Travel Insider's guide to musical pilgrimages:Blues

Travel Insider's guide to musical pilgrimages:Blues
May 13, 2011
Cerys Matthews
The Guardian

Jon Stewart, Sleeper guitarist and music lecturer: Clarksdale, Mississippi
Every Blues fan should visit Clarksdale, down Highway 61 from Memphis. Clarksdale was a cultural and economic focus for the cotton plantations, and for many of the legendary musicians who defined the blues.

Muddy Waters and Son House lived locally and played juke joints in the area – some of which, like Red's (395 Sunflower Ave, Clarksdale), you can still visit. Robert Johnson "sold his soul to the devil" at a crossroads on the edge of town, and Bessie Smith died in the colourful Riverside Hotel (615 Sunflower Avenue, +1 662 624 9163 ) – home at one time or other to almost every name in the blues pantheon, and where Ike Turner also wrote what is generally accepted as the first rock'n'roll song, Rocket 88.

Stay in a refurbished sharecropper cabin at the Shack Up Inn (1 Commissary Circle, +1 662 624 8329 , to immerse yourself in the vibe of the Mississippi Delta.
• Jon Stewart lectures at Brighton Institute of Modern Music (

Garth Cartwright, music writer: Chicago
The blues never die – as proven recently by Hugh Laurie – and Chicago remains America's foremost blues city. It hosts its annual Chicago Blues Festival from 10-12 June ( And it's free! The festival's over by 9pm – the perfect time to head out to one of Chicago's blues bars. Buddy Guy's Legends (700 S Wabash, +1 312 427 1190 , is a great venue that books top artists. Blue Chicago (536 N Clark, +1 312 661 0100 , in downtown tends towards pleasing tourists with bands playing standards. On the north side of town you have Kingston Mines (2548 North Halsted, +1 773 477 4646 , and B.L.U.E.S (2519 N Halsted, +1 773 528 1012 , – both stay open late and feature local and touring acts. For the adventurous, Lee's Unleaded (7401 S. South Chicago Ave, +1 773 493 3477 , in the South Side is where black Chicago parties to soul-blues.
• Garth Cartwright is the author of More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music (Serpent's Tail, £12.99)
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