Watch: How C Spire carries the signal along the Mississippi Blues Trail

By: Jim Beaugez on Feb 22, 2024 1:50:04 PM


Blues musician Brian Ballou first heard blues, R&B and soul music on records in his parents’ collection. As tunes spun from their turntable and filled the family home with sound, the music of icons like Muddy Waters and B.B. King had a transformative effect, setting him on his own journey.

“As soon as I heard [King’s] ‘The Thrill Is Gone,’ just the way he sang it and that rasp in his voice—that's how I wanted to play guitar and sing,” Ballou says.

Over the years, Ballou expanded his musical horizons, but always came back to his first love. As he practiced his guitar playing, watching legends like Bobby Rush, King Edward and Jesse Robinson—not to mention fast-rising young players like Christone “Kingfish” Ingram—perform at clubs and festivals around Jackson, Mississippi, he began to understand why his home state is known as “the birthplace of America’s music.”

“Robert Johnson is the foundation of the blues,” he says. “He didn't leave a lot of music behind, but what he did record inspired millions of people.” Those legions of artists took the blues and reimagined it as R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and even hip-hop, and the evolution continues today.

C Spire followed Ballou as he traveled through Mississippi on the Mississippi Blues Trail, a network of more than 200 historical markers located across the state and abroad. Since 2006, these signposts have told the story of how blues developed, became an unstoppable musical and cultural force, and spread worldwide.

From Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale to Dockery Farms outside Cleveland to Club Ebony in Indianola, Ballou retraces the steps of his blues forefathers while the C Spire network keeps him connected. He follows the muse all the way to Jackson, where he takes the stage at Hal & Mal’s to perform during the weekly Blue Monday revue produced by the Central Mississippi Blues Society.

“The C Spire network brings it all to life,” he says. “It helps you live in the moment.”

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