We've Got The Belmont Blues

Posted: Aug 28, 2019 02:12 pm Updated: Oct 17, 2023 10:08 am

There are many shades of blue in Pensacola. Our blue water provides a panoramic view of color, the Blue Angels flawlessly soar through the sky and the Blue Wahoos bring the community together for sporty celebrations. But we have an additional blue component to be proud of as of January, 2019. Pensacola’s Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood was officially added to the historic Mississippi Blues Trail – a true testament to the musical legacy of the area. 

The Mississippi Blues Trail is a cultural pathway to music’s soul. Historically, Blues music, combined with jazz and Americana folk, served as the roots for rock & roll and the inspiration for an array of artists. Did you know that Elvis’s signature song “Hounddog” was actually originally recorded by rhythm-and-blues singer Big Mama Thornton? Or that “Crossroads” performed by Eric Clapton was written by an early Blues legend named Robert Johnson? These Blues artists created a style of music that showcased the hardships of life through powerful lyrics and stompable beats. 

Scattered across the south are more than 200 Blues Trail markers that tell the stories of legendary musicians and the places that inspired Blues music. Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters – known as the Holy Trinity of the Blues – all have their own plaques describing their contribution to Blues music and culture. 

But, how does Pensacola fit within the musical mecca of the Mississippi Delta? The answer is found on the road, specifically with the coastal highway 90. Before the interstate system, highway 90 was a direct route to New Orleans, where Blues culture was buzzing with every bass guitar in the city. Musicians would travel to Pensacola and perform in the Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood, which was the historically black cultural and business center of town. This neighborhood was part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” a collection of music venues across the southeast and midwest that promoted black musicians during times of segregation. Touring blues and jazz acts, including legends B.B. King, Junior Parker and Sam Cooke, drew large crowds to the neighborhood’s Belmont Theatre and Abe’s 506 Club.

The Pensacola blues marker is located on the corner of Belmont and DeVilliers Street, and describes how the area and the musicians that performed there contributed to the development of the Pensacola Blues scene. Go pay your dues to the men and women of Blues by visiting the marker in Belmont DeVilliers, and enjoy Sunday Jazz Brunch at 5 Sisters Blues Café to get the full experience! 

[PHOTO: Visit Pensacola]