This journey will guide you to Helena, Arkansas, during a special event, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, formerly known as Blues And Heritage Festival. Three days of music in 6 stages, from late morning to late in the night, open shops and restaurants, famous blues musicians and new talents, with a special taste of gospel.
A unique experience that will be completed by some visit of nearby places, cotton plantations, famous bluesmen graves or even museums, to give you the feeling of the real Mississippi blues plus a unique sight in one of the nation’s foremost showcases of Blues Music.
We present a 10 days/9 nights tour.
This tour includes also visits to the tombs of the most famous blues musicians in history, most of them born in Mississippi, and buried there. In this tour there will be visits to places that have hosted moments and unique characters of the genre, as well as’ live performances of country blues, acoustic blues and electric blues, some already planned but also organized specifically for these trips. For the real fans you can also have tickets to blues museums or locations far from the cities such as cotton plantations and the famous crossroads to get you deep into the true atmosphere of the Mississippi blues.
This tour is organized for October
- day 1 Saturday (Memphis, Tennessee)
• Your trip starts in Memphis, Tennessee. After arriving at the airport, we will pick up the van, bus or motorbike. After settling in the hotel we will go to an evening dinner on Beale Street, in one of the places where the best BBQ ribs are cooked, the Blues City Cafe, and to start with live blues concerts don’t forget to have a beer in Huey’s in Poplar Av. or Second St.
- day 2 Sunday (Memphis, Tennessee)
• Our morning begins with a holy visit to Temple of Deliverance Church of God In Christ (http://www.todcogic.org/ ) to listen to Pastor Milton Hawkins or even to Rev. Al Green at the Full Gospel Tabernacle (http://www.algreenmusic.com/fullgospeltabernacle.html )
• We will then take a tour to visit to the STAX Museum of American Soul Music, 962 McLemore Avenue, the famous Soul Music label founded in 1957 from Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton. .
• We will then move to visit (guided at least for newbies) the Sun Studios at 706 Union Avenue. Famous for having recorded blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf, Dr. Ross, B.B. King, Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Little Milton and others. It was also famous for seeing the birth of rock ‘n’ roll recording Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. Do not forget the famous gadgets at exit
• We will then move to the Hollywood Cemetery (2012 Hernando Road) where, after parking at the entrance and a going up the hill of the cemetery, at the third street on the left will find the two tombstones of Walter “Furry” Lewis, even with a discordant date of birth.
• Dinner will be at the Rum Boogie Cafe where in the past we could admire the original label STAX sign, now back to the museum, and you can see the guitars hanging from the ceiling from many musicians have played here over the years, for example Ike Turner, Son Seals, or Stevie Ray Vaughan.
• Overnight in Memphis
- day 3 Monday (Memphis)
• Our morning begins with a visit to the wonderful New Park Cemetery. Our staff will guide you directly to the graves we are searching for, due to the immensity of the place, to see that one of Booker W. “Bukka” White, those of three members of the Bar-Kays that disappeared in the plane crash that also stole Otis Redding from the music world, that one of Al Jackson Jr., a member of the group Booker T & the MGs and the famous Rufus Thomas, that for many years was a guest in the italian Porretta Soul Festival.
• We will visit to the Blues Foundation that organize the annual International Blues Challenge and the Handy Awards (the Grammy of the blues), in addition to the Keeping The Blues Alive Awards, that since years has accomplished the mission to preserve African American culture, located right on the side of the Mississippi River and then the Center for Southern Folklore co-founded by Judy Preiser and William Ferris, a place where you can find information and original material that is essential to understand the southern culture. Stop for the lunch break directly there, or it can be in Alcenia’s for some real good soul food.
• We will visit the King’s Palace Cafè on Beale Street, once a photography studio owned by black people, in which are thought to have been made the famous portraits of Robert Johnson (appeared on the cover of The Complete Recordings CD set) as well as the famous picture of Tommy Johnson.
• The afternoon is free for shopping in Beale Street with a visit to Tater’s Red a shop famous for making voodoo amulets and mojos for every need (do not miss for example the famous John The Conqueror root oil).
• A must for dinner is at B.B. King Blues Club in Beale Street, with catfish tasting, a typical dish of the Mississippi (only for comparison with the catfish that we will always eat always going further south to the swamps of Louisiana). You can also attend a concert (live performances are very frequent) and take home a t-shirt.
- day 4 Tuesday (Edmondson, Arkansas > Hudsonville > Holly Springs > Harmontown > Oxford)
• Before leaving Memphis you can’t certainly forget the tomb of the one and only Albert King at Paradise Grove Cemetery, passing the muddy river to West Memphis, Edmondson, Arkansas, that during the 40s and 50s was the favorite place to play for musicians such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, B. B. King and Howlin ‘Wolf. The tomb of Albert King, located next to Martin Lutrher King Jr. Park contains the famous bronze plaque on a Flying V guitar, his trademark, suitably adapted for a left-handed guitarist.
• It’s time to go down in Mississippi, to visit the famous North Mississippi Hill Country. This is the area where the Burnside and Kimbrough families have lived for a long time, and it is the same place where every year Kenny Brown organizes the Hill Country Picnic every year on the last weekend of June, (think about this when you choose the dates of your trip!)
• Going out from Memphis and taking US-72 we will arrive to Hudsonville, where David “Junior” Kimbrough, famous for his music and patriarch of the Holly Spring Blues, is buried. On his grave, instead of flowers, his fans often leave a beer, as a last cheers for the afterlife.
• Next stop Holly Springs and please do not miss the Aikei Pro’s Record Shop (if it is closed, keep persisting, and you will find someone from the shop to ask for the owner, whose real name is David Caldwell) at 125 N. Center Street. Among the used bicycles, which are perfect for hidden stray cats, and a dusty and messy interior, you might still find something really interesting (and at prices to discuss and deal!).
