Planning a trip to the Delta and to Clarksdale more specifically? You already know about the basics right? You’ve got your photo at the Crossroads planned, a trip to Robert Johnson’s grave site perhaps. Let me “slide” some suggestions your way you may not have thought about before.
Voice Map App – Be sure to set aside a few hours to do this absolutely free walking tour. This was just designed by some local students with a little help from some knowledgeable audio folks. Simply install the Voice Map App on your phone or mobile device, select Clarksdale as your location, and allow the GPS enabled tour to guide your around Clarksdale while you listening to locals of all ages fill you full of stories and information on everything from blues history to civil rights issues.
Cat Head Records – No trip in search of the blues, juke joints, or anything related is complete without a stop at Cat Head Records in downtown Clarksdale. The owner, Roger Stolle has truly devoted his life to researching, spreading the word about, encouraging, and watering the withering plant that was blues music and culture in the Mississippi Delta. 17 years ago he moved to downtown Clarksdale, which at the time was almost completely barren, and opened up Cat Head Records, laying what would be one of the main foundational cornerstones to the revival of downtown Clarksdale and Blues music in the region. He has written books, produced films, run festivals, arranged musical acts, and the list goes on and on. Just visit…
Delta Blues Museum – Explore and learn about all things Delta Blues. See the Muddy Waters cabin transported from nearby Stovall Farms. Guitars from John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Big Joe Williams and others. Stella Guitars exhibit and many many more. They also host festivals, movie nights, and guests can take music lessons or listen to some of the local youth who have become experts in their own right.
Ground Zero Blues Club and Reds Juke Joint – Two neighboring blues venues that always host blues or blues influenced music. Both are open most nights except for Monday and Tuesday. Ground Zero is co-owned by Morgan Freeman and has a restaurant so you can dine and enjoy live music. Reds is a very traditional “Juke” which is an experience no visitor to the Delta should miss.
Shared Experiences USA – Started by the same great group that brought us the new Voice Map walking tour, Shared Experiences USA is a Clarksdale based startup. They connect you with locals to have experiences, lessons, tours, etc. Also all of their proceeds go back to help the local community. Take a harmonica lesson from Deak Harp, play in the band with Stan Street, or shoot pool with the Messengers.
Delta Bohemian Red Jeep Tours – Dont take our word for it. Just look them up on Tripadvisor and read all the glowing reviews. Chilly Billy will take you on an adventure, how long is up to you, to explore the Deltas history, including the Blues, cotton, the Mississippi River, and the surrounding geology. If you have the extra time you cannot go wrong spending the day with Billy.
Quapaw Canoe – John Ruskey and friends are the only river guides operating on the Mississippi River below St. Louis. This alone is an amazing statement. Let them get you out on anything from a one day trip to a voyage down to the Gulf of Mexico. Many people dont think of wild wilderness when they think of the American South. This couldnt be farther from the truth. Let John and his team get you out on the river to explore the wilderness, the many islands, sandbars, and wildlife.
Cutrer Mansion and Tennessee Williams Exhibit – Another famous son of Clarksdale that goes overlooked due to immense popularity of the Delta Blues, is Tennessee Williams. He is the famed storyteller and playwright who authored such works as “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “The Glass Menagerie”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” among others. There is a yearly festival in his honor as well as two museums/exhibits which guests can explore. Calling ahead is recommended.