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How the Blues Has Changed and How the Blues Has Changed Mississippi, Part III: The Payoff

CLEVELAND, Miss.–You know the blues is alright, and the blues is paying off for Mississippi, bringing thousands of people to the state to see the grave(s) of Robert Johnson, hear live blues at Po’ Moneys and see the interactive B.B. King Museum.

NEWS MISSISSIPPI FEATURE

“There have always been blues fans, both black and white,” said Don Allan “Chip” Mitchell, professor of English and blues at Delta State University in Cleveland. “As far as an institutional outreach and support, millions of dollars of state money being invested into museum projects, like the Grammy Museum or the B.B. King Museum, that is something that has occurred in the last 20 years, really.”

CHIP MITCHELL INTERVIEW

The Mississippi Blues Trail is a main feature of what Mississippi can offer visitors coming to see where America’s music was born.

“It kind of puts it together, gives them a map in their mind,” said Charlie Musselwhite, from Kosciusko, who had a Blues Trail marker dedicated in his honor in 2009. He was interviewed for the video on the homepage of the Mississippi Blues Trail, http://msbluestrail.org/ .

“It shows what Mississippi has given the world.” The video includes interviews from Bonnie Raitt and Denise LaSalle about why people travel to Mississippi to see the markers.

“The markers are just fabulously well-researched,” said Mitchell. “You could read those all afternoon. They have these scholarly articles on the back and everything’s that’s on there is just fascinating to the average music fan.”

And the Blues Trail is not confined to Mississippi. There are markers in several states, and even one in France.

So, why do people come to Mississippi? Why is the music here so well known now?

“That American music has made its way around the globe,” said Tricia Walker, head of the Delta Music Institute at DSU. “The Beatles and the Rolling Stones learned from listening to the masters. We need to celebrate that. Tourists are looking for authenticity, something that’s not manufactured.”

Malcolm White, director of tourism for Mississippi, had similar thoughts.

“For such a small state, 2.9 million people, we’re all storytellers. We have created and birthed creative types,” he said.

“We have a roster that is unparalleled.”

“Tying it to this idea of the creative economy,” said Mitchell, “celebrating not only our traditions, but our actual artists who are still alive and are still producing.”

Most of the originals have passed on, but current generations are keeping the spirit alive by continuing to perform in some of the same joints where people like Pine Top Perkins and T Model Ford played, and crowds from all over the world are keeping the places full and the money flowing.

Blues and music tourism in the state will likely jumped to a new level when the Grammy Museum opens in Cleveland and the Arts and Entertainment Center opens in Meridian. The blues may have been born in the past, but it belongs to the future.

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