Mississippi Adds New Country Trail To Complement Its Blues Trail, Honors Jimmie Rodgers

This appeared in Vintage Vinyl News - June 6, 2010

For a number of years, the state of Mississippi has been assembling a long "trail" of markers saluting significant people, places and events in the history of blues. So far, 104 markers have been erected (100 in state and four in other significant areas such as Chicago) in places like Berclair (the birthplace of B.B. King), Hattiesburg (the Hi-Hat Club, one of the big stops on the "chinlin' curcuit") and Greenwood (the studios of WGRM where some of the first black voices were heard on the radio).

In March, the state of Mississippi announced that it would be starting a similar trail for the great people and events of country music. From the press release announcing the new venture:

"As we continue to spotlight the state's slogan, 'Birthplace of America's Music,' we are excited to unveil such a key element in that message, the Mississippi Country Music Trail," said Mary Beth Wilkerson, Tourism director for the Mississippi Development Authority. "Because music—and country music in particular—is such an important part of Mississippi's cultural legacy, the Country Music Trail will help to increase awareness of Mississippi as a tourism destination for a diverse spectrum of consumers."

Building on the success of the Mississippi Blues Trail, which now boasts over 100 markers across Mississippi and in Muscle Shoals, Ala., Helena, Ark., Chicago and Memphis, the Country Music Trail celebrates Mississippi's rich heritage of country music legends and chart toppers. The trail will feature a variety of country music artists, including Jimmie Rodgers (known as the “Father of Country Music”), Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Jerry Clower, Faith Hill, Paul Overstreet and others to comprise the first 30 markers across the state.

Last Tuesday, the first marker was unveiled by Marty Stuart in honor of Jimmie Rodgers. The marker is located at the Oak Grove Baptist Church in Meridean, Mississippi where Rodgers was born.

In announcing the placement of the first marker, Mary Beth Wilkerson, director of the Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division, said "Because of his influence on the musical genre, Jimmie Rodgers is clearly recognized as the 'Father of Country Music.' Prior to the recording of Rodgers' first songs for the Victor Talking Machine Company, there was no such musical genre as country music. His style was a national phenomenon that paved the way for generations of country music, blues and rock and roll artists to come."

Up next will be a marker in Philadelphia, Mississippi honoring Marty Stuart who has been instrumental in the creation of the trail. Stuart continues to advocate for classic country sounds through his recordings and his RFD TV series The Marty Stuart Show.

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