•Find a place to eat such as Annie’s Restaurant, famous for fried chicken and down South cooking or the Chewalla Rib Shack located near the original Junior Kimbrough Jook Joint in Chulahoma. Junior’s Jook, one of the last of the Mississippi jook joints, was destroyed by a fire in April 2000 and honored by the Black Keys disc of the same name.
• Continuing to Harmontown we will visit the grave of R. L. Burnside, one of the last original bluesmen back in the music business. Thanks to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, R.L. re-launched his career in 1996 with the album “A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey”. Fisherman and sharecropper and bluesman in his spare time, he learned to play directly from Fred McDowell.
• We will finally arrive in Oxford, with a visit to the Square Books Shop, 1110 Van Buren and food choices on the square like the City Grocery, the Ajax Diner, and Rooster’s Blues House and the music venue Proud Larry’s.
• Night in Oxford
- day 5 Thursday (Oxford > Como > Senatobia > Lula)
• Once in Oxford we should visit the headquarters of Fat Possum, the famous label that has recorded many musicians of North Mississippi, as well as being known for the sound called Mississippi Hill Country Blues
• Returning to the west, we must visit Como, a small town crossing the railway, where Mississippi Fred Mc Dowell is buried. His gravestone was partially financed by Bonnie Raitt. On the reverse side of his tomb are written some verses of the song “You Got To Move.” You can also find some food or drinks in the Windy City Grill, located right on Main Street.
• Continuing to return towards Memphis, we will stop in Senatobia where in the afternoon we will visit the grave of Jessie Mae Hemphill, great-granddaughter of Sid Hemphill, a musician who Alan Lomax recorded, as well as Rosa Lee Hill, aunt of Jessie Mae. In addition she to appearing in the movie “Deep Blues” by Robert Palmer, Jessie Mae also played for long time in Europe.
• Near Senatobia, in Gravel Springs, if you are travelling at the end of August you will find the famous Othar Turner’s Picnic, in memory of this famous African-American musician, who played flute and drums with a unique style. These picnics last throughout the last weekend of August, with free admission and food and drink available locally at popular prices.
• We will pass Walls to visit the tomb of Memphis Minnie, one of the few blues female singers as well as an exceptional guitarist. In the 1930s, It was said that Minnie played guitar like a man.
Continuing on Highway 61 we will stop in Tunica to visit the Gateway To The Blues shop
• Dinner and night in Lula
- day 6 Thursday KB (Lula > Helena)
• We will then continue to go south to reach Helena, in Arkansas, home to the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, now known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival and where also we will find the graves of Robert Nighthawk and Frank Frost al Magnolia Cemetery.
• Famous not only for the Blues festival Helena is the birthplace of bluesman Cedel Davis, guitarist Robert Nighthawk and pianist Roosevelt Sykes, and Robert Johnson lived here for much of the last five years of his life, giving guitar lessons to the son of his girlfriend Estella Coleman, whose name was Robert Lockwood Jr.
• First day of the festival
• Take your time to visit the Delta Cultural Center (141 Cherry St. and 95 Missouri St.) and visit the KFFA Radio (1360 Radio Dr.), famous for the program King Biscuit Time where Sonny Boy Williamson usually plaid.
• Night In Helena
- day 7 Friday KB (Helena)
• This is the second day of the festival
• Take some rest from the blues to enjoy some street soul food
- day 8 Saturday KB (Helena)
• This is the third day of the festival
• Night In Helena
- day 9 Sunday (Helena > Clarksdale, Mississippi)
• In the morning we will move to Clarksdale, the birthplace of the blues, where we will find the famous crossroad where, as reported by the legend , Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play the blues like no one before. But first we will pass and arrive for a lunch at the Ground Zero Blues Club, owned by Morgan Freeman, where in the evening there are often live concert of local bluesmen
• A mandatory stop is the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art in Clarksdale, managed by Roger Stolle, who along with Jeff Konkel is one of the last white people really active to preserve the African American tradition and culture. In this shop you will find any blues record you want, as well as art objects and handcrafts made by bluesmen such as Pat Thomas, son of the legendary James “Son” Thomas.
• In this Sunday you will find the Cat Head Mini Blues Festival 2014 III, free from 9 am in front of the shop!
• Just pass by the Abe’s BBQ, located at the intersection of 61 and 49, to visit and take pictures of the famous “crossroad” of Robert Johnson (although the real crossroad between the highways is different, being the historical HW 61 moved from the current one, and unknown the real crossroads where we the father of the blues met the devil).
• After lunch we will be going down south, to visit first the Hopson Plantation, where the Shack Up Inn is located that from 2 pm organize the Annual Pinetop Perkins Celebration with concerts of famous bluesmen. This place is very unusual and tipical, because the owner, Bill Talbot, kept the old shacks of country and farm workers, and he refurbished them (mainly just adding the restroom) in order to obtain some “spiritual refuges” helping in this way to preserve part of the historical Mississippi Delta that is almost disappeared.
- day 10 Monday (Clarksdale > Memphis)
• Morning will be spent walking around Clarksdale, visiting places such as the Wade Walton’s Barber Shop or the Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died, the Sarah’s Kitchen restaurant or the building where there was the famous Rooster’s Records and even visit the Delta Blues Museum
• Back directly to the airport for the evening flight to Europe.
The program includes museum tickets, Blues Festival tickets and a special events.
Travel by bus, mini van or motorbike, with stops every day and night in the most important shopping and entertainment places!
Note: All the itineraries are subject to change without notice during the season or even during the trip due to some unforeseen and unforeseeable reasons. Prices may vary according to departure dates.