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Tracing History

With the arrival of this spring weather, our publication, Delta Magazine, decided to get out and enjoy some of it. We accomplished this by taking most of our staff and a few close friends on the road and traveling around the Delta region in search of story ideas for some of our upcoming issues.

We began our trip in Memphis a couple of weeks ago in the lobby of the Madison Hotel –– an excellent boutique hotel located a couple of blocks north of The Peabody. Delta Magazine spent three days in Memphis taking in the sites and sounds of the downtown and midtown areas. We saw the Civil Rights Museum, which was very moving. We took a tour of a church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of his last speeches. We traced Elvis’ steps where he worked as a teenager, went to school, recorded his hits at Sun Studios, and we looked at some Civl War history.

We also had a few meals at some of Memphis‘ most famous eateries such as Interstate Barbeque. The Gibson Guitar factory, the Stax Museum, the Rock and Soul Museum, were also very interesting. Dr. Luther Brown, Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, was one of our tour guides along with Memphian insider, Sherman Willmott, owner of Memphis Rock-N-Roll Tours (www.memphisrocktour.com).

If you want to see the behind the scenes Memphis, Sherman is your man. Our time in Memphis ended one night at a downtown restaurant where we were joined by several close friends, including well known Memphian and good friend, Pat Tigrett, who brought along Priscilla Presley.

After Memphis, we journeyed south to Friars Point, Miss., where we visited that town’s museum and learned about the fantastic history of this small hamlet on the Mississippi River located off of Highway 1. It is rumored that Charles Lindberg once landed his plane in Friars Point during a barnstorming tour of the U.S. Friars Point is one of the earliest settlements in the Delta.

Our third stop was in Clarksdale, where we attended a cigar party at Ground Zero Blues Club, explored the Riverside Hotel where blues great, Bessie Smith died and where Ike Turner, Sam Cooke and several others have stayed and in Ike’s case, he wrote some in the basement.

On the way out, I noticed a photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr., hanging on the wall. Kennedy stayed three nights at the Riverside Hotel shortly before he died while visiting Clarksdale. The Shack Up Inns was our next stop. The “Shacks” are a group of old farm labor houses that have been put together in a small settlement east of Clarksdale, and of which you can rent and spend the night in. Next door to the Shacks, we visited the Hopson Commissary –– an old plantation headquarters now turned into a juke joint and bar.

The group totally flipped out on Cathead in Clarksdale, a most unusual blues folk-art store, and after that stop, we visited the Delta Blues Museum, of which visitors can see blues great, Muddy Waters’ old cabin he was raised in.

Much of the sites in Clarksdale, I had seen a dozen times. However, with each visit, I always learn more.
Traveling south, we stopped at Dockery Plantation, east of Cleveland. This is the home of one of the first recorded blues musicians, Charley Patton. A young Robert Johnson used to travel to Dockery to see Patton play his guitar.

Today, Johnson is known as the father of the blues and his songs have been recorded by Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Rolling Stones, and so many others.

In Indianola, we stopped to see the B.B. King Museum, which is often the highlight of any trip to the Delta.
Moving south, we found tons of story ideas in Yazoo City and Canton also offered up some ideas as we visited the untouched film sets of “A Time To Kill”.

Heading back north, The Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood was our stop and we found the early indian artifacts displayed there keep getting better and better. In Greenwood, the Alluvian Hotel is always worth spending a night and there is no shortage of great restaurants and places to eat in Greenwood.

We ended our journey just south of Scott, where Luther showed our group the exact spot where the great Mississippi River flood of 1927 took place. Up until 1927, this tragedy was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. This event also helped sway the presidential election of that era.

There is a lot to see and do in North Mississippi, and it just takes some gas in your tank, your favorite music in your CD or iPod player, some cameras, and a great group of people to spend some time with. And, don’t be in a hurry or you’ll miss out on some of the hidden treasures our region of Mississippi has to offer!

Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current . Scott’s company also publishes two weekly e-newsletters. Coopwood publishing concerns now reach 250,000 people.  Scott is also a 1984 graduate of the University of Mississippi. He can be reached at scott@coopwood.net

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