/Historic trail celebrates success of country music in Mississippi

Historic trail celebrates success of country music in Mississippi

This is the weekly ‘Sip of Culture story, a collaboration between Mississippi Today Magazine and The Sip Magazine. Visit The ‘Sip Magazine’s website for more stories. Nashville is often credited with being the center of country music, where records are made and deals are made. But the music doesn’t always come directly from Nashville. Sometimes, the music comes to them. The roots of country music lie further south along the Natchez Trace Parkway. It crosses two states and deepens into Mississippi. This is where Appalachia’s organic, traditional music meets the Delta’s rural blues music. Visitors and residents alike can explore the Mississippi Country Music Trail. It features 30 sites that mark the trail’s origins. These sites are dedicated to the history of the music, which includes Jimmie Rodgers’ Meridian birth and its commercial success. A marker honoring Rodgers’ contributions was placed on the trail’s first day, June 1, 2010. Each marker includes a brief biography or description of the honoree, and photographs of people, places, and memorabilia. Malcolm White, executive director at the Mississippi Arts Commission, says that it is our cultural story that makes us stand out. “It’s important that (we) tell our cultural stories through music, literature and the arts. We also have to include civil war, civil right, and all the other huge components we claim.” White is a former director of Visit Mississippi, the tourism division at the Mississippi Development Authority. White was also part of the original group that attempted the blues trail project under Governor. Ray Mabus, but it was never funded and eventually disbanded. Gov. Haley Barbour started a new effort in 2000 that resulted in country music, blues and freedom trails. White stated that at first it was about marking things. “In the beginning it was just about marking things,” White said. Attractions like the B.B. Attractions such as the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, the Grammy Museum Mississippi, and Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, add to the story that Mississippi is America’s birthplace. An advisory board was formed to create a list and events for the Country Music Trail’s 30 initial sites. This included prominent performers such as Faith Hill, Tammy Wynette and Charley Pride. The trail’s goal is to increase music tourism in the state and boost its creative economy. It seems to be a viable idea. Construction of the Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience is in progress in Meridian. Site preparations are ongoing. The facility covers 58,000 square feet and is located just two blocks away from Jimmie Rodgers, the “father of country music”. It will be used to tell the state’s cultural history through interactive, media-driven exhibits and events. White credits Marty Stuart, a Philadelphia native and performer, with much of the credit for the Country Music Trail project’s quick completion. Stuart’s personal collection of 20,000 pieces of country music memorabilia forms a large part of the Country Music Hall of Fame displays in Nashville. White says that he took on the project as a personal one. White says that White took it on as a personal project. Stuart, White, and Mac McAnally (a Nashville songwriter who was also the director of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band) set out to honor Mississippians’ contributions to country music by erecting a trail marker in Nashville. They ran into many roadblocks along the way. It was impossible, they were told. They had a plan, and a key ally. Craig Wiseman was another Mississippi singer-songwriter, with deep roots but broad branches in Music City. He also happened to be the owner of a building on Music Row. This row is the heartbeat of the city’s music industry. White says that Craig was open to the idea of a marker being placed on his property. White said that Craig allowed us to put a marker on Music Row. It will talk about everything from Elvis Presley, Jimmie Rodgers and Tammy Wynette, as well as the history of Mississippi. White stated that the trail was created to “honor Mississippians” and tell their story. “We have blues markers in Los Angeles, Chicago, France and all over the world, because the blues is a global phenomenon, and so is country music.” For information on the Mississippi Country Music Trail, including views of the trail markers and maps, visit mscountrymusictrail.org. The Markers: To support this work, make a regular donation to us today as we celebrate our Spring Member Drive.