Walt Grayson uncovers the Tallahatchie Bridges - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt Grayson uncovers the Tallahatchie Bridges

The simple repeated "two chord strummed guitar intro" to the song is one of those musical signatures that instantly translate anyone familiar with it to dusty cotton fields and a place where rivers have intriguing names, and to small towns that still had picture shows and places with roots honoring ancient times like “Choctaw Ridge” and sinister bridges that hold dark secrets.

Choctaw Ridge is a real area in Webster County, and the sleepy, dusty Delta is real. 

Not all that dusty this 3rd of June with all the rain lately, and not a lot of cotton to chop anymore, as in the song. It's more corn and soybeans now.

Sleepy? The Delta is at least that. 

Look off at the far end of the field where the heat waves meet the sky and it gets down right dreamy, or a little haunted where you see things that maybe aren't really there.

The Tallahatchie River is a real place, and it has a bunch of bridges over it. 

My favorite was the old steel turnstile bridge at Shell Mound. It fell in the river decades ago. 

Nothing left there today but the endless fields and old houses and the tree line along the Tallahatchie that no longer even hints where the bridge was.

Others of the old bridges have been replaced with utilitarian concrete slabs. Gone is what may have been an old wood and steel structure with all sorts of character. My friend Nathan Culpepper from Meridian got this shot of the Lamb-Fish Bridge over the Tallahatchie west of Charleston. I suppose it's the oldest bridge left still standing over the river.

This one on Highway 32 east of Webb is the old style steel and concrete bridge that used to be over every creek and river in the state on the major highways. Most of them have been replaced now.

But where is the Tallahatchie Bridge? 

Is Billy Joe a real person and did he really jump off of it like in the song? 

Bobby Gentry may have thought of this bridge in Greenwood where she grew up when she wrote her song. 

It's actually over the Yazoo River, though.

But more importantly, the song is set in the land that still flows with the stream American music sprang from, blues, country, rock, and an ode or two just for good measure.

Copyright 2015 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.
Powered by Frankly