Mary Margaret Chambliss
Clarksdale, Mississippi, might sing like a sad blues song if not for witty locals, inventive stops, and its most famous supporter, Morgan Freeman. The award-winning actor calls this town cradled between cotton fields and catfish farms on U.S. 61 home.
"The Delta has always been magic," he says. "There's a comfort level forme here that's higher than anywhere else." So investing in the town he loves comes naturally.
At Madidi, a restaurant owned by Morgan and business partner Bill Luckett, patrons feast on entrées fused with French influences. The eatery changes its menu often but always adds snappy twists to Southern staples. Shrimp and grits ($21) boasts caramelized apples and a confiture of cherry tomatoes. The Delta Fish and Chips ($23) includes poached sea bass, smoked salmon, and butternut squash chips.
Madidi isn't Morgan's only favorite stop. During a visit to the Delta Blues Museum, he extols the virtues of two Delta legends. "B.B. King talks about being done wrong by a woman and how she's run off with another man. But Bobby ‘Blue' Bland," he says with a laugh, "would be the guy she'd run off with. Those two guys clearly explain what the blues is all about."
Ground Zero, Morgan's juke joint, pays tribute to the blues as well. Though he may be Mississippi royalty, on this night he is just another happy face dancing on a plank floor. And there's no doubt…he's at home.
Madidi: 164 Delta Avenue, Clarksdale, MS 38614; (662) 627-7770 or www.madidires.com. Delta Blues Museum: 1 Blues Alley; (662) 627-6820 or www.deltabluesmuseum.org. Ground Zero Blues Club: (662) 621-9009 or www.groundzerobluesclub.com.
In His Own Words
Home: "My ancestral home is Charleston, Mississippi [near Clarksdale]. That's where I live on my ranch…. My wife, Myrna, and I were coming down to visit my parents pretty regularly, and we were looking for somewhere to settle. The Mississippi Delta is it for me."
The blues: "People were coming here before we did. Folks would travel from all over the world to find the crossroads.…The blues is a metaphor for hard times, and if anyone has had hard times, it's surely been the folks of the Mississippi Delta."
While You're There
• Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art Inc.: Books, music, and artwork by Mississippi artists, including the gasoline can guitars made by "Super Chikan." 252 Delta Avenue, (662) 624-5992 or www.cathead.biz.
• The Big Pink Guesthouse: The Pepto-colored inn served as an ice-cream parlor in its past life. (662) 645-1815 or www.bigpinkguesthouse.com/. Rates: $100-$125.