Touring the Southern Blues Trail
Lord, that I’m standin’ at the crossroad, babe, I believe I’m sinkin’ down. —Robert Johnson, “Cross Road Blues”
Robert Johnson, the world’s most notorious bluesman, met his end in Greenwood at the age of 27, the victim of a jealous husband. At the Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church (Money Rd.; 662-455-0004), a humble wooden church set under oak trees, a small graveyard holds Johnson’s tombstone. “He influenced millions in his time,” it reads. Devotees come from all over the world to leave guitar picks, coins and bottles of beer and whiskey on his grave. At the base of the pecan tree, there’s another marker. “When I leave this town, I’m ’on’ bid you farewell,” it says, a line from Johnson’s “From Four Till Late.” “And when I return again, you’ll have a great long story to tell.” There are at least two other graves for Johnson—one in Quito and another near Morgan City, both in Mississippi—but that’s fitting for a man who was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil to learn how to play guitar.
Such bargains are unnecessary at The Alluvian Hotel (rooms, from $195; 318 Howard St.; 866-600-5201; thealluvian.com), opened in May 2003 by the Viking Range Corporation, whose HQ is in this town. The Alluvian has 45 guest rooms and five suites, plus a full spa and a cooking school at which some of the South’s best chefs, like Tyler Brown of Nashville’s Capitol Grille, give courses on barbecue and other, lesser traditions. Next door is Giardina’s (314 Howard St.; 662-455-4227), one of the Delta’s most historic restaurants. Founded in 1936, Giardina’s maintains its old Southern charm but is helmed by young chef Nick Seabergh, who serves bright, ingredient-driven cuisine such as baked oysters with Benton’s bacon.