While the exact origins of the blues are lost to time, one of the most important centers for blues music in Mississippi was Dockery Farms outside Cleveland.
Dockery Farms was the home of Charley Patton, the most important early blues musician. Historians have traced so much blues back to Patton that the Dockery plantation is now considered to be the birthplace of Delta blues.
Blues Farm Town
At its peak in the early 20th century, Dockery Farms functioned as a self-sufficient town. The plantation even had its own currency.
There's an App for That
The Blues Commission recently launched the Mississippi Blues Trail App, which lets you map your trip, listen to the artists, watch historical footage and read about each marker right on your smart phone.
Delta blues pioneer Charley Patton was the first to sing about Rosedale, the geographic muse of artists like Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson. In his 1929 recording "High Water Everywhere," Patton gives his own account of the great 1927 Mississippi River flood. "The water done rose, it rose most everywhere... I would go down to Rosedale but they tell me it's water there."
As local legend has it, Robert Johnson's alleged deal with the devil at two mythic crossroads really took place in Rosedale, Mississippi. If and where it actually happened? We may never know.
Known as the "blues highway," Highway 61 is one of the most famous roads in music. As the main route northward out of Mississippi, the highway prompted both the inspiration and immigration of blues music in the United States.
Hot Tamales and the Blues
A traditional Mexican dish made from corn meal and meat, the hot tamale was a staple of Mexican migrant workers in the Delta during the early years of the blues. By the 1930's, the dish had become fully incorporated into local Mississippi cuisine. In his 1936 recording "They're Red Hot," legendary bluesman Robert Johnson soulfully sings about, you guessed it, hot tamales.
In the Field
In 1963, Willie "Po' Monkey" Seaberry opened a juke joint at his home by the side of a cotton field in Merigold, Mississippi. Seaberry worked as a farmer by day and operated the club by night. To this day he continues that routine. If you want to find Po' Monkey's, ask around. Odds are you won't get there on your own and even directions come with a story in Mississippi.
The Juke Joint
The rural juke joint played an crucial role in the origins and development of the blues. While many such jukes once dotted the Delta cotton fields, Po' Monkey's is now one of the only surviving juke joints.
"There's nothing like it to actually go to the place. It really gets in your blood and you can really understand why this music came out like it did," nine-time Grammy winner, Bonnie Raitt, told the Mississippi Blues Commission.
Tracing the history of American music in the most Southern place on Earth.