Guide to the South

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Mississippi and the blues go together like gravy and mashed potatoes, or Scarlett and Rhett from Gone with the Wind. Melancholy, soulful blues music and the genres it has inspired were shaped by the early African American voices of Mississippi, a state rich with musical history and sites that honor it.

Today, most of the original Delta Mississippi bluesmen have passed on — but at least one, Lou “Bud” Welch, is still kicking. At 83 years old, Lou recently released his first ever CD, entitled “I Don’t Prefer No Blues.”

Delta Blues: A brief history

The blues as we know them are widely thought to have been  born in the Mississippi Delta, a section in the state’s northwest between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. But the blues’ story extends back much further: notably, as far as the coasts of Africa, when men, women and children were taken as slaves to American plantations. Various musical traditions from African tribal music and cultures blended together in America, manifesting as songs of hope and despair, which slaves sang without instruments to get through grueling work and cruelty.

Post-slavery, African Americans developed this music further, incorporating influence from Christian hymnals and American instruments, all the while enduring hardships under Jim Crow laws and Klu Klux Klan oppression. Music was an escape, and during the Civil War it emerged as part work-chant, part sorrow song. At the turn of the 20th century, the blues were a distinct and recognizable style performed by bluesmen at venues around the Mississippi Delta region.

Record companies first realized the potential market and began to record and produce blues musicians in the 1920s. Artists spread the style throughout the country, where it influenced almost every later genre including jazz, hip-hop, country, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Mississippi Blues Trail

Mississippi is full of sites that hold significance in the world of blues music. For blues enthusiasts, tourists, or general music lovers, the Mississippi Blues Trail marks historical sites related to the birth, growth and influence of blues music throughout Mississippi, with the largest concentration in the Delta region. Some markers are located outside of Mississippi, if they are important enough — like the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.

What exactly can one hope to find along the trail? Roadtrippers eager to follow the history of blues music can travel between over 170 markers, which honor individuals, venue, recording companies, historical events, radio stations and other hubs of blues activity.

First implemented in 2006, the Mississippi Blues Trail tells the stories of the talent behind one of the most important genres of music in America, perhaps of all time. From B.B. King to Charley Patton, individual pioneers and the places they created and performed at live on through these markers.

Lou “Bud” Welch may be among the last bluesmen, but the genre is sure to outlive even him. The blues have been immortalized as much in Mississippi Blues Trail, but more importantly, they persist continuously in their influence of over a century of musical evolution.

American South

The cities of the American South make up the bulk of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Northerners are rediscovering what southern locals have known for hundreds of years – our cities are some of the friendliest, most desirable places to live in the world.

Though southern cities share a lot in common, they each have a strong identity and culture all their own. This list of southern cities is by no means exhaustive – just a guide to introduce you to what each has to offer.

 

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta boasts the 9th largest metropolitan area in the US and the transportation hub of the Southeast. It is only in the last few years that national media has caught on to Atlanta’s vibrant & diverse culture. Residents enjoy the city’s world-class cultural scene – outstanding museums, high-profile sports, and active nightlife. Sometimes referred to as ‘the Manhattan of the South’, Atlanta is an economic beacon of the area, with fast-paced city life unparalleled in the region.

Atlanta Georgia

 

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston has always had a reputation for its deep-seated tradition of art & fashion, a leader in the kind of easy elegance we know as ‘southern charm.’ In more recent years, the coastal city has become one of the most popular tourist destinations of the south. Civil War sites, romantic antebellum architecture, and lush plantings of jasmine, gardenia, and honeysuckle continue to attract travellers, and now they’re joined by young people seeking the energized nightlife of the pristine beachfront.

Charleston, South Carolina

 

Houston, Texas

Houston is the most populous city in the American South, and will one day surpass Chicago to become the 3rd largest city in the country. Behind the rapid growth rate are industries like oil and technology. Only New York City has more Fortune 500 companies within its city limits, and NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the hub of the country’s space program. Houston’s got everything a big city has to offer, including a range of neighborhoods and subcultures that offer residents a diversity that’s hard to match. Where else can you see luxury cars next to pick-up trucks at rodeos and live theatre?

Houston, Texas

 

Jackson, Mississippi

Jackson is known in the South for its soul, the birthplace of numerous blues, gospel, and jazz musicians. It’s one of the most affordable cities in the country, making it desirable for young people who are revitalizing the culture with new businesses in the hip Fondren neighborhood, whose authentic vintage appeal is perfectly preserved. Culinary traditions of the South like shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, fried bread and butter pickles are all staples of Jackson dining. Among many cultural offerings is the International Ballet Competition, which has run in Jackson every four years since 1979. Fun fact – Jackson is the only US capital city located on a volcano. Don’t worry – it hasn’t erupted in over 75 million years!

Jackson, Mississippi

 

Kansas City, Missouri

You may think BBQ when you think of Kansas City, and with good cause. The city offers over 100 BBQ joints, some among the best-rated in the world. New Yorkers will be surprised to find that the Kansas City Strip Steak is even better than their own! Kansas has always been a major city in the region. The most centrally located big city, it was an early transportation & shipping hub. More than just BBQ, the city is known regionally for its lively jazz scene and numerous fountains. It is also the birthplace of some of the biggest American institutions, including Walt Disney, McDonald’s, and Anheuser-Busch.

Kansas City, Missouri

 

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachians, steeped deeply in its bluegrass roots. Named after France’s King Louis XVI, aristocrats come every year to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. But it’s the historic and blue collar neighborhoods where the city really shines. The Old Louisville neighborhood is one of the largest collection of Victorian homes in the country, and you’ll never make fun of a drive-through chili restaurant once you’ve experienced one for yourself. Tip to visitors – it’s pronounced ‘Loo-ah-Vill’.

Louisville, Kentucky

 

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is the country music capital of the world, and live music permeates the culture everywhere you look. The rocker scene gives the city an edgy vibe, from boot-stomping honky tonks to the bright lights of lower Broadway. The Grand Ole Opry House has seen country music mature over the last 100, and you can still catch the biggest acts there today. Southern hospitality still abounds, as does fried chicken, a lively university population, and blues bars.

Nashville, Tennessee

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

Of all the cities of the south, none is as independent and unique as New Orleans. Being pigeon-holed as a party spot for its annual Mardis Gras celebration is a shame – the city has so much to offer throughout the year. It’s historic roots are still lived in, from the architecture to the street culture, it’s almost like stepping back in time. Visitors will find New Orleans bursting at its cultural seams – the birthplace of jazz, a playful approach to cuisine, and satyric parades nearly weekly.

New Orleans

 

Savannah, Georgia

When people think of the south – southern belles, horse-drawn carriages, palatial mansions surrounded by oaks dripping in spanish moss – they’re thinking of Savannah. Sometimes known as the ‘beautiful lady with a dirty face,’ the city balances its manicured parks and charming cobblestone streets with an unbridled & debaucherous nightlife. So after roaming the pedestrian-friendly historic district (one of the largest in the country), there will be plenty of options to explore the city’s cocktail bars.

Savannah, Georgia