Following the Mississippi Blues

It’s no secret that Mississippi is where blues music was first created, in fact it’s the self-proclaimed “Birthplace of America’s music” and to be fair to them, it’s with good reason. The state has seen many of its residents become household names thanks to their musical talents. It’s positively steeped in rich musical history, many landmarks, birthplaces, recording destinations and gravesites can all be visited if you know where to go. As of 2006, due to the work of the Mississippi Blues Commission this has become much easier; thanks to them you can now follow the ‘Mississippi Blues Trail’ all across the state and learn the story of the blues.

The roots of blues music don’t simply come from one source, though likely a heavily influential factor in the genre finds its origins in the history of the African people’s introduction to America through slavery. This was an incredibly dark time in history, Africans were treated like animals and life for them was a continuous struggle. One of the ways they would try to cope with this was through song. During the American Civil War they would use this same mechanism, singing songs for marching and working that were unlike anything the white people had heard before. These melancholy chants were likely the first steps into the blues that we know today.

The music really takes form after these early roots, as cultures became more acquainted with each other and the African American community began to sing outside of work camps. The music began to bear the nuances of many different African tribes along with Country and Folk music favoured by the white people of the time. Beyond simply singing, the instruments from the white American culture had become common place in the African American music. These factors created a melting pot of cultural music and from it spawned the incredibly influential blues music that many enjoy all over the world.

The Mississippi Blues Trail is made up from around 200 different markers, each telling a different story about one of the many building blocks that created the genre. Blues music has gone on to inspire many other genres in American music, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, big band and rhythm and blues to name a few. The trail covers important markers in all these categories. You can visit the hometown of Elvis Presley, the gravesite of Robert Johnson (a man who allegedly sold his soul to the devil to play guitar), the home of Ike and Tina Turner and there are many places that note the inspiration for some of the genres most loved songs like Highway 61 and Mound Bayou.

The trail is an excellent way to see the state of Mississippi and learn about its impact on American and Global culture. There is plenty for both fans of the blues and history in general, failing that it’s a great track to follow for those who just want to see the world, who knows you may just gain an appreciation for the music whilst you’re out there.