The part of US 61 between Memphis and Vicksburg is known as The Blues Highway. Along this road, American music history was made. We drove from Memphis to Baton Rouge searching for the heart of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll, fueled by the best Southern comfort food.
#1- Mayflower Cafe
Our trip started Friday after work. We opted for the fastest route from Baton Rouge to Memphis, so we could roll down the Blues Highway on the way back. After a scenic three-hour drive, we reached Jackson, Mississippi. Looking for a quick dinner, we stumbled upon the oldest restaurant in town. Stepping into the Mayflower Cafe is a step back in time. Make sure to stop by for delicious grilled fish and Mississippi hospitality.
#2- Beale Street & BB King’s Blues Club
Beale street is considered Memphis’ version of Bourbon Street. Nowadays, they share neon signs, loud clubs and drinks in plastic cups. But Beale Street played its part in American music history. Many legendary blues artists took their first steps to success on Beale Street.
One of these artists was the great BB King. His blues club is a stop not to be missed on Beale Street. The BB in BB King’s Blues Club might as well stand for BB-Q. Their barbecue ribs are by far the best I’ve ever had, and that means something if you’ve lived in Texas. Just like many other cities in the South, Memphis claims to have the best barbecue. They got my vote. In addition to amazing ribs, BB Kings Blues Club offers great live music.
#3- Lorraine Motel & National Civil Rights Museum
50 years ago, Martin Luther King was shot while standing outside of his room in the Lorraine Motel. The Motel was turned into the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum tells the story of African-Americans, from the slavery era to the Civil Rights Movement and present day. Not only does the museum display an essential part of American history, it also shapes the context in which blues music originated.
#4- The Majestic Grille
The Majestic Grille is housed in an old movie theater. The sun was out, so we skipped the silent movie inside and opted for outdoor seating right on Main Street. They have an extensive brunch menu, with the Majestic Mimosa as the star on the menu. Below picture shows that everybody agrees on that.
#5- Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Soul music originated from blues and gospel in the 1950’s. Together with the Motown record label in Detroit, Stax Records in Memphis shaped the sound of soul. 15 years ago, the recording studio was turned into a museum. It tells the story of soul, guided by music from its greatest artists including Otis Redding.
#6- Sun Studio
Another landmark in American music history is Sun Studio, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis, Johny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded their first hits in the Sun Studio. The studio is open to the public for one-hour guided visits. Our entertaining guide had mastered the rock and roll vibe – I’m pretty sure it was not water in that water bottle. We even had a family of Elvis impersonators joining us.
#7- Ground Zero Blues Club
Mississippi native Morgan Freeman co-owns this down-home blues club in Clarksdale. Unlike what you would expect from a club owned by a movie star, Ground Zero is very homey and laid-back. There is great live music and a lot of fried food (fried pickles, anyone?) on the Southern menu. We stayed the night at one of the comfortable Delta Cotton Company apartments, located conveniently above Ground Zero Blues Club.
#8- House of Pancakes
It turned out to be a slow Saturday at Ground Zero Blues Club, so we were redirected to the only place that was still open at 1 AM. The House of Pancakes does it all. Dance the night away on R&B in its Blues Bar, and cure your hangover with an American breakfast the next morning. Before heading out of town, make sure to stop at the Devil’s Crossroads. Legend has it that this is where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent.
#9- BB King Museum
By portraying the life of the King of the Blues, the BB King Museum also interprets the struggle of African-Americans in Mississippi and the origin of Blues music. Born as the son of sharecroppers in the Mississippi delta, Riley King imagined a humble life on the cotton fields. Instead, he became the man that introduced the world to the sound of blues. The museum takes you on a musical journey of BB Kings incredible life and career.
#10- 10 South Restaurant & Bar
Vicksburg is a historic little town located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi river. This location comes with beautiful views of the Mississippi delta, especially when you rise ten stories up. 10 South Restaurant & Bar turns the Mississippi river into the star of dinner, with delicious catfish and sweeping sunset views.