See copyright notice at

Highway 61

Highway 61 Revisited / Highway 61 Revisited/ 1965

And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61

Highway 61 runs from New Orleans, Louisiana past Duluth, Minnesota to the Canadian border. It follows the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior. Between WWI and WWII it was one of the roads hat African-American's took north in search of industrial jobs. As they moved north, they brought their musical traditions along with their labor power. Highway 61 was a sort of conduit for the dispersion of a rich musical tradition...
Highway 61 is the road through Memphis. Highway 51 crosses through the town as well. Graceland isn't far from the intersection.
-- Probably better to say that "Highway 61 runs through Memphis, Tennessee," rather than "H61 is the road through Memphis."

Date: Sat, 23 Mar 1996 02:51:43 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Evan Schnell)

Highway 61 does not "stop" in Duluth. It runs all of the way to the Canadian Border at Pigeon River north of Grand Portage. It is a state highway north of Duluth rather than a federal one. I think it may have been federal before the construction of I-35. It is very curvy and runs along the cliffs overlooking Lake Superior. There are several locations where only a guardrail separates a motorist from a hundred foot fall to the icy waters of Lake Superior. It is probably the most dangerous stretch of highway in Minnesota. There are countless stories of cars losing control on the snow and ice, occasionally assisted by alcohol, and going over. It is one of only a handful of Minnesota highways with a posted nightime speed limit. In the last ten years tunnels have been put in at the worst places to pull the highway away from the very edge of the cliff. Thus it is not as dangerous as it was. Plus the song was written before front-wheel drive and other safety features became commonplace. In other words in the 50's and 60's God killed a lot of people on highway 61, north of Duluth.
later. Evan.

Evan Schnell
Duluth, MN (Mitch Gart):
Here is the description of Mississippi Highway 61 from "The Chamber" by John Grisham. It's rather different from the one that starts out "God said to Abraham kill me a son".


So after twenty-three years, he was finally returning to the state of his birth. He didn't particularly feel welcome, and though he wasn't particularly afraid of anything he drove a cau- tious fifty-five and refused to pass anyone. The road narrowed and sunk onto the flat plain of the Mississippi Delta, and for a mile Adam watched as a levee snaked its way to the right and finally disappeared. He eased through the hamlet of Walls, the first town of any size along 61, and followed the traffic south.

Through his considerable research, he knew that this highway had for decades served as the principal conduit for hundreds of thousands of poor Delta blacks journeying north to Memphis and St. Louis and Chi- cago and Detroit, places where they sought jobs and decent housing. It was in these towns and farms, these ramshackle shotgun houses and dusty country stores and colorful juke joints along Highway 61 where the blues was born and spread northward. The music found a home in Memphis where it was blended with gospel and country, and together they spawned rock and roll. He listened to an old Muddy Waters cassette as he entered the infamous county of Tunica, said to be the poorest in the nation.

The music did little to calm him. He had refused breakfast at Lee's, said he wasn't hungry but in fact had a knot in his stomach. The knot grew with each mile.

Just north of the town of Tunica, the fields grew vast and ran to the horizon in all directions. The soybeans and cotton were knee high. A small army of green and red tractors with plows behind them crisscrossed the endless neat rows of leafy foliage. Though it was not yet nine o'clock, the weather was already hot and sticky. THe ground was dry, and clouds of dust smoldered behind each plow. An occasional crop duster dropped from nowhere and acrobatically skimmed the tops of the fields, then soared upward. Traffic was heavy and slow, and sometimes forced almost to a standstill as a monstrous John Deere of some variety inched along as if the highway were deserted.

Adam was patient. He was not expected until ten, and it wouldn't matter if he arrived late.

At Clarksdale, he left Highway 61 ...

Date:    Thu, 27 Jul 1995 20:49:52 GMT
From:    "E. Church" (brcs@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Subject: Re: Highway 61 Revisted Lyric question (Jason Sandlin) writes:

>Other than just plan sillyness is there any signifigance to the people he
>uses specificly "Georgia Sam", "Howard", "Mack the Finger", "Louie the
>King", "forty shoe strings", "thousand telephones"?

>Where did the verse "5th daughter on 12th night told..." come from? I
>would guess the numbers have something to do w/ something but i don't know

   Highway 61 runs through a dark nightmare America, a brutal de Chirico
landscape of long shadows and vanishing point perspectives, where hustlers
and con men prowl and anything-for-a-buck is the rule.  Starts way back.
A bullying God arranges a murder, setting the stage for a history of
victims and victimizers.  Georgia Sam is screwed by the Welfare Department.
He's the poor, the naked (can't get no clothes), the powerless.
Mack the Finger, a gangster, cozies up to the King, trying to capitalize
on a shitheap of useless junk (corrupt business and government, hand in
hand) and the King helps him out (relax these horrible restrictions,
puh-leez...think Third Man, Catch 22, other stories of bad medicine and
chocolate covered cottonballs, maybe even Phillip about those
dangerous carseats for babies the companies won't recall?)
   And the family, for our last bastion of moral strength and values, we
get a nice lethal dose of incest.  Ignore the mathematics.  For our hell
to be complete, the second mother is sleeping with the seventh son, and
boy these pallid offspring just don't feel so good.  Yeah.  Step into
the light, my dear.  Closer.
   The Big Bang.  Of course, the song starts with the Old Testament, the
beginning, and must run through to the end of the world.  The destruction
and decay must be complete.  World War III, and this bored roving gambler
is setting up bleachers for the conflagration.  Maybe Ted Turner will
even colorize it, who knows?  People will sell anything, why not a war
(happens all the time, actually; watch the news).
   Yeah, I think it can be very easily done.  Flick on the tube.  The image
sizzles to life.  You recognize them?

Bob in Seattle

Date: Tue, 02 Apr 1996 02:50:20 -0800
From: Niklas Pettersson (
Subject: Highway 61

Highway 61 goes down to Blues contry. I you seen the movie Cross Roads, you«ll see that they are going down the ol« 61. Right down to the land of the blues. Or as the black man said "Where it all began". And that«s what Highway 61 revisited is all about. Going back to the blues, but ofcourse dylan takes it one step forward instead, adding some poetry to the old blues.