Location: Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Distance: 2,264, kilometres
Since the early 1920s, Route 61 – or Blues Highway – has acted as a musical artery, delivering hard-living, straight-talking blues players out of the plantations of rural Mississippi into Memphis and beyond, where their honest brand of Delta blues spread throughout the rest of America and the world. As the birthplace of recording greats like Sam Cooke and John Lee Hooker, the blues-infused town of Clarksdale, Mississippi is a sacred ground for blues lovers. Don’t miss the signposted Crossroads, symbolising the place where – according to folklore – Robert Johnson made a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for musical talent and fame. Expect strong whisky, rundown blues clubs, ramshackle cabins, soul food and tall stories on this rough-around-the-edges road trip.
Memphis is alleged to have more than a hundred barbecue joints. Don’t miss the dry ribs at Rendezvous in Downtown Memphis!
While Tunica, Mississippi looks a lot like Las Vegas with its garish casinos, it’s worth stopping in for a Southern meal of fried chicken and peach cobbler at the Blue and White diner.
In Clarksdale, check into the Shack Up Inn for the night. The hotel is housed in collection of restored plantation sharecropper shacks and boutique hotel rooms built inside renovated cotton bins.
North of Vicksburg you can’t miss Margaret’s Grocery, a brightly painted ramshackle collection of plywood and bricks and hand painted Bible verses. The now defunct store is a testament to one reverend’s promise to his beloved wife.
Hit the road with a playlist of driving tunes populated by local greats like Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.