Tennessee is internally known for its music significance and contributions from timeless songwriters, legendary artists and talented musicians. You've heard the songs, now experience the hallowed sites that birthed and broadcasted the sounds that changed the world.
Tennessee is the home to seven genres of music - blues, bluegrass, rock n' roll, rockabilly, country, gospel and soul. The Tennessee Music Pathways connect you to the people, places and events that made Tennessee the international music mecca it has become. Throughout the 95 counties of the state, you can see legendary artists' hometowns, famous music venues, museums dedicated to sharing this rich music history in interactives ways and much more. You can also travel the Ken Burns Country Music Pathway, featuring the locations spotlighted in Ken Burns' latest film "Country Music."
The Queen of Rock n’ Roll and Nutbush, Tennessee native Tina Turner has her own museum in the nearby town of Brownsville. Housed in the one-room schoolhouse Turner attended when she was young, the Tina Turner Museum and Flagg Grove School is filled with the icon’s stage costumes, awards, mementoes from her childhood and stories behind some of her songs. For instance, "Nutbush City Limits" is the first self-written song Tina Turner ever recorded. It's an auto-biographical tune about the small farming community where she grew up. It was the last hit she and, then husband, Ike Turner had together, reaching No. 4 in the UK and No. 22 in the U.S. The museum also educates visitors on what school was like for African Americans in the rural South.
The historic Bristol Sessions happened in 1927 in Bristol. It’s where country royalty like the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Stoneman were discovered. Learn about the “Big Bang” of country music and its evolution through the years at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Through interactive exhibits, artifacts and a theatrical experience, you can immerse yourself into this piece of history that holds such a rich musical heritage for Tennessee.
Newly reopened Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum in Chattanooga brings the music history of the guitar to the Southside District. Experience interactive, hands-on exhibits that dive into the history behind the guitar and legendary artists who played. Concerts, master classes and guitar lessons are also offered. When you visit Songbirds Foundation Museum you can help make a difference - every $100 that is raised provides a child in the South a guitar and 10 weeks of free lessons who otherwise would be without a musical education.
You can learn the deep personal and professional history first-hand of country music icon Loretta Lynn at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills. The 18,000-square-foot Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum onsite provides a rich, detailed history of her life growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and her journey to stardom. The Frontier Homestead further illustrates what rural life was like as original log cabins display an array of cookware, crocks, churns, clothing, tools, wagons and more. Other major stops include the Native American Artifacts Museum, Grist Mill Museum and Doll and Fan Museum.
Museum Center at 5ive Points – Cleveland
Southern gospel fans rejoice. The Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland, an Ocoee region history and culture center, maintains a permanent exhibit called "The Red Back: America’s Best-Loved Hymnal." These famous hymnal books and their signature red covers lived in the pew-back pockets of churches around the U.S. The exhibit is dedicated to six decades of this Southern gospel tradition. Why Cleveland? The Red Back Hymnals were printed right here, using a kind of printing and typesetting machine called a Linotype. A real-deal, working Linotype is on display, along with an integrated gospel listening station, and a hands-on shape note board to learn to read music. The Museum at 5ive Points is located at 200 Inman Street East, Cleveland, Tennessee 37311.
Live bluegrass and meat-and-three country cooking is found at the T. B. Sutton General Store, the center of life in Granville, located on the banks of Cordell Hull Lake. It’s said to be one of the biggest general stores still standing in the South, adorned with interior fixtures original to the store and memorabilia from the turn-of-the-century. Famous for its corner stage, the Sutton Ole Time Music Hour radio show is live recorded every Saturday night featuring bluegrass performers. Visitors are served a family-style meat-and-three dinner before the show, which is broadcast around the world, and heard locally in Tennessee on 650 AM WSM, home of the Grand Ole Opry. So, you could say it’s in good country music company. The T. B. Sutton General Store is located at 169 Clover Street, Granville, Tennessee 38564.
Lester Flatt is one half of bluegrass’ most influential duo. Flatt & Scruggs, born out of the genre’s namesake act, Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, lent undeniable influence to the music’s signature sound. Lester Flatt is buried in Sparta at Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau. Located downtown is a Lester Flatt memorial and museum. But Flatt’s legacy isn’t all cemeteries and rock slabs. Sparta hosts the annual Liberty Square - A Lester Flatt Celebration which honors the living legacy of Flatt, Scruggs and Monroe by featuring contemporary bluegrass music performances. Lester Flatt’s grave is located at 1694 Smithville Highway, Sparta, Tennessee 38583.
They called it “One of Country Music’s Darkest Days.” It was March 5, 1963. A small airplane carrying country music royalty and Grand Ole Opry stars Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, as well as pilot Randy Hughes, crashed in the woods near Camden, Tennessee. There were no survivors. Bad weather and low visibility combined to create this tragedy. A pilgrimage to the Patsy Cline Plane Crash Memorial is a humbling experience. The quiet wooded park where the crash occurred is oddly peaceful and beautiful, knowing what occurred there. A boulder, engraved with the names of the crash victims, sits just down a hill where visitors participate in quiet reflection to honor the memory of some of Nashville’s brightest stars. You can learn more about her humble beginnings and shining stardom at the Patsy Cline Museum in downtown Nashville. The Patsy Cline Plane Crash Memorial is located at 2746 Mt. Carmel Road, Camden, Tennessee 38320.
