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Blues artist Nathan Quick recording in Houston, Texas
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Hear the Blues

Experience the USA

The blues were born in America, and made world famous by legends like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker. Blues are universal—they speak to the essence of the human experience by turning heartache into joyful, uplifting music. Today, you’ll find traditional and innovative blues are alive and well in cities across the USA.

Explore Blues

Beale Street

Every night is a party on Beale Street, a rollicking destination in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, where the revelry and live music spills into the street. Pay tribute to blues legend B.B. King by visiting the late star’s original B.B. King’s Blues Club. Tour the W.C. Handy Home and Museum to learn more about the “Father of the Blues,” and catch an outdoor concert at Handy Park. Book a room at one of 10 hotels within walking distance of the entertainment district. Round out a stay by touring the National Civil Rights Museum.

National Blues Museum

Who says museums are quiet? That’s not the case at the National Blues Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, where music fills the Lumiere Place Legends Room on Fridays and Sundays. Whenever you visit, tour artifact-filled exhibits and hear samples of the different regional styles of blues music. Listen to lectures about dozens of famous musicians, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Minnie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. See rare photographs, watch films and learn how the blues is the foundation for other American music genres. Outside, visit the Gateway Arch, then feast on St. Louis-style barbecue.

W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival

For four days each June, people flock to Henderson, Kentucky, to pay homage to W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues,” who lived here at the turn of the century. The W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival at Audubon Mill Park on the Ohio River features a stellar roster of musicians. Lineups have included Tab Benoit, Wet Willie, Coco Montoya and Samantha Fish. On opening day, sample barbecue sold by local vendors. Best of all, admission is free at the event organized by the Henderson Music Preservation Society. Fun fact: Ornithologist and painter John James Audubon also lived here.

Gip’s Place

Gip’s Place, established in the early 1950s in Bessemer, Alabama, is the state’s last remaining authentic juke joint. Blues musicians make pilgrimages to play at the weekend hot spot, and dedicated fans converge on the tiny club to listen and meet the legendary proprietor. The club is found in the backyard of 90-year-old Henry “Gip” Gipson, who greets each patron and if he’s in the mood, picks up his guitar or harmonica to play a song or two. Bring your own drinks, pay in cash at the door and dance the night away.

Mississippi Blues Trail

Visit dozens of landmarks, museums and monuments at places that gave birth to the blues by following the Mississippi Blues Trail. Stop in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the myth originated that legendary Robert Johnson stood at “The Crossroads,” the intersection of highways 61 and 49, and sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his guitar-playing skills. Find the marker, then learn about Johnson and other artists at the Delta Blues Museum. Tour exhibits, attend a lecture, and time a visit with a film or music festival. Stop by Red’s Blues Club for a beer and live music; it’s the real deal.

Home Team BBQ

When you’re in Charleston, South Carolina, seek out a satisfying destination that combines southern comfort food with authentic blues music. With three locations, Home Team BBQ is a self-described happy place that proclaims “the only blues here is music.” Sit for a spell on an outside porch and absorb the rustic honky-tonk atmosphere. Talented touring and local musicians take the stage to entertain the crowd. Linger here a little longer to soak up the southern charm of this waterfront city as you walk cobblestone streets in historic neighborhoods.

King Biscuit Blues Festival

Each October, Blues fans flock to the banks of the mighty Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas, to hear music where it was created, the Delta Region. Dozens of bands – which have included Gov’t Mule, Bob Holloway & The Southern Sons, and JJ Grey & Mofro – jam and perform on several stages over three days. Come for the music, then go on a river cruise, bike the Delta Heritage Trail State Park and tour of the Delta Cultural Center learn more about the region.

Unofficial Blues Brothers Tour

Set yourself up for an adventure in Chicago, Illinois, by retracing the stops made by Jake and Elwood Blues, famously portrayed by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the 1980 “Blues Brothers” musical comedy movie. Visit Elwood’s apartment on Van Buren Street, Ray’s Music Exchange on Grand Boulevard, the Soul Food Café, Pilgrim Baptist Church, the Daley Center lobby and a host of other landmarks. Explore even more in grand style aboard a Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour.

Detail shot of a blues performance
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