You have your car packed up, your country music playlist ready and your GPS set for your road trip. You might assume there aren’t any road trip stops worth making if Nashville isn’t on your route, but Nashville isn’t the only place where you can learn about country music and its rich history.
Here are eight places in the South you should consider stopping to learn more about some of country music’s greatest legends:
Heart of Texas Country Music Museum // Brady, Texas
If you are traveling through Texas, consider stopping at The Heart of Texas Country Music Museum in Brady, Texas. It boasts memorabilia from over 100 country music artists including costumes, photos, musical instruments, and autographs from some country music greats. Items of interest include Loretta Lynn’s dress, shoes, and jewelry, June Carter Cash’s gold lame dress, Johnny Cash’s Desert Storm fatigues and Jim Reeves’ tour bus, “Big Blue.” It’s a volunteer run museum, and admission is always free.
Johnny Cash’s Boyhood Home // Dyess, Arkansas
In 1935 Johnny Cash and his family moved to the historic Dyess Colony in Mississippi County, Arkansas, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to resettle impoverished Arkansas farmers. Johnny Cash lived there from 1935 to 1950 when he graduated high school. The home has been restored and refurnished with furniture and accessories to replicate the interior similar to what it would have been like in the 1930s and ‘40s when Cash lived there. The administration building on site includes exhibits related to the Dyess colony, the Cash family, and the impact growing up in Dyess had on Johnny Cash and his music. It’s a great place to go to if you want to see firsthand the influence that growing up in Dyess Colony had on Cash’s music.
Hank Williams Museum // Montgomery, Alabama
If you love Hank Williams Jr. or just want to learn more about him, then you will love the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The museum houses the most complete collection of Hank Williams’ memorabilia, including more than 35 showcases of personal artifacts, most notably Hank’s 1952 Blue Cadillac, 17 of Hank Williams’ suits, as well as lots of his boots, ties, and hats. It also includes information and pictures of Hank throughout his life. If you don’t know much about Hank Williams Jr. now, then you will by the time you leave.
Chasing Rainbows Museum // Pigeon, Forge, Tennessee
If you’re heading to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or thereabouts then you should check out Dollywood and the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which is a state-of-the-art museum with memorabilia from Dolly Parton’s life and career. Some of the things on display are hand written lyrics, sequined gowns, and an entire case of Dolly Parton’s many awards. You can also learn about Dolly’s life from the mountains of East Tennessee to the Grand Ole Opry. Plus, the museum is located inside of Dollywood Theme Park, so you can check out the museum and then ride roller coasters to your heart’s content.
Birthplace of Country Music Museum // Bristol, Tennessee
Located in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia, the Birthplace of Country Museum tells the story of America’s musical history. The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Stoneman Family recorded songs in Downtown Bristol’s Taylor-Christian Hat Company, making Bristol the Birthplace of Country Music. This 24,000 sq. ft. museum tells the story of the Bristol recording sessions in an interactive way with special gallery exhibits, film experiences, and even year-round music performances.
Patsy Cline’s home // Winchester, Virginia
Patsy Cline became the first female solo singer to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1960 and was the first woman inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973. The Patsy Cline Historic Home in Winchester, Virginia, was the home of country music legend Patsy Cline from 1948 to 1953. The modest home is furnished with personal items and made to look as it would have when Patsy live there with her family from age 16 to 21. It serves as a testament to Cline’s hard work and perseverance launching a career in a male-dominated industry and rising to the top. One of her best known songs, “Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson, was the #2 country song in 1962.
Loretta Lynn’s Ranch // Hurricane Mills, Tennessee
Loretta Lynn’s Ranch is much more than a museum and includes horseback riding, cabin rentals, camping, and fishing. On your visit to the ranch you can tour Loretta’s plantation home, the Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum, as well as a simulated coalmine tour. The 18,000 sq. ft. Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum has a huge collection of Lynn’s memorabilia and awards. There’s so much to do that you just might end up staying a while.
Graceland // Memphis, Tennessee
Even though Elvis Presley is called the “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” Presley first gained exposure through country music radio. If you are heading through Memphis, you need to stop by Graceland. You can take an audio-guided tour of the Graceland Mansion, which offers a personal look into the life and home of Elvis Presley from the entrance to the mansion and throughout the home to the Meditation Garden where Elvis is laid to rest. It’s an experience that includes commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Maria. It’s definitely a stop worth making.
Don’t forget your tunes and your camera– you may want to take some pics.
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