This journey will bring you to Memphis, the birthplace of Rock And Roll, during a special event, the 31st International Blues Challenge, organized by the Blues Foundation. A whole week of music in the street and in theaters, open shops and restaurants, musicians from all around the world that compete to be the best, together as blues promoters and simple fans eating bbq and drinking light beers from early morning to late in the night.
A unique experience that will be completed by some visit of nearby places, cotton plantations, famous bluesmen graves or even museums, to give you the feeling of the real Mississippi blues plus a unique sight in the most important blues Challenge in the world.
We present a 9 days-8 nights tour from Jan 17th to Jan 25th, 2015
In this tour there will be visits to tombs of the most famous blues musicians in history and places that have hosted moments and unique characters of the genre, as well as’ live performances of country blues, acoustic blues and electric blues, some already planned but also organized specifically for these trips to get you deep into the true atmosphere of the Mississippi blues.
- day 1 Saturday (Memphis, Tennessee)
This trip starts in Memphis, after arriving at the airport, we will pick up the cars.Check-in in the hotel.In the evening a dinner on Beale Street, in one of the place where the best bbq ribs are cooked, the Blues City Cafe, and to start with live blues concerts don’t forget to have a beer in Huey’s in Poplar Av. or Second St.
- day 2 Sunday (Memphis, Tennessee)
Our morning begins with a holy visit to Temple of Deliverance Church of God In Christ (http://www.todcogic.org/ ) to listen to Pastor Milton Hawkins or even to Rev. Al Green at the Full Gospel Tabernacle
We will then take a tour to visit to the STAX Museum of American Soul Music, 962 McLemore Avenue, the famous Soul Music label founded in 1957 from Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton.
We will then move to visit (guided at least for newbies) the Sun Studios at 706 Union Avenue. Famous for having recorded blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf, Dr. Ross, B.B. King, Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Little Milton and others. It was also famous for seeing the birth of rock ‘n’ roll recording Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. Do not forget the famous gadgets at exit.
Possible backup solution visit the Rock and Soul Museum or even the Gibson Guitar Studio and have a walk to The Peabody hotel and the duck show.
The late afternoon is free for shopping on Beale Street with a visit to Tater’s Red, a shop famous for making voodoo amulets and mojos for every need (do not miss for example the famous John The Conqueror root oil).
Dinner will be at the Rum Boogie Cafe where in the past we could admire the original label STAX sign, now back to the museum, and you can see the guitars hanging from the ceiling from many musicians have played here over the years, for example Ike Turner, Son Seals, or Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Overnight in Memphis
- day 3 Monday (Memphis -> Hudsonville -> Harmontown -> Oxford)
Before leaving Memphis we can’t forget to visit to the Blues Foundation which since its founding in 1980 has accomplished the mission to preserve this African American musical art form. It also organizes the annual International Blues Challenge and the Blues Music Awards, in addition to the Keeping The Blues Alive Awards. We will also visit the Center for Southern Folklore, co-founded by Judy Preiser and William Ferris, a place where you can find information and original material that is essential to understand the southern culture. Before that, just to be really living the spirit of the South, we will visit the National Civil Rights Museum, at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. Stop for the lunch break in Alcenia’s for some real good soul food or even on Beale Street at Dyer’s Burgers.
It’s time to go down in Mississippi, to visit the famous North Mississippi Hill Country. This is the area where the Burnside and Kimbrough families have lived for a long time, and it is the same place where every year Kenny Brown organizes the Hill Country Picnic every year on the last weekend of June.
Going out from Memphis and taking US-72 we will arrive to Hudsonville, where David “Junior” Kimbrough, famous for his music and patriarch of the Holly Spring Blues, is buried. On his grave, instead of flowers, his fans often leave a beer, as a last cheers for the afterlife.
Next stop Holly Springs and please do not miss the Aikei Pro’s Record Shop (if it is closed, keep persisting, and you will find someone from the shop to ask for the owner, whose real name is David Caldwell) at 125 N. Center Street. Among the used bicycles, which are perfect for hidden stray cats, and a dusty and messy interior, you might still find something really interesting (and at prices to discuss and deal!).
Find a place to eat such as Annie’s Restaurant, famous for fried chicken and down South cooking or the Chewalla Rib Shack located near the original Junior Kimbrough Jook Joint in Chulahoma. Junior’s Jook, one of the last of the Mississippi jook joints, was destroyed by a fire in April 2000 and honored by the Black Keys disc of the same name.
Continuing to Harmontown we will visit the grave of R. L. Burnside, one of the last original bluesmen back in the music business. Thanks to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, R.L. re-launched his career in 1996 with the album “A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey”. Fisherman and sharecropper and bluesman in his spare time, he learned to play directly from Fred McDowell.
