Exploring the Deep South on a musical road trip

Rebekah Scanlan

Country, jazz and the blues all stem from the southern states of America, making it the ultimate vaycay for music lovers.

The treasured 'Mojo Triangle' — the affectionate nickname for the musically influenced area — is rich with history dating back to the 19th century cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta where soulful blues originated, to the more modern influences such as rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis’ and the Grammy museum in Cleveland.

Being located in the heart of the South and expanding across four different states makes the triangle an incredible destination to explore, not just for its music but also its local cuisines and unique landscapes.

The Mojo Triangle begins in New Orleans where music is a part of the city. Source: VisitNewOrleans/Instagram

So we hit the road in the true American fashion to see and experience it for ourselves. Uh-huh, that’s right.

Be started our adventure in New Orleans at the start of an 800km route that traces the origins of the pop music we listen to today.

Jazz was born in Nola so be sure to check some out. There's always street artists performing. Source: Instagram/VisitNewOrlenans

Jazz literally oozes out of every nook and cranny of the city’s famous French Quarter, with the brassy sounds being a permanent backdrop for visitors as it’s played in restaurants, performed by buskers and the main attraction throughout the night.

Top of everyone’s list is the infamous Preservation Hall, which is popular because of its as old-school setting and its location which is smack bang in the middle of the French Quarter.

But the backroom at Buffa's is where the locals head for a taste of local culture and of course, you can’t go a day without catching up-and-coming artists playing in the streets.

This hotel has a whole bunch of history and is a short stroll from the musical mayhem of Bourbon Street. Source: Instagram/InternationalHouseHotel

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, International House Hotel is a stones throw away from Bourbon Street, a popular hub for all things music.

From there we travelled Mississippi, humming the song Jackson by Johnny and June Carter Cash, which was pretty funny as we stopped off in the state’s capital city, Jackson, for lunch.

Sadly, it was just a quick pit stop — in a delightful American diner for an authentic feed of fried fish with corn bread —before continuing on to the Grammy Museum in Cleveland.

Food in the Southern States is delicious (but very naughty) Source: Supplied

This place was actual heaven for music lovers, with interactive displays and iconic costumes your favourite celebs have worn on stage.

It even offered visitors the chance to hold and pose with a Grammy, which naturally, we couldn’t resist.

It’s pretty darn cool to learn about some of your idols in such depth. We loved the special Taylor Swift exhibit, though don’t bank on it being there if you’re planning a visit as it changes regularly to honour different music stars.

The Grammy Museum in Cleveland has a whole lot to teach you about your favourite singers and musicians. Source: Supplied

Talking of celebs, we’d heard that the location of Emma Stone’s hit movie, The Help was filmed nearby so couldn’t resist popping into the town of Greenwood and having a quick photo on the infamous tree seat.

We stayed overnight in the quaint town too at a stunning hotel called The Alluvian that one of the hotel staff members told me the cast often stayed at whilst filming.

The Alluvian hotel is in the heart of the Mississippi Delta and a celeb fave. We can see why. Source: Supplied

It was really fun to sleep like a star for the night.

There is so much to see and hear as you jingle from state to state and the BB King Museum was also top of our agenda.

Be recreated the scene from The Help when we stopped off to visit the house in Greenwood where it was filmed. Source: Supplied/DreamWorks

The King of the Blues as he’s known locally is credited with creating that music genre, that was created from the pain and suffering of life the cotton plantations, which he was born into.

One of BB King's legendary guitars which is on display in the museum. Source: Supplied

Throughout the course of his career, BB released 75 singles, putting blues and Memphis on the map.

His music also helped birth rock ‘n’ roll, with Elvis himself crediting BB’s performances on legendary Beale Street as the inspiration to his unique sound.

Which was why Tupelo, the place of the King’s birth was next on our hit list.

Seeing the tiny home where Elvis was born was extremely moving. Source: Supplied

This humble home, which is just two rooms, was the actual place where his mum Gladys gave birth to him and is cherished by the local town and its community.

What was really interesting was how emotional the tourist destination was. Seeing the humble beginnings of a man that revolutionised the music industry was very humbling and we found ourselves choking up.

With such an incredible experience in Tupelo, we couldn’t wait to check out Graceland in Memphis later in the trip.

En-route to Memphis, we detoured to Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama, home of FAME Studios, where the likes of Aretha Franklin and Cher recorded hits. 

The inside of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio which has recently undergone a huge restoration. Source: Supplied

A must see is the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio which has been lovingly restored recently, thanks to a generous donation from Jay-Z.

Despite shutting down production in the 80s, everything has been lovingly put back in order, it even has a modern TV — used to show visitors a clip explaining the history of the studio — that has been kitted out with a custom made 70s casing to make it look as if it is from that era. So retro!

With its upgrade, it’s now back to being a working studio, so you could bump into an artist as you roam its corridors.

Be stopped for a drink with a stunning view in Alabama, at the top of the revolving restaurant 360 Grille. Breathtaking! Source: Supplied

Whilst in Memphis, be sure to visit legendary locations including Sun Studio, which is the very place where Johnny Cash launched his career.

But of course, Graceland is the main attraction here.

Graceland was an epic way to end the trip, not just because it's so stunning. Source: Supplied
The inside has been lovingly preserved, with fans pouring over every detail as Elvis chose it all himself. Source: Supplied

The 23 bedroom home is a sight to behold, not just because of it's grande nature and it's now very dated decor that gives an incredible insight into the mind of Elvis.

It's also because of the sheer number of fans who pilgrimge to the spot every year, something Be found extremely heartwarming to witness.

Another fantastic thing to experience whilst in Memphis is to see the famous duck march that happens twice a day at the Peabody Hotel.

The Peabody duck march is just as famous as Elvis and people flock from all over the world to see it every day. Source: The Peabody Hotel/Instagram

Not only is it super cute to witness the daily performance by the fountain that they give, the hotel is one of the town's most famous landmarks.

So if you're not staying there, be sure to pop by to catch the ducks and check out the incredible interior.

Of course, we couldn't visit Memphis on a music tour without talking a stroll down Beale Street.

Beale Street is where the blues began. Source: Supplied

It's arguable one of America's most iconic streets as is is a significant place in the city's history, as well as in the history of the blues.

This is the street where BB King first performed and he's honoured in the Brass Note Walk of Fame along with Elvis Presley, Justin Timberlake and many more.

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