{Pictured above:Ground Zero Blues Club}

Mention the name “Clarksdale,” and everybody hears something different. For some, it’s the sound of the best blues going today and coming out of clubs like Ground Zero, co-owned by actor and Delta native Morgan Freeman and crowned as “Best Of” by critics across the nation. Ground Zero has its name for a reason—because many people believe the blues began right here.

“…of all the greats who walked the streets here and filled the air with their music.”

Which is why a lot of people when they hear the name “Clarksdale,” get shivers of awe at the echoes wafting through this city, of all the greats who walked the streets here and filled the air with their music. Muddy Waters, Ike Turner and Sam Cooke all lived here; the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, died here in a room at the Riverside Hotel. Did Robert Johnson really get his musical genius by selling his soul at the infamous crossroads of Highway 61 and 49? You can decide for yourself as you explore Blue Alley, the musical mecca in downtown Clarksdale where Ground Zero shares the street with the fascinating Blues Museum and where the restored train and bus depots are more than appropriate, for you have indeed arrived at a place unlike any other.

For you see, it isn’t only the musical arts that set Clarksdale apart. Mention “Clarksdale” to drama and literary fans, and they hear the lilting sounds of Blanche Dubois and Maggie the Cat: the city was also the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams, and it was here that Williams drew inspiration for many of his characters and settings, including the famous Moon Lake Casino.

Today, there’s real casino action to be enjoyed in Clarksdale—get ready for the sounds of winning slots and hands. And if gambling is not your game, you can always immerse yourself in the serene sounds of the Mississippi with a canoe trip down the River. Or take detour out to Hopson Plantation B&B where the cotton fields first gave rise to the blues, and where a restored cotton gin-turned hotel room and sharecropper shacks now offer unique rest stops.

Of course, for many people it’s not only the sounds of Clarksdale that excite. Art galleries and museums are chockablock here. There’s something for every taste—and speaking of which, when some people hear “Clarksdale,” their mouths start to water. The food here is superb, from the historic Abe’s barbecue to the spicy goodness of Hicks Hot Tamales.

Which brings us to this: It’s great to hear about Clarksdale, but there’s no substitute for getting a taste for yourself. Sounds like it’s time for your road trip!