We will finally arrive in Oxford, with a visit to the Square Books Shop, 1110 Van Buren and food choices on the square like the City Grocery, the Ajax Diner, and Rooster’s Blues House and the music venue Proud Larry’s.
Night in Oxford
- day 4 Tuesday (Oxford > Greenwood > Indianola)
Once in Oxford we should visit the headquarters of Fat Possum, the famous label that has recorded many musicians of North Mississippi, as well as being known for the sound called Mississippi Hill Country Blues
Going out from Oxford we will move to Water Valley, where we will eventually stop for a coffee, and to visit the Casey Jones Blues Marker, just before leaving again to reach the Grenada for a fast lunch.
Going south on HWY 7 to Avalon we will also visit the grave of Mississippi John Hurt, pioneer of folk blues music, who died in 1966 (it is important to know the date so that you do not take pictures of the wrong headstone, given the numerous Hurt in the cemetery).
We will then move towards the area of Greenwood to be devoted to Robert Johnson. To the west of Greenwood, just northeast of the intersection of 89 and 49E is Three Forks Store, which is the bar (rebuilt after several tornadoes) where it is said that Robert Johnson made his last “concert” before he was killed, apparently by the jealous husband of a woman Johnson was drinking with. To the north of Greenwood is the third grave of Robert Johnson, currently thought to be the real one, according to eye witnesses who attended his burial at the Little Zion Cemetery.
Finally we will reach Indianola, “The Home of B.B. King “as stated in the sign of the city. Here, we will visit among other things, the Club Ebony and the B.B. King Blues Museum. Lunch in Indianola at the Club Ebony plus visit to the B.B. King Museum with concert included.
Overnight in Indianola
- day 5 Wednesday (Indianola -> Greenville -> Cleveland ->Clarksdale)
We will leave Indianola and move to Leland, where, in addition to blues murals at Lilo’s Italian Restaurant, we will visit the tomb of James “Son” Thomas, bluesman by vocation and undertaker by profession. Thomas was famous in Europe having visited it several times with the harmonica player Walter Liniger. We will also stop at the Highway 61 Blues Museum at 307 N. Broad Street.
In Metcalfe, we’ll visit the tomb of Eugene “Sonny Boy Nelson” Powell, who was visited and mentored musicians as Keb’ Mo’, Lonnie Pitchford and Alvin “Youngblood” Hart.
We will then go to Greenville strolling around Nelson Street, where from the 1940s to the 1970s people the like Little Milton, Eddie Cusic, Charlie Booker, Willie Love, T-Model Ford and Little Bill Wallace ruled the street. The Mississippi Blues Trail marker reminds us the importance of this place in music history. Don’t miss Walnut Street, famous for its live music venues or the Playboy Club, immortalized in the film Mississippi Blues by Bernard Tavernier
We can’t miss (even if armed guards walking close to the white gate always try to avoid people in stopping) the Parchman Farms, the “Mississippi State Penitentiary” at the intersection of 32 and 49W, which is popular both for researches and registrations of Alan Lomax, and for having been visited by many bluesmen (such as Son House and Bukka White), and sung by many musicians not only blues (we mention for example Johnny Winter and John Mayall). Even today you can see the prisoners, with the classic striped uniform, working the land surrounding the prison.
Before reaching Clarksdale we will stop in Tutwiler, where it is said that W.C. Handy, standing at the train station, heard for the first time what was then called the “blues”, a black stranger who was playing a guitar using a knife as a slide. We will visit the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson II, where despite the fact that the reported date of death on the tombstone is wrong, (as well as that of his birth is uncertain), many musicians still go on a pilgrimage leaving their harps as a tribute to Sonny Boy
We will finally reach the Hopson Plantation, where the Shack Up Inn is located and where we will spend the night. Each year, the Shacks organize the Pinetop Perkins Homecoming on the Sunday just after the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena (second weekend of October). The festival is held even after the famous pianist passed away in 2011. This place is very unusual and tipical, because the owner, Bill Talbot, kept the old shacks of country and farm workers, and he refurbished them (mainly just adding the restroom) in order to obtain some “spiritual refuges” helping in this way to preserve part of the historical Mississippi Delta that is almost disappeared. Dinner at the Hopson Plantation.
Night in Clarksdale at the Hopson Plantation (Shack Up Inn)
- day 6 Thursday (Clarksdale)
A mandatory stop then is the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art in Clarksdale, managed by Roger Stolle, who along with Jeff Konkel is really active in preserving the African American tradition and culture of the blues. In this shop you will find any blues record you want, as well as art objects and handcrafts made by bluesmen such as Pat Thomas, son of the legendary James “Son” Thomas. Also a few blocks from the Cat Head store, visit Stan Street’s Hambone Gallery for original folk art or the Rock and Blues Museum which features historic items like blues 78s, instruments, and photographs. Every Tuesday night, Street also hosts a jam for local and visiting musicians in his studio.
