“Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much”
Franklin Delanor Roosevelt
The story of the Blues in Mississippi and Louisiana is an amazing tale and if one really makes an effort to delve into its rich history one must have time to spare.
In our last post we began our journey along The Blues Trail in Memphis traveling south to Clarksdale in a “A Blues Sojourn”
In this post we continue to follow Highway 61 south to New Orleans and along the way we find much more than just the blues.
In Mississippi and Louisiana there are other trails to follow such as the Indian Mound Trail, The Mississippi River Trail, the Country Music Trail, Natchez Trace Parkway Trail and one of my favorites, the BBQ Trail.
A few of the historic photos and videos displayed in this post were taken while visiting the many museums we encountered along the way.
This important rail crossing caused Morehead to became a major gathering point where a few white folk and many black folks came together on the weekends to celebrate the end of a hard week of manual labor.
In Indianola, near the birthplace of BB King, we spent the night in the BB King Museum parking lot. The building is constructed on the plantation site where BB once worked as a boy.
The museum exhibits are wonderfully displayed with many important artifacts from BB’s life. The museum also includes an excellent presentation about life in the delta.
Arriving in historic Vicksburg, we were in for a real surprise. Situated on a high bank above the river it was easy to get a feel for what life along the river must have been like in the early days.
The Mississippi River has long played a major part in the historical, economic and residential development of Vicksburg.
Vicksburg’s best known contribution to American history is probably the part it played in the epic conflict known as the Civil War. The National Cemetery holds over 17,000 soldiers graves.
Willie Dixon, often called ‘the poet laureate of the blues,’ was born in Vicksburg on July 1, 1915.
As a songwriter, producer, arranger and bass player Willie shaped the sound of the Chicago blues in the 1950s and ’60s with songs such as Little Red Rooster, Hoochie Coochie Man and Wang Dang Doodle.
Willie traced many of his works back to poems and songs he heard or wrote as a youth in Vicksburg.
Stern Wheeler Tours In Vicksburg
In 1800’s Vicksburg, riverboat travel up and down the Mississippi was fraught with danger. Many sandbars and river bends were littered with the remains of hundreds of sunken boats.
With cotton being the primary cash crop in the surrounding counties it caused Vicksburg to became a bustling place with dozens of paddle wheelers coming and going daily.
The Blues Trail parallels the Natchez Trace Parkway as it passes through Tennessee and Mississippi.
The Trace is a 444-mile scenic road that roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” the historic travel corridor used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents.
This All American Road is maintained by the National Park Service, to commemorate the original route of the Trace.
Access onto the parkway is limited and commercial traffic is forbidden making for a leisurely driving experience as it passes through dense forests.
“Kaintucks” known as boatmen would float their flatboats down the Mississippi River to sell their goods at the markets in Natchez and New Orleans.
Before riverboats had the ability to go upstream under their own power, boatmen had to return home by making the long walk north along the Natchez Trace.
Located eight miles northwest of Port Gibson, this 400 acre landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Coburn, Fort Wade, the Grand Gulf Cemetery, a great museum, campgrounds, hiking trails, an observation tower, and several restored buildings dating back to Grand Gulf’s heyday are all located within the park.
In the museum, you can trace the development of Grand Gulf through early photographs, maps and authentic artifacts that were found in the area.
Union and Confederate uniforms, cannon balls, and muskets are on display to tell of the fierce fighting that took place during the latter stages of the Civil War.
Our trip down Highway 61 began in Memphis and continued through Tunica, Clarksdale, Indianola,Vicksburg, Natchez and now ends in New Orleans.
The music that was generated during that time period is now part of its past, but if you listen closely, you will re-discover the rich powerful history of the people who helped build America and create one of the most influential genres of popular music.
It has been an enlightening experience for us to have traveled through the part of our nation where slavery, its agricultural practices, the Civil War and Segregation helped shape what we witness in the south today.
For us Alaskans it was kind of a mind blowing journey.
Slip in the ear pods, crank the stereo but don’t miss our latest video ” Still Got The Blues”
We now will head west again and back into deserts…..keep you posted!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!!