Mississippi Blues Trail
August 5 - 11, 2010
|Sun Studio - Memphis, Tennessee|
I left home at 2:00 AM, with the ambitous goal of reaching Memphis, Tennessee by noon. I wanted to take a tour of the historic Sun Studio before heading south into the Mississippi Delta. However, I hadn'tgotten much sleep, so I slept for an hour almost every hour at a rest area until sunrise. As a result, it took me 12 hours to reach Memphis. When I drove into the parking lot beind the venerable recording studio, the temperature gauge declared it was a boiling 102° outside.
Sun Studio was opened by rock pioneer Sam Phillips in Memphis, on January 3, 1950. Reputedly the first rock-and-roll single, Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats' "Rocket 88" was recorded there in 1951 with song composer Ike Turner on keyboards, leading the studio to claim status as the birthplace of rock & roll. Blues and R&B artists like Howlin' Wolf, Junior Parker, Little Milton, B.B. King, James Cotton, and Rufus Thomas also recorded there in the early 1950s.
|Highway 61 to Clarksdale, Mississippi|
|Highway 61, The Blues Highway, is a classic American road trip. Starting in Memphis, I began my pilgrimage south. At the state line, the iconic highway extended across the fertile bottomland soil, created by periodic flooding of the Mississippi River.
It was dusk when I arrived in Clarksdale, and downtown was a desolate, apocalyptic urban landscape of abandon buildings, plywood windows, and empty streets. After a short visit, I continued south to the Great River Road State Park in Rosedale. The dark Delta countryside passed quickly, and tenacious arcs of lightning fractured the black sky. The rural town of Rosedale was also unnaturally silent as I passed by hollow ruins, and weather beaten store fronts withbarred doors and windows. When I arrived at the campground, I discovered an empty state park, and no campers. Night in the rural Delta was like being the last man on earth. It was still raining, so I rolled down the window a bit and slept in my car. However, an invasion of ravenous Mosquitoes rapidly seized the interior of my car. I rolled up the window, but now it was like sauna, so I started the car, and got the air conditioner going. After an hour, I turned the ignition off, and went to sleep, but every couple of hours I had to get the air conditioner running again.