Known as the "Birthplace of America’s Music,” Mississippi has a long history of artists, places, and events that helped shaped modern popular music.
To commemorate this historical achievement, Mississippi created The Mississippi Blues Trail and The Mississippi Country Music Trail to help promote the Magnolia State’s rich musical heritage. Whether you are a fan of these types of music or not, these trails are a fascinating way to learn what helped shape the music you listen to today.
"The Mississippi Blues Trail and Mississippi Country Music Trail highlight the historical achievements of artists, bands, record labels, venues, birthplaces, radio stations and monumental places that produced the originators and game changers in both the blues and country music genres,” says Kamel King, MS Development Authority Bureau Manager of Visit Mississippi. "These trails are two of Mississippi’s biggest tourist attractions as it casts positive attention on our State’s biggest export, its music. The Mississippi Blues and Country Music Trails tell the stories literally and pictorially to tourist and citizens alike of why Mississippi is the "Birthplace of America’s Music.”
The trails follow no set path and allow you to explore historical markers with words and images of famous musicians that are found at gravesites, birth sites, highway intersections, train depots & railroad crossings, cemeteries, clubs, churches and cotton fields at your leisure. Whether you are a die-hard fan, or just a causal traveler in search for an interesting trip, you will learn about the state’s contributions to American music and gain a new appreciation for its deep roots that continue to thrive in Mississippi to this day.
The Mississippi Blues Commission was created in 2003 to promote the understanding of blues history. The first Blues Marker was placed at Charley Patton’s gravesite, who is often called the Father of the Delta Blues, in Holly Ridge. This past November the milestone 200th marker commemorating the 1951 single, "Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, which many music historians recognize as the first Rock & Roll song, was installed in Lyon.
Throughout the state you can find markers commemorating well-known artists such as B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Cassandra Wilson, Ike Turner, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley.
Along the Coast you can find numerous markers identifying significant contributions to the musical heritage with the latest being the Ocean Springs Blues Marker. Installed in downtown Ocean Springs this past October, it was unveiled at a ceremony with Allman Brothers founding member and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Jaimoe, who was born there.
Patterned after the Blues Markers, the first thirty markers of the Mississippi Country Music Trail were placed in 2010 to commemorate some of the giants of Country Music. Mississippi born artists such as Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, Faith Hill, and the Father of Country Music Jimmie Rodgers, are recognized with markers for making their marks on country music. Along the Coast you can find a marker in Biloxi for Chris LeDoux, who had a Grammy-nominated duet with Garth Brooks called "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy,” and in Vancleave you will find one for Paul Overstreet, who penned major hits for George Jones, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, The Judds, Kenny Chesney, and Alison Kraus, while becoming a chart-topping singer himself.
The self-guided trails are available on an app through iTunes and Android, and you can find printed maps at Mississippi welcome centers. For more information please visit www.msbluestrail.org and www.mscountrymusictrail.org
Photo: David Parker