It travels 1400 miles… for the most part tracing the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans. And while it may not carry the ‘pop’ nuance of Route 66, it carries more folklore and American cultural history than perhaps any other road in America. Known as The Blues Highway, Highway 61 is to blues music what Woodward Avenue is to the automobile. John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters all came from this part of the Delta, 75 miles south of Memphis. Bob Dylan titled his sixth studio album Highway 61 revisited. You could argue Mr. Zimmerman was paying tribute to his home state of Minnesota, where the highway begins. I’m betting it refers to that stretch of road that passes through Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Highway 61… The Blues Highway, runs through the Mississippi Delta country. Often noted as the “poorest place in the poorest state,” the region is credited as the birth place of the Blues. The junction of Highway 61 and 49 is situated just outside Clarksdale and is famously known as “The Crossroads.” The Crossroads, as legend tells it, is where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his magical connection to his music. It’s where Bessie Smith died at what is now the historic Riverside Inn from injuries sustained in a car accident. It’s where you’ll learn first hand how the human endeavor to make music can survive, even surpass the deepest of troubles and the hardest life imaginable. Clapton sang about the Crossroads. The town, the region and the Crossroads are all sung about in the music of various artists. Many with roots throughout the Mississippi Delta.
I was able to spend a few days in Clarksdale. Unfortunately, that’s only enough time to have a cursory glance. It’s only enough time to whet you’re appetite for the history of Clarksdale and the Delta Blues. Though sadly, it’s just enough time to leave you fearful that this may one day all disappear. Read More