03.09.2011 - 03.09.2011 79 °F
Today we learned that the delta is all about 3 things... Cotton, which is King, Blues & BBQ. You could even throw in catfish and melons as a fourth and fifth. There big down here too.
There is 250 miles of cotton fields. Driving through you start to get the sense of how hard it was to be a slave or sharecropper working in these fields. We learned at the blues museum that blues started from call and response from workers in the field. According to what we learned at the Blues Museum, once the workers got to back to their living quarters they would be left alone and they expanded on this simple call & response and that was the birth of the blues. We also found out from the ladies that run the Mississippi Welcome Center in Tunica, MS that the cotton harvest starts in October. The further south we got, the more we saw the cotton plants blooming.
There are too many blues artist to name that came from the delta, but a few names you will know are B.B. King, Ike Turner, Johnny Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, James Cotton, Son House, Howlin' Wolf, Pinetop Perkins, Muddy Waters, and Sonny Boy Williamson. We were able to see Muddy Waters one room house at the blues museum. There were 6-8in gaps in the beams letting light, air and anything else come in to the house. Imagine living in a house like that in the delta with all those bugs? Unfortunately we could not take pictures at the blues museum so we were not able to capture the great exhibits inside. Among the many things we learned is how great of a dresser Muddy Waters was. He was always dressed in a suit.
I had always glamorized the Delta in my head because I am a huge blues fan. After driving through, it is not so glamorous to me anymore. People live a very hard life here. There is nothing out here but the cotton crops. This is a very poor area and there are signs of it everywhere. There are run down small towns, with mobile homes on blocks, run down houses that look like shacks etc.. One thing we noticed though, is that people tend to stick together in large groups. We noticed this whether we stopped at a store, restaurant or just driving by some of the houses. I believe people in this area really try to stick together as family unlike you see in other parts of the country.
We stopped in Clarksdale Mississippi which bills itself as the Birthplace of the Blues. This is where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to play guitar. The town was very historic with numerous plaques around town depicting famous spots or moments in blues history. Besides the Blues Museum we were able to visit the Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art Store. There was a great selection of blues artwork by local artists as well as CD's, DVD's clothing and other odds and ends. We then went to lunch at Hick's Tamale & BBQ Shop. The tamales where to die for. Tamales are a local food down in these parts. They are a little different than Mexican Tamale's. They have some unique spices and are so good and inexpensive.
Once we left Clarksdale we decided to try and get to Vicksburg as soon as we could. We didn't want a late night. The drive is 250 miles if you take the main highways. We took the river road at first and made stops. After Clarksdale we got on Highway 61 to get here faster. We finally arrived at 5:30 and were psyched to have the whole evening still in front of us. Mia was really happy to hit the pool.
We might be off to Baton Rogue tomorrow. The storm in the gulf is still pretty bad and we are starting to get the rain and wind here. There are tornado warnings on the east side of the state. We asked the hotel desk clerk if they have tornado plans and if so where is the best place to go in the hotel. She had no idea. She had to text somebody. That worried me a little!