Grab your blue suede shoes and get ready for a musical medley of sights, sounds and songs. Prepare to be wowed as you rock ‘n’ roll through the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The “Musical Roots Of The South” itinerary is a journey you’ll never forget. Showcasing an ensemble of musical magic, this trip is guaranteed to get you up and dancing.
From blues to jazz, to Afro-Cuban, contemporary Hip hop and Rock ‘n’ Roll. This roadie will have you feeling the musical roots of the USA flowing through your veins.
Venture through eight fascinating states and experience a cacophony of talent from some of the most famous and inspirational artists of the past century.
Are you ready for these sweet, sweet sounds?
Explore all of Brand USA’s 31 Amazing Self Drive Road Trip itineraries here.
Musical Roots Of The South: Route Highlights
1. Dallas, Texas
Your journey begins in the metropolitan city of Dallas. Make a beeline to historic Deep Ellum, where more than 30 live music venues in the multi-block area make the entertainment district one of the largest in Texas.
Here, you can see big-name singers in the massive Bomb Factory, request a favourite song at a dueling piano bar, admire street art and dine al fresco in a neighbourhood café.
It all began in the 1920s, when Deep Ellum was known as a mecca for Blues and Jazz, patronised by fans of icons such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter and Bessie Smith.
By the 1970s, the area was in economic decline with vacant storefronts, but the music scene reignited in the 1980s. The opening of the Trees concert venue in the 1990s further invigorated the area by attracting popular bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Radiohead.
Today, the internationally known district draws people eager to listen to music, engage with local artists, shop, and eat. Experience the area at its finest during the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, a three-day street party in April.
2. Dallas, Texas > Austin, Texas
Arrive in Austin on any night of the week and you’re guaranteed to find a spot to listen to live music in a variety of genres, including Country, Rock and Blues.
With more than 2,000 musicians contributing to the diversity of the city’s soundtrack, you’ll soon learn why Austin is nicknamed the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
Do you remember the TV show “Austin City Limits” that debuted in the mid-1970s? Well, it continues to bring attention to a destination where acts like Janis Joplin, Jamestown Revival, and Stevie Ray Vaughan gained popularity.
Love a festival? Make sure you visit in time for the annual South by Southwest music festival, which has drawn thousands of talented musicians and fans from throughout the world, since 1987.
If that’s not enough, check out Rainey Street, Sixth Street, and the South Congress neighbourhood for even more entertainment.
- DRIVE TIME: 314kms: 3 hours 15 mins drive time
3. Austin, Texas > San Antonio, Texas > Houston, Texas
En route to Houston, stop in San Antonio to experience its vivid and diverse music scene. The city, known for its Tejano and Heavy Metal genres, also has deep Jazz roots at places like the Shadowland Ballroom and the Plaza Hotel.
Then, continue to Houston, famous for launching the careers of artists as diverse as Lyle Lovett, ZZ Top, and Destiny’s Child.
In the words of Queen B – Do you think you’re ready for this jelly?
Houston’s live music scene includes such venues as the Continental Club, which started in Austin, and now has a major presence on Main Street, Fitzgerald’s, once a Polish dance hall, now hosting open mic nights for budding musicians and White Oak Music Hall, which has booked top bands like The Lumineers since opening in 2016.
- DRIVE TIME: 446kms: 4 hours 15 mins drive time
4. Houston, Texas > Port Arthur, Texas > Lafayette, Louisiana > New Orleans, Louisiana
While driving along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, stop in Port Arthur to visit the Museum of the Gulf Coast, home to a hall of fame that enshrined native Janis Joplin and other Gulf Coast icons such as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, ZZ Top, and Edgar and Johnny Winter.
Continue to Lafayette, a vibrant south-central Louisiana city settled by French Canadians in the 18th century. See bands playing Cajun tunes and Zydeco music at local venues, or time your visit to one of the many cultural festivals.
