Clarksdale & the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival
Here we are not dealing just with a trip or a journey. For many people in the world this may represent the dream of their life, a trip where all their long time love just began, the cradle of all our music: the Blues.
We are working to make these dreams come true, our plan it realizing some special trips, dedicated to all the kind of aspects of this music, specifically built with attention to the smallest details.
All european tourists once in their life will go to the United States; Travel For Fans will organize some trips, mainly in the Southern States, to discover the places, the culture, sensations made of landscapes, tastes and perfumes, that have been dreamed from old records, even before than movies and books since childhood. We will concentrate on the father of all modern music: the Blues, and all his different flavors, like Soul, R&B, Country, Bluegrass, Old Time, Zydeco and Jazz that all together gave birth to the Rock.
We will bring people there where all began, and where the long and hard journey to our actual days really started.
Here you will find some projects we developed, that you will be able to live with your motorbike or car, following all our suggestions that will help you to reach places no one else could drive you through!
Our main goal is to not let this music die, and to bring European music lovers close to their fantasy and heroes, even if it means just touching with their own hand the grave of Robert Johnson.
Clarksdale & the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival
This journey will guide you to Clarksdale, Mississippi, during a special event, the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, where, for example, to honor the blues as the root of every music, in 2012 even Robert Plant performed. Three days of music in the street open shops and restaurants, all free concerts from early morning to late in the night.
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 visit at the place where Robert Johnson as the legend says gave his soul to the devil at the famous crossroad between H61 and H49.
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. 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 in August
- 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)
• 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. .
•The late afternoon is free for shopping on 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). You cannot leave without visiting the historic Schwab’s store, a unique shop where you can find probably everything you can think at that exist on Earth. The slogan of this historical shop is “If you can’t find it at A. Schwab, you’re probably better off without it!”
• A must for dinner is at B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street, which serves catfish, a typical dish of the Mississippi Delta. You will enjoy a blues concert (live performances are very frequent) and take home a t-shirt.
• Overnight in Memphis
- day 3 Monday (Memphis)
• 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 or even on Beale Street at Dyer’s Burgers.
• 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 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
•The dinner will be at the Rum Boogie Cafe where, in addition to admire the original label STAX sign, many musicians have played all over the years as for example Ike Turner, Son Seals or Stevie Ray Vaughan.
•Overnight in Memphis
- day 4 Tuesday (Hudsonville (MS) > Holly Springs > Chulahoma > Harmontown > Oxford)
• 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.
• Dinner 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.
•Overight in Oxford
- day 5 Wednesday (Oxford > Water Valley -> Greenwood -> Leland -> Greenville)
• Once in Oxford we should visit the headquarters of Fat Possum, the famous label that has raised many musicians of the Mississippi, as well as stand for the sound called Mississippi Hill Country Blues.
• Going out from Oxford we will move to Water Valley, where we will eventually stop for a coffee, and to visit the Casey Jones Blues Marker, just before leaving again to reach the Grenada for a fast lunch.
• Going south on HWY 7 to Avalon we will also visit the grave of Mississippi John Hurt, pioneer of folk blues music, who died in 1966 (it is important to know the date so that you do not take pictures of the wrong headstone, given the numerous Hurt in the cemetery).
•We will then move towards the area of Greenwood to be devoted to Robert Johnson. To the west of Greenwood, just northeast of the intersection of 89 and 49E is Three Forks Store, which is the bar (rebuilt after several tornadoes) where it is said that Robert Johnson made his last “concert” before he was killed, apparently by the jealous husband of a woman Johnson was drinking with. To the north of Greenwood is the third grave of Robert Johnson, currently thought to be the real one, according to eye witnesses who attended his burial at the Little Zion Cemetery.
• In the late afternoon we will reach Indianola, “The Home of B.B. King “as stated in the sign of the city. Here, we will visit among other things, the Club Ebony and the B.B. King Blues Museum. Visit in Indianola at the Club Ebony plus visit to the B.B. King Museum with concert included before 5 PM
•We will pass by Leland, where, in addition to blues murals at Lilo’s Italian Restaurant, we will eventually visit the tomb of James “Son” Thomas, bluesman by vocation and undertaker by profession. Thomas was famous in Europe having visited it several times with the harmonica player Walter Liniger, and we will reach Greenville
•Overnight in Greenville
- day 6 Thursday (Greenville > Cleveland – > Clarksdale)
• In Greenville we will be strolling around Nelson Street, where from the 40’s to the 70’s people the like Little Milton, Eddie Cusic, Charlie Booker, Willie Love, T-Model Ford and Little Bill Wallace ruled the street. The Mississippi Blues Trail marker reminds us the importance of this place in music history. Don’t miss Walnut Street, famous for its live music venues or the Playboy Club, immortalized in the film Mississippi Blues by Bernard Tavernier
• We will then move to Clarksdale on HWY 61 and stop in the nice city of Cleveland for lunch and shopping. Then we will pass by Dockery Farms, going east on HWY 8 and then back on HWY 61 to visit Merigold and give a look at the famous Po’ Monkey Juke Joint, and then we will pass by the Mound Bayou city, notable for having been founded as an independent black community in 1887 by former slaves led by Isaiah Montgomery.
