This Week's Featured Marker:
The Blues Trail: Mississippi to Chicago
The 77th Mississippi Blues Trail marker was dedicated on June 11, 2009 at the south end of Grant Park in Chicago, directly across the street from the former location of the Illinois Central station where thousands of migrants from Mississippi first arrived in Chicago. The ceremony featured speeches by two bluesmen that made the journey northward, Eddie C. Campbell from Duncan, just south of Clarksdale, and Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater, who is celebrated on the “Black Prairie Blues” marker in his hometown of Macon. A special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts allowed for the extension of the Trail outside of Mississippi, and these markers acknowledge the great contributions of Mississippi blues artists to the development of musical cultures elsewhere. The marker was the second to be erected outside of Mississippi – another was dedicated just off Memphis’ Beale Street several weeks earlier.
Chicago was, of course, the destination for hundreds of Mississippi blues artists, and the marker could only hint at the vast contributions they made to the city’s musical culture. In addition to pointing to the work of major blues artists including Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, the marker also acknowledged the role of Mississippians as club owners, deejays, label owners, and songwriters. The location of the marker is also significant, as the Illinois Central was the main railway line heading northward from Mississippi. Its lines stretched across the state, and included the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley (Y&MV) Railroad in the Delta. The role Y&MV played in the blues is acknowledged at the markers at Dockery Plantation (“Birthplace of the Blues?”) and for the “Peavine” route in Boyle.
The site is also close to other Chicago blues landmarks. The former location of Chess Records, which now houses Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, is just blocks away at 2120 South Michigan Ave.; a mile to the west was the Maxwell Street market, where many newly arrived migrants played the blues for shoppers; and the Chicago blues festival takes place annually in the northern end of Grant Park.
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