Discover The Music On A Drive Through Southern USA

15 February 2015
Read Time: 4.8 mins

One of my fondest memories is of a road trip I took once with my dad through the south of the USA discovering all the wonderful gems in music that originated and strongly flourished in these small and sometimes forgotten country towns.

My dad mapped the whole thing out and even made a musical playlist to go along with our travel time spent driving through the south.

We were treated along the way to the absolute definition of southern hospitality, some surprise musical discoveries and even some scary moments in some smaller towns, while feeling very much like a foreigner completely out of their comfort zone.

 Old world charm of the Big Easy

But we had the time of our lives in those couple of weeks, discovering all of our musical heroes all over again and even seeing them for the last time in their final resting places.

If you love music, culture and an adventure, take a southern road trip of your own and discover a place like no other, anywhere in the world.

From the deep swamps of New Orleans, one of the most unique and special places I have ever visited, all the way to Nashville Tennessee where the twanging country guitars and heartbreaking ditties will welcome you.

Here is the ultimate southern music road trip playlist for when you plan your own life-changing road trip through the south of the USA.

1. Jambalaya by Hank Williams


Put in the self-made CD or whack on your playlist into your rental car and sit back and relax as these tunes soothe and accommodate your surroundings.

When spending time in New Orleans, the swampy city situated on the beautiful Lake Pontchartrain, press play on Jambalaya from the one and only Hank Williams, which will make you feel right at home.

2. Do You Know What It Is To Miss New Orleans by Louis Armstrong


While driving around and discovering Nola, you have to hear some Louis Armstrong singing and playing Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.

3. Walking to New Orleans By Fats Domino


And before leaving the Big Easy play some Fats Domino, Walking to New Orleans, while heading on your way north.

4. Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival


Heading out of Louisiana you have to stop and see the magical Mississippi River and perhaps sit out on your car bonnet and listen to Proud Mary by the legendary band, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

5. Roll On Missippi by Charley Pride


Then perhaps roll down the river a little while listening to the first African American country star Charlie Pride singing Roll On Mississippi, before heading over that mighty river for a short visit to Helena, Arkansas – the birthplace of Levon Helm from The Band.

6. The Night They Drove Ol Dixie Down By The Band


While in Arkansas driving through Dixie, past the confederate flags that often still wave in the front lawns of southern American homes, blast out an iconic song from The Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

The lyrics tell of the days of the American Civil War and the suffering of white southerners during this time.

The Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm is the oldest prison and the only maximum-security prison for men in the whole state of Mississippi.

7. Midnight Special by Johnny Rivers


The Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm is the oldest prison and the only maximum-security prison for men in the whole state of Mississippi.

Check out this historic landmark while having a listen to Johnny Rivers' Midnight Special, a song about the train to Parchman.

8. Crossroads by Robert Johnson


While passing through Clarksdale MS, you must listen to Robert Johnson’s Crossroads.

Also make sure you visit his grave and, of course, the crossroads where he claims to have swapped his soul with the devil himself for the chance to play the blues on the guitar.

9. Got My Mojo Workin' by Muddy Waters


Then really dig into some Delta blues with a tune from Muddy Waters, Got My Mojo Working, before heading out of Clarksdale. Visit the wonderful blues museum and see Muddy’s house and other great exhibits before leaving.

Want more US road adventures? Lookin’ For Adventure: US Road Trip Itineraries

Catherine Britt shares her favourite road trip songs. Catherine Britt’s Driving Songs For A Journey Through The Country

Find the best country music spots in Australia. Australia’s Best Country Music Venues

10. Big River by Johnny Cash


You would have been following the magnificent Mississippi River this whole way, so just to remind yourself of the mighty Mississippi play Big River by timeless musician Johnny Cash.

11. Ode To Billie Jean by Bobbie Gentry


I don’t think it’s OK to do a southern drive without a southern gothic story from the sultry Bobbie Gentry and Ode To Billy Joe really puts things into perspective.

Next, Tutwiler is a small town in Tallahatchie County, MS with a population of 1,364.

It is also where the Southern railway crosses the Dog railway where the legendary W C Handy first heard the blues.

12. Yellow Dog Blues by Louis Armstrong


Next up is Tutwiler, a small town in Tallahatchie County, MS with a population of 1,364. It is also where the Southern railway crosses the Dog railway where the legendary W C Handy first heard the blues.

You need to listen to his Yellow Dog Blues by Louis Armstrong while travelling through.

13. Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis


Now you are getting closer to the border of Tennessee while travelling through the border town Hernando, MS.

Make sure you drive by Jerry Lee Lewis’s house, but don’t stop for too long as he doesn’t like visitors. Drive away after a peek and a quick photo snap while listening to Great Balls Of Fire, one of his best.

14. That's How I Got To Memphis by Tom T Hall


Not far from here is Memphis Tennessee just after you cross over the state line. While driving around and re-discovering Elvis and some southern history, listen to Tom T Hall’s How I Got To Memphis and Otis Redding’s Amen.

15. That's Alright Mama by Elvis Presley


After you have seen Graceland and the whole Elvis charade, if you’re not sick of hearing his music in the gift shop (how can you ever be) jump back in the car and head towards Nashville while listening to That’s Alright Mama from the King himself.

16. He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones


After about three and a half hours you should reach Nashville Tennessee, the capital of country music and the town of dreams for every rising country star.

Make sure you listen to a good playlist of the history of this town while soaking in all the wonderful sights and sounds of Music City USA, beginning with some George Jones: He Stopped Loving Her Today.

17. Lovesick Blues by Hank Williams


When you head downtown to the historical Ryman Auditorium, have a listen to Hank Williams' Lovesick Blues to take you back to the days when he would get encore after encore in front of a live audience at the height of his career in this beautiful old church of country music.

18. Wabash Cannonball by Roy Acuff


Before leaving Nashville after your delightful musical journey listen to a Roy Acuff tune, Wabash Cannonball, to take you home.

Enjoy your time on your own musical road trip journey and add your own tunes along the way as you rediscover a love for the wonderfully unique and soulful deep southern music.

Catherine Britt

Catherine Britt has a voice which instantly gets your attention. Singing, travelling and entertaining her way around the world, her recording career commenced in 1999 when at the tender age of 14 she released her first album going on to win multiple awards including two CMAA Female Artist of the Year Awards.