For fans of blues music, the over 200 blue signs of the Mississippi Blues Trail set up around the state (and even the world!) are the best way to learn about the artists that made the genre what it is.
Most are clustered around the Mississippi Delta but can also be found in Tupelo and beyond. While we’ve included some of the most notable, don’t miss ones like Memphis Minnie’s grave, the Hollywood Cafe, and Turner’s Drug Store.
BB King Museum, Indianola
Learn about the incredible musician and his rise from a sharecropping family to an international superstar at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.
The former train depot has items that belonged to him, including his iconic “Lucille” guitars, his button-up shirts, and posters from some of his most famous performances.
While you’re in Indianola, stop by Club Ebony, which opened in 1948 and became one of the region’s most notable venues for African-American patrons and performers. Today it’s operated by the museum for special events.
Blues Front Cafe, Bentonia
Located in the small town of Bentonia, the Blue Front Cafe is the oldest active juke joint in the state. It opened in 1948 next to a cotton gin by Carey and Mary Holmes. They were the first Black business owners in their small town.
Mary sold canned goods and other essentials to the employees of the cotton gin next door. On weekends, it became a place for musicians like Henry Stuckey, Jack Owens, and Thomas West. Patrons could also enjoy Mary’s famous buffalo fish and moonshine.
Her son, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, took over in 1970 and has been running it ever since. A former teacher, “Duck” is also a famed blues musician. He is there every day at 6:30 am, often playing his guitar or sitting out front. They sell food and still host live music.
Dockery Farms, Cleveland
Considered to be the birthplace of the blues, Dockery Farms was an 1895 cotton farm where a number of blues performers worked. Among them were Charley Patton and Howlin’ Wolf.
Today the buildings have been preserved as a reminder of that time, including the cotton gin. Start your visit at the former gas station, which has a video about the farm.
Also in Cleveland is The Grammy Museum, which honors the significance of the music of artists in the region in modern American music. Get your GRAMMY Museum Mississippi General Admission before you go.
Gateway to the Blues Museum, Tunica
The Gateway to the Blues Museum, located in an 1895 train depot, serves as Tunica‘s visitors center and a museum. It provides visitors with the history of the blues and its impact on the region.
Enjoy interactive displays that let you create your own blues song and exhibits featuring famous musicians’ instruments like W.C. Handy’s trumpet.
Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale
Clarksdale is considered to be “ground zero of the blues” with countless music venues and significant landmarks. Among them is the appropriately-named Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by Morgan Freeman.
Across the street, the Delta Blues Museum has incredible exhibits on important artists from the area. One of the most impressive items on display is the cabin where Muddy Waters lived on Stovall Plantation.
Music lovers can also visit the Crossroads as well as the Riverside Motel, which was a hotel that catered to African-American travelers and was where Bessie Smith died. It now operates as an Airbnb rental.
Po Monkey’s Lounge, Merigold
Po’ Monkey’s opened in the 1960s in a rural community near Cleveland. It was originally a sharecropper’s cabin and was decorated with Christmas lights and street signs.
The venue was featured in countless publications and shows, including the cover of Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant and an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Sadly, after the death of owner Willie “Po’ Monkey” Seaberry in 2016, items from the lounge went up for sale and it was boarded up. It’s still worth a detour to see an example of what a traditional juke joint looked like.
Robert Johnson’s Grave, Greenwood
The legend of Robert Johnson is tied deep into the Mississippi Delta as he allegedly sold his soul to the devil for his guitar playing talents. A number of places also claimed to be where he was buried.
But Little Zion Church in Greenwood bears his headstone. According to the stories, he was having an affair with the juke joint owner’s wife. He might have been poisoned with corn whiskey.
This cemetery was the closest for African Americans at the time. Music fans can come to the cemetery and toast a shot of whiskey in his honor.
Sean Johnson says
Nice article! Come back and take a closer look at Cleveland and Bolivar County!