MUSIC AND THE DEEP SOUTH; from Elvis in Memphis to Dolly in Nashville, Few Destinations Can Compare with America's Deep South When It Comes to Musical History, as Paul Oswell Explains

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Oswell

THERE must be something in those Mississippi waters. The Deep South is as fertile a musical breeding ground as you'll find anywhere in the world. Think of a genre and chances are it has its roots in the southern states of the USA. Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock and Roll, Country...they all chimed out from the swamps, fields and riversides of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Most of the music came from inauspicious beginnings. The Tupelo Hardware Store in Tupelo, Mississippi, is an unremarkable shop, until you figure in the fact that it's where Mrs Gladys Presley bought her son Elvis his first guitar. Thanks to his healthy interest in Gospel, all young Elvis wanted to do was sing, and so Rock and Roll came into the world.

Mississippi is also the birthplace of the Blues, and towns such as Clarkesdale gave the world legends such as Robert Johnson - his legacy means that artists including BB King are now global megastars. The fascinating history of the Blues can be discovered on the new Mississippi Blues Trail, which runs through the state.

The influence of Blues and Gospel was far reaching in these parts. The musical styles travelled as far as Macon, Georgia and eventually gave us Soul - through Little Richard came Otis Redding and James Brown, with a little bit of Ray Charles thrown in for good measure. Find them all at Macon Georgia's Music Hall of Fame.

Alabama, too, took these sounds and put their own local brand on them. Jazz thrived in Birmingham, and the country sound we all know today was essentially invented in Montgomery, from where Hank Williams became a ten million record selling artist in the 1940s and 50s.

You can't talk about the music of the Deep South without a freestyle nod to the Jazz greats that have come from this incredible region. The cultural melting pot - and in the summers you're almost literally melting - of New Orleans mixed Afro-Caribbean percussions with local rhythms and gave us Jazz.

There are a host of iconic Jazz experiences in this great city, from the tradition of Preservation Hall to the holes in the wall of Frenchman Street to the sheer class of Snug Harbour. Add to this the local Zydeco and Cajun music styles, and it's no wonder that places like Bourbon Street are hopping 24 hours a day to infectious live sounds.

If the distinctive Zydeco and Cajun sound intrigues you, it's a short hop from New Orleans to Lafayette and Lake Charles, where these styles originated and where there are live music clubs aplenty giving outstanding authentic concerts and performances. …