GETTING THERE: Clarksdale, Miss., is about 75 miles south of Memphis. United, Northwest and US Airways fly from Washington to Memphis nonstop, with winter fares starting at around $250. From Memphis, it's a straight shot down Highway 61.
WHERE TO STAY: At the Delta Cotton Company Apartments (Zero Blues Alley, 662-645-9366, www.groundzerobluesclub.com), the seven spacious apartments sit above Ground Zero Blues Club and come with full kitchens, lounging areas and live music that floats up from the club's stage. From $75 a night for one person.
About three miles from downtown, the Shack Up Inn offers renovated sharecropper shacks that have been decorated thematically (Robert Clay, Cadillac, Legends, etc.) and with salvaged finds; plus, you get a Moon Pie on your pillow. Rates $50 to $75. Nearby is the Cotton Gin Inn, where guests can sleep in modern refurbishments of the old bins. Cost is $65. Info for both: 662-624-8329, www.shackupinn.com.
LIVE BLUES: Ground Zero Blues Club (Zero Blues Alley, 662-621-9009, www.groundzerobluesclub.com), co-owned by Morgan Freeman, has live music every Wednesday through Saturday and sometimes during Sunday brunch. Check the schedule for such acts as local bluesmen Super Chikan, Pinetop Perkins and Jimbo Mathus, formerly of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Cover charge $5 to $10.
Clarksdale has a number of juke joints -- including Club 2000, Sarah's Kitchen and Red's Lounge -- that are scattered around town but are within walking distance of each other. However, the tiny clubs do not have a fixed calendar of shows -- plus they can close shop without warning. The best source for shows is Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art (252 Delta Ave., 662-624-5992, www.cathead.biz), which is blues central. The shop also sells blues CDs and books, as well as a fabulous assortment of folk art, many by Delta artists.
OTHER BLUES SITES: The Delta Blues Museum (1 Blues Alley, 662-627-6820, www.deltabluesmuseum.org; $7) provides an in-depth overview of the Delta blues scene, including Muddy Waters's cabin and a portrait gallery of legendary musicians. Great gift shop as well. Pay tribute to Waters at the small memorial at Stovehall Plantation, just west of downtown Clarksdale. Ike Turner's house still stands at 304 Washington St. (it is privately owned, so no touring). Some say the original crossroads where bluesman Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the Devil is in a field at the intersection of East Tallahatchie Street and Martin Luther King Dr., but the newer "spot" rests at the intersection of highways 61 and 49. Elvis Costello recorded in the Delta Recording Service (257 Yazoo St.), which was opened by Mathus and is crammed with music paraphernalia and lively graffiti scrawled by visiting recording artists.
For other sites, including the Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died; Sam Cooke's home; and the WROX radio station, consult Cat Head.
WHERE TO EAT: Madidi (164 Delta Ave., 662-627-7770), also owned in part by Freeman, serves upscale cuisine with a Southern streak, including shrimp and crawfish pasta, roasted breast of duck with black-eyed peas and "Morgan's Salad" (beef carpaccio with mesclun greens and toasted almonds). Take a spin through the restaurant to look at the original art collection. Reservations recommended. Entrees $18 to $34.
Veronica's Bistro (218 Delta Ave., 662- 627-6767) hides inside the Delta Eye shop, which sells "outsider art." The cafe specializes in healthful cuisine, such as organic turkey burgers ($6.95), ahi tuna with raisin rice ($18.95) and sushi Wednesdays. The Mennonite-run Dutch Oven (100 Blues Alley, 662-621-9766) prepares breakfast specials, sandwiches (pimento cheese, spinach and artichoke panini, etc.) and freshly baked bread and pies. Prices from $4.75. Abe's BBQ (616 N. State St., 662-624-9947) is the place for sauced-up ribs, pork and beef (plates from $7.99).
For lunch or dinner, Ground Zero Blues Club offers down-home lunches, such as fried chicken, meatloaf and smothered hamburger steak served with turnip greens, yams, steamed cabbage or squash. Prices $9 and under. For great tamales, head to Hick's Hot Tamales (305 S. State St., 662-624-9887; $5 to $15).
INFO: Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce, 800-626-3764, www.clarksdaletourism.com.
-- Andrea Sachs