Great Road Trips #5: The Blues Highway (USA)

11th December 2013
Pól Ó Conghaile

Route 66 is the Mother Road, but Highway 61 marks the birthplace of the Blues.

From Memphis to the Mississippi Delta, Graceland to the Gibson guitar factory, it’s absolutely dripping with Americana – right down to the crossroads where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil… in exchange for mastery of the Blues.

Highway 61 follows Old Man River from New Orleans to Wyoming, and is indelibly imprinted in pop culture – from Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (“Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?” / God says, “Out on Highway 61”) to Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’.

In summertime, the soupy heat and cloying humidity pile the atmosphere onto rusting silos and former cotton plantations, to riverboats and roadside buffets, crumbling mansions and gritty cityscapes. Johnson sealed his fate at the I49 intersection, Bessie Smith died in a car accident nearby, and both Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker grew up in Clarksdale.

sun studios, memphis

Memphis is a highlight. Music lovers will be in heaven here – stopping off at the legendary Sun Studios (pictured above), Graceland, or even the Rev. Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle. And don’t forget to hit Beale Street for some BBQ ribs and a Big Ass Beale Beer either.

Delta, United and Aer Lingus all fly to the US from Dublin. You can also book packages with Trailfinders, who can hit you up with adrenaline cars like the Dodge Challenger R/T – a relation of the car driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt – through Hertz in America.

The Details:

The Blues Highway is the fifth in a series I’m posting on the world’s great roadtrips. You can find out more about the above trips at united.com, aerlingus.com, delta.com; trailfinders.ie.