On the courthouse square in Centerville stands a statue made completely from chicken wire. It’s made in the likeness of hometown Grand Ole Opry star Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, better known by the stage name Minnie Pearl. She was a pioneering female comedian on the Opry stage and on the television show "Hee Haw," and it is perhaps in this spirit that her hometown decided to dedicate such a whimsical and eccentric statue to her. Minnie Pearl claimed to be from a little Tennessee town called Grinders Switch, which many thought to be a fictitious town invented for Pearl’s character. It is in fact a real place. Just outside of town is the old depot and railroad switch. The Minnie Pearl statue is located at 1105 Grinders Switch Road, Centerville, Tennessee 37033.
Jackson, Tennessee is home to the first Hard Rock Café in the U.S. and home to the largest collection of Carl Perkins’ career. Step inside the Legends of Tennessee Music Museum to see Perkins’ first electric guitar, albums, costumes and original signed records. Other music greats’ careers on display include Sonny Boy Williamson, Tina Turner, W.S. Holland and Denise LaSalle.
See where the King of Rock n’ Roll resided with a visit to Graceland in Memphis. Step inside Elvis’ mansion to see famous rooms like the Jungle Room, the glitzy living room, kitchen, pool room and newly-enhanced Trophy Building. Walk the Meditation Garden to pay your respects. Then, dive even deeper into Elvis’ movies, his stage wear, awards, automobiles and more at the Elvis Presley’s Memphis.
Visit the Memphis Music Hall of Fame museum and exhibition space to be introduced to some of the best musicians of all time who shaped modern music and changed the world in Memphis. Rare video performances and interviews, never-before-seen memorabilia, interactive exhibits and legendary instruments are on display.
When you walk into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, you start on a rich musical journey through interactive exhibits that house 2 million artifacts, including 500 musical instruments, more than 1,900 items of stage wear, accessories, personal clothing, microphones and automobiles, and more than 40,000 clips from film, video and other digital formats from the 1920s to today.
The first of its kind in the world, the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville celebrates and honors the vast music contributions of African Americans. Step inside to see interactive exhibits, videos, photos and more of famous artists from B.B. King to Beyonce, Fisk Jubilee Singers and Aretha Franklin. Learn about the history and music greats who birthed genres like R&B, jazz, blues and hip hop.
Experience the hallowed grounds of the Ryman Auditorium as you tour this historical icon. The Mother Church was the original site of the Grand Ole Opry, “the show that made country music famous.” World-class artists, performers and more came to the Ryman – from Elvis to Houdini to Kings of Leon and B.B. King – to entertain audiences of all ages, and still do today. It’s a cultural engine for Nashville, that has brought artists and fans together for 128 years. Go behind-the-scenes and hear the colorful stories that surround this cultural treasure.
Music Walking Tours in Tennessee
Did you know Knoxville was instrumental in the development of country, jazz, blues and rock n’ roll? Explore the city’s ties to Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Howard Armstrong and more on the self-guiding Country Music Walking Tour. Download the map and lace up your walking shoes as you make your way through the city to find the more than 15 markers that tell the music history of Knoxville.
Spend some time strolling Historic Music Row on a one-mile walking tour that includes 15 sites of music history. See RCA Studio A and Studio B, SESAC and Country Music Association, BMI and more record studios. Experience the sites and sounds that made Nashville known as Music City. The full tour can take about one hour to complete.
See performances of music, dance, comedy, theater and film at the Paramount Center for the Arts. For more than 85 years, the theater has become a cultural anchor for Bristol. The multi-use performing arts center will play host to artists like Ronnie Milsap, Amy Grant, Golden Dragon Acrobats, The Robert Cray Band and more this coming season.
One of East Tennessee’s oldest and most revered performance venues, the Bijou Theatre opened in 1909 and has been praised as one of the best sounding theaters in the U.S. In its more than 100 years of history, the theater has hosted vaudeville, opera, comedy and music from The Ramones, Richard Thompson and Public Enemy.
Mondays to Thursdays at noon, stop in at the Knoxville Visitor Center to be apart of the WDVX Blue Plate Special live audience. You’re welcome to bring your lunch and enjoy blues, bluegrass, Celtic, country, rockabilly and folk from local and international artists. Past performers include The Del McCoury Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rick Skaggs, Tommy Emmanuel, Chris Stapleton and more.
See a show almost every night at 3rd & Lindsley, one of Nashville’s celebrated music venues. The venue always has an electric array of artists come to perform. Past performers include The Fray, Norah Jones, Bela Fleck, Zac Brown Band, Jason Mraz, The Tantrums and more. Food and drink are also available on site, so you can stay awhile and take in all the tunes.
For the Record – Chattanooga
If you’re looking for records, collectibles and memorabilia, stop in For the Record in Chattanooga. They have new and used vinyl for you to peruse. Posters are available for sale and they even offer convenient framing.
In Clarksville, AndVinyl Records offers a variety of turntables from Jensen to Victrola to audio-technica. Cassettes, new and used vinyl is for sale in their store in downtown Clarksville. If you have vinyl you’d like to sell, you can bring it to AndVinyl for an appraisal and sale as well.
Goner Records is a music label and a record store in Memphis. Co-owned by Eric Friedl of The Oblivians, they released the first records of Guitar Wolf and King Kahn & BBQ Show among others. They carry vinyl records and CDs as well as t-shirts, posters and more. Goner Records also hosts the annual Goner Fest, a rock n’ roll music festival that celebrates artists from Memphis and around the world.
Tennessee is home to many music sites that introduce you to the sounds made within these borders that helped change the world. Plan your own music journey through Tennessee.
Hear the stories of the people who lived in these Civil War-era homes.