Playing the Delta Blues

Playing the Delta Blues

It’s known as the Mississippi Delta. The flat alluvial plain stretching from Vicksburg to Memphis that’s famous both for its fertile soil and its poverty.

We parked in Clarksdale to explore some of the sights associated with the development and revitalization of Delta Blues; one of the earliest styles of blues music.

Pre-WW2 blues music in segregated America was known as Race Music. Only when it was renamed Rhythm and Blues in 1949 did it become accessible to white people – going on to directly influence Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.

Women singers led the way recording some of the first blues records. Bessie Smith’s Down Hearted Blues sold 800,000 copies. She died in this former blacks-only hotel after a car accident. She might have lived if they’d let her into the whites-only hospital.
Blues fans know this as the Highways 61 and 49 crossroads. It’s where Robert Johnson made his pact with the devil in his song Cross Roads Blues – which was later re-recorded by Eric Clapton’s band Cream
Morgan Freeman owned Ground Zero hosts blues bands most weekends. Downtown is largely dependant on blues tourism and we met a couple of outsiders – moved to live here by their love of the blues

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