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You, Robert Johnsonís ghost, and some live blues artists. Just what the doctor ordered.
Last time we were down in the Mississippi Delta we were getting stuck in on local radio, but now hereís a reason to go back down there (and itís not even related to The Help).
This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of father of the blues Robert Johnson; and to mark it, next weekend, the people of Greenwood are throwing a blues festival. Not only that, but itís a festival right in the cottonfields next to where Johnson is purportedly buried.
The King of the Delta Blues 100th Anniversary Remembrance Festival takes place October 15-16 on Money Road, outside Greenwood and by the premises of the fabulous WABG radio station. The lineup includes Rory Block, Dr Feelgood Potts, Maria Muldaur and Bobby Rush, and there will be tributes to blues artists who died this year, like Honey Boy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins and Mississippi Slim.
WABG and the surrounding plantation
One thing youíll notice as you road trip through the Mississippi Delta is that listening to the radio can be a problem. There are country stations, pop stations and talk stationsbut finding a blues station takes a bit of work. Which is silly, because the reason youíve come to blues country is to hear the blues, right?
Luckily, one station hears your pain: WABG, aka The Awesome AM, based in Greenwood. You can listen to it on 960 AM or online at awesomeam.com, where it plays blues and classic rock. Not that itís always been that wayat launch in 1950 it was a ďfarm/talk/country stationĒ and when the present owners bought it in 2007 it was all talk.
But the very best thing about WABG is that itís open to visitors. ďPoe," the sole DJ and one of three owners of the station, spends half his life in the little whitewashed shack in a field in the middle of a plantation on the outskirts of Greenwood. And what may be bad for his social life is great for you, because it means that if heís around when you pop by (and he most likely will be), heíll invite you in, give you a little tour of the station, interview you about your travel plans live on air and even, if you're well behaved, let you indulge in a spot of DJing.
The unassuming Redís by day
If youíre following the Blues trail around the Mississippi Delta, youíll almost certainly have Clarksdale down on your hitlist. Not only is it the biggest of the blues towns (well, technically Greenville is bigger, but thereís not much going on round there these days), but itís also the closest to
civilization Memphis (75 miles south) and the town thatís adapted best to visitors with (gasp) a choice of nice places to stay, as well as restaurants and shops all within the teeny town center.
The blues clubs are what youíre really going for, though. Ground Zero is the most famous, possibly because itís the largest, possibly because itís the most geared towards tourists (announcing musicians well in advance and keeping to published opening hours) or possibly because itís owned by Morgan Freeman.
Thereís just one problem with Ground Zero: having given it a go on three separate visits, we canít help but conclude that itís just not that great. Itís obviously very touristy and the clientele are, um, one of a kind Ė lots of girls in daisy dukes and cowboy boots without the figures to match, and guys whose hookup modus operandi is by asking you to come to their farm and ďsee my animalsĒ (100% true story). Everyoneís too blitzed to listen to the music and the general atmosphere is one of meat market/country bachelorette party.
Think this is a railway track just like all other railway tracks? Nuh uh, reader, it is notand not just because it has a funky mural on the wall opposite. These railway tracks are historic. Because it was right here, in 1903, that the blues were born.
Or rather, if we donít get carried away by the excited notices on entering town, itís here that the blues stepped from local musical style to national movement.
See, it was here, on the railway tracks in Tutwiler, Mississippi, that composer WC Handy was waiting for a train and watched a man press a knife on the strings of his guitar, sing, and produce ďthe weirdest music I have ever heard.Ē Handy then started putting the blues to paper and took the previously regional style national (and then global).
You may not be able to travel full time, but now there's a way for you to at least study it full time. Missouri State University is offering the world's first bachelor's degree in geotourism.
National Geographic worked with the university to create the new field of study, which will look at tourism that sustains an area's environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents. The program also will examine the effects of local and global tourism, focusing on enhancing the quality of life of all affected by tourism development. As part of the program, you'll learn about cultural and environmental geography, community planning, development and tourism.
Desperate times call for desperate measures: Under pressure to balance the budget, the Mississippi state legislature is contemplating selling its private jet, Sarah Palin-style.