• We will then move to reach the main goal of this Travel For Fans trip: Clarksdale, that will be reached in the afternoon just in time to join the Grit, Greens and Barbeque VIP Party, the starter of the Sunflower Festival.
• We will then reach the Hopson Plantation, where the Shack Up Inn is located, that organize the Pinetop Perkins Homecoming, in the Sunday just after the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival in Helena (second weekend of October). The festival is held even after the famous pianist passed away in 2011. 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.
• Night in Clarksdale at the Shack Up Inn
- day 7 Friday (Hopson Plantation > Stovall Plantation > Clarksdale)
• First day of the Sunflower Blues Festival, our tour will continue through the famous Stovall Plantation, where Muddy Waters established coming from Rolling Fork, and where Alan Lomax heard him play, here you will find an indication of where it was located what is said have been the home of Muddy Waters, currently housed (rebuilt) in the Delta Blues Museum.
• Back to Clarksdale we will visit the Delta Blues Museum and then we will have 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. Also a few blocks from the Cat Head store, visit Stan Street’s Hambone Gallery for original folk art or the Rock and Blues Museum which features historic items like blues 78s, instruments, and photographs. Every Tuesday night, Street also hosts a jam for local and visiting musicians in his studio.
• Afternoon and evening dedicated to the Sunflower Blues Festival
• Night in Clarksdale
- day 8 Saturday (Tutwiler > Parchman > Clarksdale)
• Before lunch (depending on the festival program) we will go to Tutwiler, where it is said that WC Handy, standing at the train station, heard for the first time what was then called the “blues”, a black stranger who was playing a guitar using a knife as a slide. We will visit the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson II, where despite the reported date of death on the tombstone is wrong, as well as that of his birth is uncertain, many musicians still go on pilgrimage leaving as a tribute to their harps.
• We can’t miss (also if armed guards walking close to the white gate always try to avoid people in stopping) the Parchman Farms, the “Mississippi State Penitentiary” at the intersection of 32 and 49W, which is popular both for researches and registrations of Alan Lomax, and for having been visited by many bluesmen (such as Son House and Bukka White), and sung by many musicians not only blues (we mention for example Johnny Winter and John Mayall). Even today you can see the prisoners, with the classic striped uniform, working the land surrounding the prison.
• Back to Clarksdale we will pass by Shelby and reach Clarksdale for lunch at Abe’s BBQ, located at the intersection of 61 and 49 (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).
• Afternoon and evening dedicated to the Sunflower Blues Festival, between the Acoustic and the Main Stage
• Possible private blues party at Club 2000 or Messenger’s
• Night in Clarksdale
- day 9 Sunday (Clarksdale > Como > Senatobia > Gravel Springs > Hernando > Memphis)
• Before leaving Clarksdale enjoy the last morning of the festival, in the day of the Lord at the gospel stage. In this Sunday you will find the Cat Head Mini Blues Festival 2013 II, free from 10 am in front of the shop!
– Solution 1
• Then we take I 6 and we reach H 55 going north, and we must stop to visit Como, a small town crossing the railway, where Mississippi Fred Mc Dowell is buried, on the reverse side of whose tomb are written some verses of the song “You Got To Move”, and 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 we will visit in the afternoon the grave of Jessie Mae Hemphill, great-grandson of Sid Hemphill, a musician that Alan Lomax recorded, as well as Rosa Lee Hill, aunt of Jessie Mae. Jessie also played for long time in Europe, in addition she was also appearing in the movie “Deep Blues” by Robert Palmer
• Near Senatobia, in Gravel Springs, if you are travelling at the end of August will find the famous Othar Turner’s Picnic, in memory of this famous African-American musician, who plaid flute and drums, with a unique style. These Picnic last throughout the last weekend of August, with free admission and food and drinks are available locally at popular prices.
• We move then to Hernando where Jerry Lee Lewis and George “Mojo” Buford were born and whose name was taken by the North Mississippi Allstars for one of their album. Here we’ll find the tomb of Gus Cannon, and Joe Calicott, the latter being typical for the bizarre graves that surround it, some even hand-written.
•Back to Memphis and dinner
•Night in Memphis
– Solution 2
• Have a lunch in Clarksdale and relax waiting for the Sunflower Blues Festival starting at 4 PM
Night in Clarksdale
- day 10 Monday ( Memphis and back to Europe)
• Breakfast at the hotel and directly to the airport for the flight to Europe.
The program includes museum tickets, Blues Festival 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.
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