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The Delta’s Mighty Ambassadors

Scott Coopwood is the owner and publisher of Delta Magazine, Delta Business Journal, and The Cleveland Current, based in Cleveland.  Email him at scott@coopwood.net

 While we in the Mississippi Delta are thankful of our convention and visitor’s bureaus and of the Mississippi Development Authority’s tourism department for promoting our region of the state to the nation and world, there is another group that promotes the Mississippi Delta around the globe as well. I call these special few our “Mississippi Delta Ambassadors”—Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Delta resident and Academy Award winning actor, Morgan Freeman, and blues great B.B. King.

This trio constantly promotes the Mississippi Delta to the world. Their comments are always positive, and their love for our region comes through clearly in their words and actions.
Robert Plant, the singer for the iconic rock band, Led Zeppelin, grew up in England. As a boy he listened to blues records by Delta musicians, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton and several others.
Led Zeppelin as a group were all significantly influenced by the recordings of Delta blues musicians in the making of their own music and to date, Led Zeppelin has sold 300 million records worldwide. As we all know, over the years, Plant has travelled to Clarksdale and the Delta every year or so and for the first time performed here in August with his band.
Last month, Plant mentioned the Delta on the David Letterman Show and in Led Zeppelin’s newly released DVD, Celebration Day, their 2007 concert in London’s O2 Arena, Plant talks about the Mississippi Delta. I’ll call Plant our “Roaming Ambassador.”

Morgan Freeman grew up here, however when he left in the mid 1950s to join the Air Force, he told me he thought he would probably never return to Mississippi.  After years in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, and long before he became a household name, Morgan started returning to the Delta, visiting his mother outside of Charleston.
Freeman saw a new Delta upon his return and later decided to establish his main residence here. While many reporters have tried to bring up negatives associated with Mississippi’s past when they interview Freeman, he always moves the interview to positive ground, focusing on the many good things that are now associated with our state.”  I’ll call Morgan our resident “Delta Ambassador.”
B.B. King has spent his life on the roads of America, Europe and Asia, touring almost non-stop since the early 1950s. He has carried the Delta torch all over the globe, and while we in the Delta recognize our 1930s Delta blues greats for creating this unique music, B.B. King took Delta blues music to another level and made it popular.
From Eric Clapton, to the Beatles, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and countless others who took Delta blues music and turned it into rock ’n’ roll, B.B. King’s name is mentioned by all of these performers as one of their main influences. King is one of the finest gentleman you’ll ever meet, and he is a very humble and mild mannered person. Yet, when he speaks with his guitar, he shouts volumes. King talks about the Delta in the press all of the time. King should be recognized as our “Cultural Ambassador.”
We in the Delta, and in Mississippi should be very thankful for the good words these fine Delta Ambassadors spread to the world about  Mississippi because their words carry a lot of weight.
Thank you, Robert, Morgan, and B.B. for your sincere love of the Mississippi Delta and our great state.
We appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

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