The Blues Highway
Our flagship Roots tour which follows The Blues Highway, the route taken by Africa-Americans as they left the South in search of better lives in Chicago. As they travelled, so they took their music with them. That's why one road, Highway 61, tells the story of American music from Soutern fields to Northern tenements. You'll jive to jazz in New Orleans, dance zydeco in French Louisiana, feel the roots of blues in the Delta, sing into Elvis's microphone in Memphis, listen to country talent searches in Nashville and explore the rich musical heritage and sparkling music scenes of St.Louis, Davenport and Chicago. This is, truly, the trip of a lifetime for music lovers.
- New Orleans
Arrive at New Orleans International Airport and transfer to your hotel in New Orleans. In the evening enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of this unique city. Jazz inspired such world-renowned local musicians as Louis Armstrong who transformed it into the heartbeat of the city where "the good times roll". You will hear jazz everywhere - on street corners, traditional funeral processions, the Preservation Hall, and in the numerous clubs, and hotel lounges dotted through-out this wonderful vibrant city.
Explore New Orleans including the US Mint Jazz Museum, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. No other city in America can boast such intrigue or romance. Spend more time getting to know the Big Easy and its many sights and - more importantly - sounds. You might choose to take a steamboat trip along the Mississippi or you might decide to sample the city's Creole cuisine; New Orleans is also famous for its food. Perhaps by your last day in New Orleans you'll have some favourite jazz clubs to go back to or, more likely, you'll still have a lot to see. Visit the Gallier House, Lake Pontchartrain and Mardi Gras World where the famous festival floats are made.
Pick up your hire car and drive across swampy Louisiana to Lafayette, capital of the French-speaking Cajun South and home to Cajun and zydeco music. Go in search of the Cajun way of life at Vermilionville or hone your dance moves at a local club. Spend a day in Lafayette to explore this sleepy, Southern town where music and dancing are part of everyday life. Go to a Cajun jam session or visit one of the many nearby antebellum plantation houses.
From Lafayette head north into Mississippi to Natchez, a cotton centre and once the richest town in the US. Natchez is still dripping in antebellum finery; explore the many plantation houses and indulge in some of the best restaurants on this tour. An extra day in Natchez will allow you to explore a little further afield; go in search of the some of the most impressive plantation grounds and houses in the South amid the cotton fields around Natchez. Or you could investigate the cool 'Under-the-Hill' district, once described by Mark Twain as home to the roughest bars on the Mississippi River but now a trendy row of bars and restaurants.
Drive to Jackson, state capital of Mississippi. You have one night here to explore Farish Street, where the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson II and Robert Johnson were discovered, and the city's many blues clubs.
Leave Jackson and head across the Delta to Greenwood, putting you as deep in the Delta blues as you can get. Greenwood is the county's second largest cotton exchange after Memphis. Graceful mansions line the pretty Grand Boulevard of this sleepy town which comes alive every October for the Cotton Capital Blues Festival held here. On the way you might want to use our 'Deep Delta Guide' to find the graves of Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and others as well as a series of key blues landmarks.
Enjoy some Italian/Cajun cuisine at 'Luscos' Restaurant - once the haunt of cotton barons who came here to drink moonshine. Each table is still hidden away in a small booth veiled by chintz curtains dating back from this time. You'll have opportunity to explore the juke-joints of Greenville's Nelson and Walnut Streets or to try your luck in one of the town's many casinos.
Drive north along Highway 61 - the 'Blues Highway' - through the Delta to Clarksdale, America's most significant blues town. On the way you might want to use our 'Deep Delta Guide' to find Dockery Plantation where Charley Patton defined the Delta blues. Clarksdale is America's most significant blues town. Illustrious one-time Clarksdale residents include John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Ike Turner.
A full day to get to know Clarksdale. Visit the outstanding Delta Blues Museum and drive out to Stovall Plantation where Muddy Waters grew up. This evening you might tour the town's many 'juke-joints' - authentic blues bars - or you could dine at Hollywood star and local Morgan Freeman's restaurant.
Memphis is the place where rock & roll was born. Stroll along Beale Street where BB King's Blues Club is one of the best venues, visit Sun Studios and the Rock 'n' Soul Museum. Spend a day touring Graceland - Elvis's cars, planes and some of his iconic costumes make this a must for any music fans.
Go east from Memphis to Nashville, 'Music City USA', home of country music and some of America's biggest recording companies. Trawl the outstanding music venues of Second and Broadway or head out to the Grand Ole Opry, the 'church' of country music.
A full day to explore Nashville. Visit the famous Ryman Auditorium, the new Country Music Hall of Fame or RCA's Studio 'B' where Elvis Presley recorded over 200 of his best-loved hits. Or you might choose to wander Music Row hoping - like thousands before you - to be 'spotted' by a talent scout!
Head north along Highway 61 - the 'Blues Highway' - through the lush farmland of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri to Cape Girardeau, an attractive and laid-back stopover en route to St Louis.
Continue along that ol' 'Blues Highway' to St Louis, America's great 'gateway city'. Check in at your hotel then spend the evening roaming the funky Soulard district, home to one of the best blues scenes in the US. Look out for local legends Henry Townsend and Johnnie Johnson.
You'll have a full day in St Louis. Ride to the top of the amazing 630-foot Gateway Arch which dominates the city's skyline. Then visit Scott Joplin's House where the ragtime innovator penned such hits as 'Maple Leaf Rag' and 'The Entertainer'. Next, leave the music landmarks to explore some of this great city's more mainstream attractions like the superb art galleries, parks and the eccentric City Museum. St Louis is a major city and one which has a great deal to offer visitors.
You'll know you've left the South far behind you as you drive on into the cooler, faster world of the American Midwest. But before you reach the next major city, Davenport, stop over at quaint Fort Madison, a taste of peaceful, rural, small-town America. Enjoy the exceptional views across the 'Great Bend' in the Mississippi River to Illinois.
Follow Highway 61 as it weaves alongside the mighty Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa. Here jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke took up the cornet after hearing Louis Armstrong's sound drifting across the river from a steamboat where he played with Fate Marable's orchestra. Optional extras include a Bix tour of Davenport.
Drive across the Great Plains of the Midwest to Chicago, the place where jazz and blues really came of age and the last stop on your epic journey along the Blues Highway. After the drive you might want to head into the Loop for some Italian-American cooking or to a soul food joint for 'smothered pork and beans'. On your first full day in the Windy City, where do you start? You could focus on the South Side's many blues landmarks like Muddy Waters's house and the Checkerboard Lounge or you could head for the mainstream attractions like the lakeshore or Navy Pier.
Chicago is a vast city and even with three full days you'll come away feeling that you still had a lot to see. Perhaps head down to the South Side for a gospel church service at the Pilgrim Baptist Church - the place where Mahalia Jackson and Tom Dorsey defined modern gospel music. Or you could check out Maxwell Street, Chicago's great blues thoroughfare. On your last day on America's music trail spend the day checking out the Loop and some of Chicago's great museums before a night on the town. Choose between the North Side with its world-famous blues venues or head down to Buddy Guy's club. Then there's the South Side with clubs like Lee's Unleaded where raw electric blues pounds night after night. Spend three nights in Chicago before flying home.
- Return flights from London (please ask about other departure airports)
- 21 nights hotel accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger vehicles are available)
- A travel packet with itinerary, maps, suggestions, brochures
Daily departures throughout the year.