The Delta: Highway 61 (1926)

Highway 61, also known as the Blues Highway, runs along the western edge of the State of Mississippi, straight through the Mississippi Delta.  Though the highway travels nearly 1,500 miles, from New Orleans to the upper Midwest, it is the section of road that wanders through the fields and small towns of the Delta which have inspired dozens of Blues artists.  Travel was always an important theme in the Mississippi blues, and Highway 61 represented a connection between the Delta and New Orleans to the south and Chicago to the north.  Highway 61 played a crucial role in the Great Migration of African-Americans out of the south and into the north during the mid-20th century, further spreading the Blues throughout the nation.

Many of the most famous blues artists lived on or near Highway 61, including B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and many others.  Many songs were written about the Highway, such as Roosevelt Sykes’s “Highway 61 Blues” and Sunnyland Slim’s “Highway 61”.  In 1965, Bob Dylan recorded his famous album “Highway 61 Revisited”.

Tunica, Mississippi, at the north end of the Delta, is considered the Gateway to the Blues, and  a new museum and visitor center there explains the significance of Highway 61.  Highway 61 travels south of Tunica through Clarksdale, Cleveland and Vicksburg.

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