What is “soul?” For us, soul is that special something each person brings to their community, forming a colorful tapestry of stories, talents, cultural experiences and more. Greenwood’s tapestry is composed of dozens of unique individuals who are why the city is the epitome of its mantra – “Delta Spirit, Southern Soul”. Their rich stories and deep connections to the region’s food, music, and history make us who we are as a town and a wonderful place to visit. These are Greenwood’s “Soul Mates.”
Today’s Soul Mate is Scott Barretta, longtime instructor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi, where he teaches a course on blues history, former editor of Living Blues magazine – America’s first blues publication aimed to document and preserve the African American blues tradition – and host of Highway 61, the award-winning blues-centric Mississippi Public Broadcasting radio show.
Scott Barretta is quite the blues expert and enthusiast, with an entire trail of work to back it up — literally.
Originally from Virginia, Barretta has called Greenwood, Mississippi home since 2013. He may not have been born in Greenwood, but he loves this town with a passion and considers it a part of his identity, and its deep history with the blues is a big part of that love.
As a matter of fact, it was the blues that guided Barretta to discovering Greenwood. He began visiting the town regularly while laying the groundwork for the B.B. King Museum and Delta Cultural Center in Indianola from 2003 to 2008 and recently helped them with a museum expansion. During that time in 2006, Barretta also began writing for the internationally renowned Mississippi Blues Trail— telling the stories of bluesmen and women, the places they lived, and how the times they lived in influenced their music.
I didn’t have to move to Greenwood to do any of my work, but the more I came down, the more reasons I found to come back.
Barretta’s lifetime journey of preserving and promoting Mississippi’s blues history has established him as a knowledgeable and trusted resource on the topic. If there were anything you could ask about the blues, Barretta would be sure to know the answer or at least know how to find it. This extensive appreciation for Mississippi blues culture has manifested itself throughout a variety of his work, from numerous publications to collaborating with filmmaker Joe York and the University of Mississippi’s Southern Documentary Project to produce the film “Shake ‘Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell.” Barretta’s vast collection of work even led him to receive the 2016 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Mississippi Arts Commission for Mississippi Heritage and in 2022 an award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. And he believes planting roots in Greenwood has only strengthened his credibility.
I live five miles away from where Robert Johnson is buried. I’m right in the middle of where so much of the history I enjoy actually happened.
Barretta couldn’t be happier or more humbled to have reached this status, but, of course, that’s not what’s most important to him. After all, the Mississippi blues is what it’s all about, and why he feels so strongly connected to Greenwood. Its rich history of blues music, civil rights, and culture are all intertwined. Barretta finds great pride in Greenwood’s ability to embrace its past while on the journey to discover what else it can offer the world in the future.
And yet, one of Barretta’s favorite things about Greenwood is its small-town charm.
I enjoy Greenwood because of the relatively slow pace of life around here.
Although, the town’s locals don’t mind sharing a slice of their way of life with visitors.
If Barretta could convince others to visit Greenwood, he would simply challenge them to spend just one weekend exploring the town. He finds that’s all it takes for visitors to discover something unexpected about Greenwood and keeps them coming back. People will often visit Greenwood to eat southern staples, such as fried green tomatoes or shrimp and grits, at the excellent restaurants or soak in the blues culture, but what they may not expect to find are the beautiful neighborhoods and kind locals who live here.
In my experience, when people visit here: they always have a fun time and want to come back.
That’s why the single word Scott Barretta would use to describe Greenwood is “hospitable.”
A soulmate is a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament or a person with whom one has a strong affinity, shared values and tastes, and often a romantic bond. We can’t think of a more apt description of Scott Barretta’s connection to Greenwood and the community’s feelings in return.