Up next…. New Orleans, where musical roots run deep. In clubs and on street corners, you’re likely to hear everything from Jazz and Afro-Cuban to Dixieland, Rhythm and Blues, and Zydeco.
At Preservation Hall, a rotating lineup of fabulous musicians play traditional New Orleans Jazz in the most intimate environment; arrive early for standing-room-only space or buy in advance one of the venue’s limited seats.
Another hub for live music, Frenchmen Street, is lined with venues such as The Spotted Cat Music Club, which features as many as three Jazz bands nightly and the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, perfect for insight into the city known as the birthplace of Jazz.
So, your hearing is sorted, but how about your taste and smell? Get excited! Cuisine and the cocktail culture are vital to the New Orleans experience. From open-air cafés to fine-dining restaurants, you’ll find countless interpretations of local signature dishes, such as sugardusted beignets, aromatic jambalaya, and spiced, smoked Andouille sausage.
- DRIVE TIME: 576kms: 5 hours 45 mins drive time
5. New Orleans, Louisiana > Baton Rouge, Louisiana > Natchez, Mississippi > Indianola, Mississippi
Baton Rouge houses over 300 years of history, much of which can be tasted in the delectable food, seen in the distinct architecture, and learned through the unique culture.
Then, continue on the Mississippi Blues Trail through Natchez, Vicksburg, and Indianola, the region known as the Mississippi Delta. In Indianola, learn about the history of Blues music as told at the B.B. King Museum, dedicated to the legendary singer and guitar player. Here, you’ll learn how African Americans created the genre while working in cotton fields and playing at juke joints.
- DRIVE TIME: 547kms: 6 hours drive time
6. Indianola, Mississippi > Tupelo, Mississippi > Birmingham, Alabama
Departing Indianola, take a slight detour north along the Mississippi Blues Trail to Dockery Farms in Cleveland to continue learning about the advent of Blues music. African-Americans working there in the early 1900s included Blues pioneer Charlie Patton.
At the next stop, Tupelo, spend some time at the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The home where the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was born is part of an attraction that includes a chapel, museum, and park.
“I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.”
Continue to Birmingham, where Jazz is still very much alive in downtown nightclubs, such as Ona’s Music Room, where you may be lucky enough to catch a performance by owner Ona Watson, the youngest person inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
For an authentic experience, visit one of the last juke joints in existence, and hear known artists and locals play Saturday nights at Gip’s Place in nearby Bessemer.
- DRIVE TIME: 468kms: 3 hours and 45 mins drive time
7. Birmingham, Alabama > Chattanooga, Tennessee
Before leaving Birmingham, stop by the art-deco building housing the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, a museum honoring Jazz artists with links to Alabama.
Inside, visit the Carver Theatre, where many of the greats performed. You will enjoy a Jazz music history tour of legends such as Nat King Cole, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington.
On the two-hour drive north, cross the Georgia state line before arriving in Chattanooga, where Bessie Smith was born and Usher was raised.
Whether you play or simply adore the sound, a stop at the Songbirds Guitar Museum is a must. Marvel at guitars from the 1920s through the 1970s.
- DRIVE TIME: 237kms: 2 hours and 15 mins drive time
8. Chattanooga, Tennessee > Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Tennessee is known for its great music destinations and history, and Gatlinburg will not disappoint. Every summer, artists and music fans converge on Gatlinburg for the Smoky Mountain Songwriter’s Festival.
In addition to great music, Gatlinburg also offers venues, including distilleries, where you can hear live music while sipping spirits. What a winning combination!
Make time for a down-home meal at Atrium Pancakes and cap off the trip by visiting the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge. If you’d like to welcome Country star Dolly Parton home, join the crowd at the annual Dolly’s Homecoming Parade.
Music lovers will want to plan a visit to coincide with the annual Dollywood Barbeque and Bluegrass Festival.
