America’s musical “family tree” has deep roots throughout cities and small towns across Mississippi. The “Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers, was a Meridian native whose innovations as “The Singing Brakeman” inspired generations of country musicians with a legacy that lasts to this day. Other standouts who have greatly impacted country music include Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Marty Stuart, Bobbie Gentry, Tammy Wynette, Faith Hill, and LeAnn Rimes.
Mississippi’s newest country music attraction is Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The legendary performer and five-time Grammy winner is developing a 50,000-square-foot campus featuring a performing arts center (now open in the newly renovated Ellis Theater) and, coming soon, a world-class country music museum stocked with items from Stuart’s personal collection, one of the world’s largest private collections of country music artifacts and memorabilia.
The centerpiece installation of the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience (aka “The Max”) is the MAX Hall of Fame Gallery, which recognizes the cultural contributions of 18 of Mississippi’s best known artists and entertainers, including two country music legends. While Elvis Presley is perhaps best known as the “King of Rock ‘n Roll,” he was influenced by country music and recorded and performed a number of country songs throughout his career. Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music” is recognized in the Hall of Fame Gallery, as well.
GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi presents the story of America’s music, with a focus on the continuing achievements of Mississippians, through interactive and engaging displays and exhibits. The museum features permanent and traveling exhibits of interest to country music fans, plus live performances from legends and rising stars. The museum offers regular workshops and camps where aspiring artists can learn about songwriting, music production, and many other music business topics.
Though he lived only 35 years, Jimmie Rodgers had an immeasurable impact on the formation and development of country music, earning him widely accepted recognition as the “Father of Country Music.” The Jimmie Rodgers museum, located in Rodgers’ hometown of Meridian, displays his original guitar and other memorabilia of his life and career. The museum’s collection also includes railroad equipment from the era of steam-engine travel, reflecting Rodgers’ work as a rail worker and his nickname “The Singing Brakeman.”
Though he would go on to become the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley was introduced to America as “The Hillbilly Cat” and “the hottest new name in country music.” A marker located Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo recognizes the King’s love of country music and the fact that, during his career, he would appear on country music charts more than 50 times and claim the number-one position ten times. The Elvis Presley birthplace complex includes the small home where Presley was born, his childhood church, and a museum and events center dedicated to his legacy.
Historic markers have been placed throughout Mississippi to mark important country music sites and commemorate Mississippians who have contributed to the music genre. Top sites include, Elvis Presley’s birthplace, Jimmie Rodgers’ grave, Charley Pride’s hometown (Sledge), and the site in Starkville where an intoxicated Johnny Cash was arrested while picking flowers as commemorated in his song “Starkville City Jail.”