Out On Highway 61- The Blues Highway

Our first stop in the delta was Leroy Percy State Park. This park has a small lake and acres of woods surrounding the campground. We heard owls every night. This small park put us in position to explore the towns of Greenville, Indianola, Leland, Greenwood and in striking distance of Robert Johnson’s grave.

One day we headed to Greenwood for some lunch at Steven’s BBQ. The brisket was excellent. Our goal was to locate Johnson’s grave in a small cemetery on Money Road. On the way out of town we crossed the Tallahatchie River.And we saw this guy throwing something off the bridge. We found Money Road and Little Zion Church where Robert Johnson’s grave was located. Well, it’s actually one of three graves purported to be his final resting place. The research we did led us to believe that this site was the most likely grave site.

We had never been to the Delta before. This area is the ancient floodplain of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. It’s mile after mile of vast cultivated fields.

It starts just south of Memphis and ends at Vicksburg, about 200 miles long by 70 miles at it’s widest point. Ninety percent of the area was a virgin swamp forest full of wolves, alligators, bears, panthers, snakes and insects until after the Civil War. The swamp was cleared by previously enslaved people to get at the rich soil. Vast fortunes for a few were made here. It also became home to some of the most influential music this country has ever produced.

Further on down the road we found the remains of Bryant’s Grocery. This is the infamous location where Emmett Till had his fatal encounter. The original doors have been removed and are on display @ the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

The Delta is dotted with towns and hamlets where early blues musicians plied their craft. B.B. King got his start in Indianola where you’ll find his museum and grave site.

This is the corner where a 17 year old Riley B. King would play for tips on Saturday nights.

Near Greenville you’ll find the hamlet of Leland. Johnny and Edgar Winter hail from Leland and although they lived in Texas – they spent summers visiting their grand parents in Leland. You will also find the Highway 61 Blues Museum. The museum is a mix of photographs, stage outfits, autographed instruments and folk art. The surprise attraction was Pat “Cat Head” Thomas, blues performer and artist. We spent an enjoyable hour listening to him play and tell stories.We left Leland and went in search of one of the more well known Juke Joints in the area, Poor Monkey Lounge. The proprietor passed away three years ago but was legendary for making sure the good times rolled.

After a few days we moved up the Delta in search of the Crossroads. Perhaps a deal can be made.

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