Our adventure began on April 20, when Anna said her final goodbye to Bippo the Hippo, and we jumped in the Tacoma to head north on Highway 61. The blues highway from New Orleans to Memphis took us into the heart of the Mississippi delta, the former capital of the Cotton Kingdom and the cradle of the blues.
The blues is truly American music in its purest form; simple, emotive, beautiful in its strength. Every popular genre today owes something to the blues, and there isn't an American musician who can't sit down and knock out a 12 bar blues riff for his or her friends to play on. The blues is real, created by black sharecroppers in extreme poverty and oppression on wire strings nailed to old boards. In Mississippi, we learned that a guitar "can't play the blues unless its been in a pawn shop." The vocals cry out from pain and the lyrics speak of love, death, and working in the fields.
Sadly, the environment that created the blues still exists today. The poverty we saw in the Mississippi Delta rivaled that we've seen in any other part of the world. We drove through cotton fields and dying towns, with no industry besides the cotton gin, no stoplight, no school, not even a stop sign. People lived in run-down trailers and government housing. Every town of any size had train tracks running down the center, separating the old white downtown from the African-American area. It was easy to imagine B.B. King standing on the corner, whaling out his heart-broken songs.
I'll continue more details on this trip in another post.