Barbour Gets Bill For Mississippi Country Music Trail

This appeared in The Clarion Ledger - March 16, 2009

Hoping to boost state tourism by drawing more country music fans, Mississippi lawmakers have sent the governor a bill that would create a trail of markers in honor of artists such as Faith Hill, Charley Pride or Marty Stuart.

The bill authorizes the Mississippi Development Authority to research and establish a trail to recognize Mississippi natives and their contributions to country music. The program would be similar to a blues trail that began about four years ago.

“This gives people a direction if they are a tremendous country music fan. They know they are going to see the sights and it will move them around to see other things our state has to offer,” Sandy Bynum, communications and advertising manager for MDA’s tourism division, said Monday.

The bill passed the House last week. It passed the Senate earlier after Stuart, a country singer, attended a news conference to urge support for the legislation.

The bill would bring together several state agencies and private groups to conduct research about potential sites for markers. Those groups include the state Department of Archives and History, state Department of Transportation, the Mississippi Educational Television Authority and the state College Board.

The first stop on the trail should be Meridian, the home of Jimmie Rodgers, a pioneer in the genre, said Suzy Johnson, executive director of the Lauderdale County Tourism Commission.

Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music,” recorded more than 120 songs. He was also known as the “Singing Brakeman” for his work on the railroad. He made his first recording in 1927.

Rodgers died of tuberculosis at age 35 in 1933 in New York City. He was the first performer elected to Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame.

There’s a museum dedicated to Rodgers in Meridian, which Johnson said already draws numerous tourists.

“If they are a music aficionado, yes they do make that trek over here. They get the museum, the gravesite, the blues trail marker. They get a number of things and they like that,” Johnson said.

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