House Appropriations Chair Johnny Stringer cited Palin as an inspiration when he proposed putting the $3.7-million Cessna Citation 8-seater, which costs $1,600 an hour to operate, up for sale. That would leave just three state-funded planes for lawmakers to share, including the jet's most frequent passenger, Republican Governor Haley Barbour.
Critics of the plan call it a partisan stunt and mention that the state still owes $500,000 on the jet. eBay might not even be the way to go after all: When a buyer for Alaska's $2.7 million jet fell through online, the state took a $600,000 hit and got rid of it privately.
· Miss. may sell state jet on eBay [Clarionledger.com]
· Opinion: Think It Over Before Selling Governor's Jet [Hattiesburg American]
[Photo of Gov. Barbour, who may be forced to drive everywhere: DayLife.com]
Now that she's been overshadowed by a certain vice presidential candidate's daughter, Jamie Lynn Spears has been given a longer leash to operate, both by the media who dogged her (yeah, we know!) and the critics who saw her as a symbol of everything that was wrong with America. No wonder the girl has been frequenting a local Wal-Mart for a little retail therapy.
Aside from a recent trip to California with daughter Maddie Briann to meet her cousins Sean Preston and Jayden James, Jamie Lynn has been hanging out at the big box, sometimes with boyfriend and possible fiance Casey Aldridge (the Levi Johnston of Mississippi).
A savvy star would try and get an endorsement out of it, at least in the next 20 days before we forget again that teenage girls can get pregnant.
· Family Travel: Britney and Jamie Lynn Plan Playdate [Jaunted]
· Celebrity Magazine Editor Shacks Up at the Mondrian [HC]
· Celeb Travel coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: Celebrity Gossip]
For a while there, it looked like John McCain was going to break his date with Barack Obama at Ole Miss tonight. But you can't break a date that you don't have!
Since there's nothing doing in the Northern Mississippi missed connections (go look, we'll wait!), suspend your break from dating and find a worthy opponent at one of these hot spots in the nearest big city, Memphis, Tennessee:
His poor travel agent! After declaring he would stay in Washington, DC until the bailout package had been pushed through Congress, John McCain will participate in tonight's debate against Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. A campaign statement said the Republican candidate was "optimistic" that a solution had advanced far enough that he felt that he could resume normal campaign activities.
If we could suggest a venue change, we would love to see the candidates opine while scrambling through this corn maze of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. A Whitehouse, Ohio farmer carved the election-themed maze this year in hopes that Palin would pay him a visit, but also in the wish that people would take this election seriously. How corny!
· McCain to Show up for Debate After All [CNN]
· Palin A-Maze-Ing in Whitehouse Cornfield [Toledo Free Press]
· Possible Presidents Travel: Get Me to Ole Miss on Time [Jaunted]
[Photo: Toledo Free Press]
Morgan Freeman was seriously injured in a one-car accident in Northern Mississippi late Sunday night. The 71-year-old "Dark Knight" actor was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis after being pulled from a 1997 Nissan Maxima that flipped over multiple times. His passenger, Demaris Meyer, was also injured, though authorities can't say for certain how seriously she was hurt.
Filmmaker Paul Saltzman, who visited the Oscar-winner in the hospital, said Freeman suffered a broken shoulder and broken arm. He recently wrapped work on a documentary project with Freeman about a newly integrated prom held in Charleston, Mississippi--an event the actor sponsored.
We're not afraid to admit that Biloxi, Mississippi has never been high on our "To Visit" list. True, it does host killer Kid Rock concerts, but that alone won't get us on a Skybus flight to the Gulf Coast.
Budget Travel magazine, though, thinks we should reconsider. Biloxi's done a lot of rebuilding since Katrina smashed the city in 2005, and big casinos are a major draw. So too is bingeing on seafood: The city was once the world capital of oysters and shrimp.
We're not too taken by the couple of museums BT suggests, but that's no big deal when there are 26 miles of beach around to enjoy. Cruising on a replica of a turn-of-the-century schooner sounds pretty cool, too.
Jaunted tipster James found the R2D2 mailbox in Jackson Mississipi. Who knew R2 was into taking in some gospel music down by the Pearl River, or maybe the droid hit a blues bar. There are plenty of Mississippi blues events for R2 to check out this month.
He does look quite lonely sitting on the side of the road in Jackson, but at least he has his little blue postal friends to keep him company.
R2 is showing up everywhere this summer.