brown, Willie Clayton and others.
Blue Front Café:
The Blue Front Cafe gained notoriety for its moonshine whiskey, buffalo fish and the blues music that was performed there. If you were looking for authentic blues in the 1980’s and 1990’s you would find it here in this rustic setting. It was much like a convenience store of today offering groceries, beverages and hot food but it also provided recreation through impromptu entertainers. They seldom booked acts or advertised musicians in advance. Blues artists that performed here while passing through included Tommy Lee West, Bud Spires, Alonzo Wilkerson, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and many others.
Bo Diddley is known for his unique style of "hambone" rhythm, which was inspired by the Pentecostal church services of his youth. His songs and beats where adopted by Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard as they crossed over to rock and roll. His synthesized guitar playing blues influenced rock stars of the 1970’s such as Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. He is also listed at number twenty in the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”
The Harlem Inn was known as the “Showplace of the South”, it housed many of the premier acts like B.B. King, Little Milton and T-Bone Walker. It burned to the ground in 1989 and all that stands today is a monument to the great nightclub and all the history housed within its walls in Winstonville today.
Take your time on your journey and may you enjoy learning about the origins of the Blues. Stop along the way and enjoy some of the sights and sounds that make Mississippi truly unique.