Road Trip: Aberdeen, Miss.

By Blake Guthrie

For the AJC

Born near Aberdeen in the early 1900s, Bukka White is the blues legend most closely associated with this small Mississippi town, so much so that the annual blues festival is named after him.

White's birth name was Booker, after Booker T. Washington, but he became known as Bukka after a 1930 recording session when the producer -- who was unfamiliar with White's namesake -- got his name wrong.

The musician called Aberdeen home for much of his life and composed the classic "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues," among others.

The town is on the banks of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (the "Tenn-Tom") in the hilly pine country of northeast Mississippi and has many historical buildings and houses worth seeking out, some dating from the antebellum era.

The Bukka White Festival takes place Oct. 15-16 on the banks of the Tenn-Tom Waterway at the Blue Bluff recreation area near downtown, and it features an all-blues lineup (with the occasional novelty act, such as an Elvis impersonator).

Other highlights include kids’ entertainment and activities, multiple food vendors, arts and crafts booths, a pet parade on Saturday morning and a barbecue rib cook-off. Confirmed acts for this year's fest are Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm, Eric Deaton, Bernie Pearl, the Bill Abel Band and closing act Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks, with many others slated to be announced. Admission is free. www.bukkawhitefestival.com.

Don’t miss

Historic Architectural Driving Tour

Aberdeen was a significant river port town for the cotton trade in the 19th century. Many of the homes built during the antebellum and Victorian eras still stand. Stop at the Visitors Bureau on Commerce Street -- or drop into one of the town's numerous antique shops -- to pick up a brochure for a self-guided driving tour to lead you to dozens of structures from the 19th and 20th centuries. You will see examples of Greek Revival, Gothic, Queen Anne, Italianate and Tudor Revival architectural styles. The driving tour begins at The Magnolias, a columned mansion now owned by the city, built in 1850 and open for tours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

The Mississippi Blues Trail

During the 2009 Bukka White Blues Festival, the Mississippi Blues Commission unveiled a historical marker downtown commemorating Bukka White alongside Howlin' Wolf and Albert King, two other legends of the genre who also have roots in Aberdeen. The marker, located in nearby Houston, Miss., tells the story of Bukka White’s rise to fame, as well as his influence on his cousin, B.B. King. There are other markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail near Aberdeen, notably in Tupelo, birthplace of Elvis Presley, who was greatly influenced by the blues he heard growing up in the region. If you want to make a music-based road trip, the interactive map at the Mississippi Blues Trail website (www.msbluestrail.org) is a good resource for planning.

If you go

Aberdeen is a five-hour drive and 270 miles west of Atlanta.

Stay: Shadowlawn Bed & Breakfast. Seven-room B&B in an antebellum mansion with modern amenities, including wireless Internet. Rates start at $140. 1024 College St., Columbus. 662-327-3600, www.shadowlawncolumbus.com.

Blue Bluff Campground. A 92-site campground for RV/trailer/tent camping on the Tenn-Tom Waterway in Aberdeen within walking distance to the festival. Rates start at $18. 20051 Blue Bluff Road, Aberdeen. 662-369-2832, www.recreation.gov.

(Note: Aberdeen is a small, remote town, and options for accommodations are limited. For a wider range of options, check out Columbus to the south or Tupelo to the north.)

Eat: Penny Lane's Java Café. Breakfast and lunch spot downtown. $3.95-$7.95. 114 E. Commerce St., Aberdeen. 662-369-2099, www.pennylanescafe.com.

The Friendship House. Restaurant located on farmland outside of town and known for its Mississippi farm-raised fried catfish. Entrees start at $6.99. 20025 Doss Drive, Aberdeen. 662-257-2211.

Tourist info: Aberdeen Visitors Bureau. 1-800-634-3538, 662-369-9440, www.aberdeenms.org.

-- Provided by Demand Studios