Three times per year (around the Juke Joint Festival – April, the Sunflower River Blues Festival – August, and the King Biscuit Blues Festival – October) you will find the Cat Head Mini Blues Festival with live music in front of the shop!
The rest of the afternoon will be spent walking around Clarksdale, visiting places such as the Wade Walton’s Barber Shop or the Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died, the Sarah’s Kitchen restaurant or the building where there was the famous Rooster’s Records or even drinking a coffee at the Abe’s BBQ, located at the intersection of 61 and 49 (although the real crossroad between the highways is different, being the historical HW 61 moved from the current one, and unknown the real crossroads where we the father of the blues met the devil).
We will then move for dinner at the Ground Zero Blues Club, owned by Morgan Freeman, where in the evening there are often live concert of local bluesmen.
Night in Clarksdale at the Hopson Plantation (Shack Up Inn)
- day 7 Friday (Clarksdale > Memphis)
We will leave Clarksdale, and first stop at the Stovall Plantation, where Muddy Waters worked as a tractor driver and where Alan Lomax heard him play and recorded him in 1941. Here you will find an indication of where it was located what is said have been the home of Muddy Waters, currently housed and rebuilt in the Delta Blues Museum.
We will move in the direction of Memphis, and first we will pass from Helena, in Arkansas, home to the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, also known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival and where we will find the graves of Robert Nighthawk and Frank Frost.
Famous not only for the Blues festival Helena is the birthplace of bluesman Cedell Davis, guitarist Robert Nighthawk and pianist Roosevelt Sykes, and Robert Johnson lived here for much of the last five years of his life, giving guitar lessons to the son of his girlfriend Estella Coleman, whose name was Robert Lockwood Jr.
Lunch in Helena at the Blues Bayou or the Soup Kitchen Café and Pool Room.
We will move north on Highway 61 and will pass Walls to visit the tomb of Memphis Minnie , one of the few blues female singers as well as exceptional guitarist. In the 1930s, It was said that Minnie played guitar like a man.
We will then drive up to Memphis in order to be present at IBC Semi Finals that start from 5 PM
A must for dinner is at B.B. King Blues Club in Beale Street, with catfish tasting, a typical dish of the Mississippi (only for comparison with the catfish that we will always eat always going further south to the swamps of Louisiana). You can also attend a concert (live performances are very frequent) and take home a t-shirt.
Overnight in Memphis
- day 8 Saturday (Memphis)
In the morning we will have a short ride and drive south from Memphis, to stop in Senatobia where we will visit the grave of Jessie Mae Hemphill, great-granddaughter of Sid Hemphill, a musician who Alan Lomax recorded, as well as Rosa Lee Hill, aunt of Jessie Mae. In addition she to appearing in the movie “Deep Blues” by Robert Palmer, Jessie Mae also played for long time in Europe.
Then we will move south and arrive in Como, a small town crossing the railway, where Mississippi Fred Mc Dowell is buried. His gravestone was partially financed by Bonnie Raitt. On the reverse side of his tomb are written some verses of the song “You Got To Move” (famous also for the Rolling Stones version). You can also find some food or drinks in the Windy City Grill, located right on Main Street.
A different option can be a morning fully devoted to the King of Rock & Roll, a visit to Graceland.
Back to Memphis: from 12 to early evening the IBC Finals
- day 8 Sunday (Memphis)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Pick up your bags and directly to the airport for the flight to Europe.
The program includes museum tickets, Blues Festival tickets and a special events.
Travel by bus, mini van or motorbike, with stops every day and night in the most important shopping and entertainment places!
Note: All the itineraries are subject to change without notice during the season or even during the trip due to some unforeseen and unforeseeable reasons. Prices may vary according to departure dates.
PRICE PER PERSON, DOUBLE ROOM, from: 1.299,00 euro
PRICE PER PERSON, SINGLE ROOM, from: 1.649,00 euro
- The hotel accomodation in single or double room in superior tourist class or first class (3 * -4 *)
- Agency Staff assistance for the whole tour
- Midsize car rental with Hertz for 7 days, Gold Formula with Navigator , with plug-and-drop at the airport in Memphis
- Travel Kit and Gadgets
- Tour Escort guaranteed when 14 people travelling
- Tickets for Stax Museum, Sun Studio and B.B. King Museum
- International Blues Challenge Pass
RATES DO NOT INCLUDE:
- the flights, the airport taxes and Basic Medical/Baggage insurance
- Meals and drinks (continental breakfast included in some hotels)
- Fuel for vehicles
- Gratuities and personal expenses and anything not specifically mentioned in “Rates include”
- Supplementary insurance for travel cancellation or ceiling increase.
- Deposit for car rental
NB. All fees are to be confirmed at booking time, and depend on availability and the oscillation of the exchange rate € / $. Exchange rate used € / $ 1.25.
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