If you’re more than just a casual fan of the blues—someone who can trace the connection* between blues legends like Lead Belly and Muddy Waters, for example—sooner or later you have to make the pilgrimage to the land where this distinctly American art form was born.
While you could certainly explore the area on your own, I’ve discovered an alternative that will help you get a lot more out of your visit. Namely a plugged-in local guide by the name of Tad Pierson, a one-man college of musical knowledge whose decades of experience can help you develop a much greater appreciation for the music and the landscape that spawned it.
Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel.
— Jimi Hendrix
Rather than being packed into a soulless tour bus and fed a canned recitation of local lore, Pierson’s Memphis-based American Dream Safaris offers tours designed to allow you to actually feel the unique vibe here from the back of his 1955 Cadillac. His repertoire of excursions ranges from a three-hour “Greatest Hits” spin through the streets of Memphis to all-day expeditions along the deserted back roads of the Mississippi Delta. Along the way you’ll be served up heaping helpings of everything from Elvis shrines to rocking gospel choirs to smoke-filled juke joints.
More than anything else, however, Pierson’s tours offer blues aficionados something as rare as an original 78 of by Blind Lemon Jefferson: A chance to have a truly extraordinary experience.
*Both were interviewed by and made their first recordings for American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax.
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