Guest Author - Chris Curtis
This was the trip of a lifetime - I began calling it the Magical Musical Mystery Trip but it turned out to be so much greater than anything I'd dreamed about while planning it.
Starting out from New England, we headed for the southern heartland to experience the history of Bluegrass and Country Music, Cajun and Zydeco music and the Blues Trail through Mississippi. You can't get much deeper than this while exploring the roots of America's rich musical heritage.
Our first stop was Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is all about the music; a thriving Mecca filled with singers, song writers, musicians, record companies, clubs, and all things connected with music. It is best known for the birth of old time country music and bluegrass. Today it draws in some of America's best talents across a broad band of root music including country, bluegrass (and closely related music), blues, country blues, folk and Celtic.
We visited the Ryman theater, the original Grand Ole' Opery. The essence of the roots of American Country Music and Bluegrass is captured within its walls. As you enter these hallowed halls, allow yourself to feel the amazing energy of every note ever played here. It is as reverent as entering into any church.
We next visited Tupelo, MI where we sought out Elvis' birthplace. It remains situated on its original site where the 2 room shotgun home is preserved in its original state, as is the church in which Elvis soaked in his gospel music beginnings. Both the home and the Church embraced us with the sweet vibrations from one of America's musical icons.
The Cajun and Creole culture, rich within the prairies and bayous of Southwest Louisiana (SWLA), is where we found the deep Mardi Gras traditions that are celebrated with authentic costuming and music. Here you can celebrate their culture by going on a traditional chicken run and Mardi Gras parade, cheer as the parade comes into town, dance in the streets and dance halls, and attend the street fairs. The cultural traditions found in SWLA are so indigenous to the area; it's a magical experience.
Following Route 61, known as the Blues Trail, we journeyed through the Mississippi Delta, where we dug at the roots of the delta blues. The trail follows the path of the original route that the blues men took from Clarksdale, MI (where American Blues was born) to New Orleans. Here you find the deepest of American folk music, as rich as its delta soil. Its vibrant musical energy is felt as soon as you enter into the delta, so spiritual in its nature. As you view the miles and acres of cotton fields along this root, you can well imagine the hardships of these people who fused their deeply spiritual gospel roots into the blues telling of their life in the fields.
The last stop on the tour was Clarksdale, MI. The richness of the deep delta blues can be experienced by touring the many blues markers, the various grave sites and the historical juke joints found in Clarksdale. Take a moment to close your eyes and feel the spirits of the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Pine Top Perkins and all of the well known and unknown blues men who walked these streets and gave us the gift of their souls through their music. Don't forget to visit the Blues Museum where the history of these amazing musicians, who had nothing more to give but their hearts and soul, is told.
There is a spiritual quality to be found in each of these musically rich areas. Nashville with it's modern life but reverent musical history, Tupelo for the gift of Elvis' birth, SWLA for the magic of its Cajun and Zydeco music indigenous to the bayou, and Clarksdale, MI for the heart of blues, in a delta town that has kept sacred the souls of those early blues men. It truly was a magical musical mystery tour through the south heartland!