- DRIVE TIME: 248kms: 2 hours and 45 mins drive time
9. Gatlinburg, Tennessee > Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee/North Carolina > Atlanta, Georgia
After all the excitement, you might be pleased to leave the music trail in Gatlinburg to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for some peace and quiet to let it all sink in.
Straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the park offers hiking trails through forests and wildflower meadows, along streams and rivers with waterfalls and spectacular viewpoints. Beautiful.
Okay, that’s enough quiet time, let’s get you back to the music!
Next, head to Georgia for the college town vibe of Athens, forever linked to bands like the B-52s and R.E.M. A variety of shows still grace the stage of the Morton Theatre, which opened as a vaudeville theater in 1910, and where music icons Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong once performed.
Then, continue to Atlanta, a destination famous for contemporary Hip-Hop and Rhythm and Blues. Little Five Points has long been a hotspot, and the Variety Playhouse is a great venue to catch live music and events.
- DRIVE TIME: 317kms: 4 hours drive time
10. Atlanta, Georgia > Charleston, South Carolina
One of Charleston’s signature characteristics is its mansions painted in a rainbow of colours and featuring elaborate ironwork, so make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to join a walking tour along cobblestone streets for the best view of these homes, their gardens and the Battery, Charleston’s historic waterfront promenade.
Perhaps the name Charleston is familiar to you because of the city’s namesake dance popular in the Ragtime era in the early 1900s and by those grooving to Jazz beats in the 1920s? Grammy Award-winning singer Darius Rucker, a native of the city, even named one of his albums “Charleston, SC 1966.” Pretty cool, don’t you think?
The renovation in the 1990s of the Charleston Music Hall, also known as The Tower Depot, provided the city with a top-notch live music venue. For a low-key evening, step inside historic downtown bars or beach taverns to see a host of talented musicians on stage.
“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”
By now, you should well and truely be immersed in the USA’s toe-tapping music scene, and this is where your tour comes to an end.
However, no one said you have to leave just yet. Stick around and lose yourself in the sounds that surround you.
- DRIVE TIME: 483kms: 5 hours drive time
Download the complete ‘Musical Roots Of The South itinerary here!’
Get the Road Trip Playlist
You are going to love this playlist! Be transported to the heart and soul of America’s music scene and singalong to legendary artists such as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Mark Ronson, Train, Hank Williams, Tim McGraw, Johnny Cash and more.
With songs dedicated to these vibrant road trippin’ destinations, you’ll be ready and waiting to set off and explore as soon as you possibly can.
Agents: Download, Escape and Explore GoUSA TV
GoUSA TV is a free premier travel entertainment channel. Watch full episodes, documentaries and films, told from the diverse perspectives of real people across America.
With more than 400 authentic and short format videos featuring destinations from all 50 states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia, there’s never been a better time to get online and enjoy some incredible travel entertainment!
Available for download in the App or Play store and on Apple TV.
More info here.
Agents: Join the USA Discovery Program
The USA Discovery Program is Brand USA’s official trade training platform for the USA. The Musical Routes Of The South itinerary features three destinations with training badges.
Get clicking and complete your Austin, Texas and New Orleans badges and get all the knowledge in a fun and interactive way.
Click here to register and get all the knowledge for the USA.
PLUS! Design your own Road Trip with the USA TRIP PLANNER
The Visit USA Trip Planner is an amazing (and free!) tool that matches your personal travel preferences and style.
With over 230 million data points including the best places & times to visit, reviews and hidden gems, this is one smart piece of travel tech.
This little travel genius optimises your itinerary to minimise travel time, checks when attractions are open and even recommends how much time to spend at each stop off. Brilliant!
Finally, it lets you share & collaborate with your fellow road trippers and is easy to add or revise points of interest as you go.
Find out more: Trip-Planner.VisitTheUSA.com
Get all the tools on Brand USA’s TRAVEL TRADE SITE
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Hero image – New Orleans Jon Batiste and Dr. John
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