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During the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, the Elks Harts Lodge No. 640 at this site was one of the most important venues for Rhythm and Blues in the Delta. Particularly during the segregation era, fraternal organizations such as the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World (the "black Elks") were central to African-American political, cultural, and social life, and played an important role in the Civil Rights movement.
The first Mississippi Delta Blues Festival was held on October 21, 1978, here at Freedom Village, a rural community founded as a refuge for displaced agricultural workers. In 1987 the festival moved to a location closer to Greenville.
Make your first stop in Tunica the all-new Gateway to the Blues Visitors Center, located at the entrance of the Tunica Resort area along U.S. Highway 61. This new center, housed in an original 1895 train depot, is your exclusive source for up-to-the-minute information about Tunica.
Eddie Lee "Guitar Slim" Jones brought new levels of energy and intensity to electric guitar playing with his raw, incendiary approach in the 1950s. An impassioned singer and a flamboyant showman, Jones was best known for his classic recording "Things That I Used To Do." Documentation of his early years is scant, but according to biographies, he was born in Greenwood on December 10, 1926. His father, Sam Jones, later lived on Race Track Plantation and is buried in the Salem M. B. Church Cemetery here.
Honors musicians Gus Cannon, Robert Wilkins and Jim Jackson. Gus Cannon wrote "Walk Right In", which was recorded by the 1960's folk group Rooftop Singers. Blues artists Robert Wilkins and Jim Jackson were Hernando natives.
Part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, Hickory Street, known locally as "The Hollow", was a hub of social life, commerce, and entertainment for the African American community of Central Mississippi for several decades, up through the 1970's. Canton's most famous blues musician, Elmore James, performed often in the local cafes and clubs. James also learned the electronics trade by working at Roberts Radio Repair on Hickory Street. His experiments with sound technology led him to develop a powerful and original electric blues style.
Jack Owens became one of Mississippi's most venerated blues artists in the 1980s and ‘90s after spending most of his life as a farmer in Yazoo County. Born November 17, 1904, or 1906 according to some sources, Owens did not perform outside the state of Mississippi until 1988. During his final years he and his harmonica player, Bud Spires, traveled together to many festivals and performed on Owens’s front porch for hundreds of visitors. Owens died on February 9, 1997.
James "Son" Thomas, internationally famed Blues musician and folk sculptor, worked as a porter at the Montgomery Hotel, which once occupied this site. Born in the Yazoo County community of Eden October 14, 1926, Thomas moved to Leland in 1961. He made his first recordings for folklorist Bill Ferris in 1968 and later traveled the United States and Europe to perform at Blues concerts and exhibit his art. He died in Greenville on June 26, 1993.
One of the few female performers of country blues, Jessie Mae Hemphill (c. 1923 – 2006) was a multi-instrumentalist who performed in local fife and drum bands before gaining international recognition in the 1980s as a vocalist and guitarist.
Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed, one of the most influential Blues artists of the 1950s and '60s, was born here on the Shady Dell plantation on September 6, 1925. Reed was one of the first Bluesmen to achieve "crossover" success, scoring hits on both the Rhythm & Blues and Pops charts with songs including "Honest I Do," "Big Boss Man," "Baby What You Want Me To Do," and "Bright Lights, Big City."
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