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The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville The Country Music Hall Of Fame
by Graham Lees



When visiting Nashville, Tennessee, The Country Music Hall Of Fame is a mustThe old Country Music Hall of Fame on Music Row on your itinerary! The original barn shaped building opened in 1967 and stood on Music Row. It was here that Trisha Yearwood and Kathy Mattea both worked as tour guides. In May 2001 a new purpose built Country Hall Of Fame and Museum opened at a cost of $37 million on the West Bank of the Cumberland River, just off Lower Broadway, close to the famous Ryman Auditorium, Tootsies Orchid Lounge and Robert's Western World.

Garrison Keillor, Chairman of the Country Hall of Fame Capital campaign said; "Country music is still devoted to the lyric and to the telling of stories, which The opening ceremony at the New Country Music Hall Of Fame with Brenda Lee and Marty Stuartpeople love and people need. Country music artistes took what they heard around them, material that was in the air and that was common currency, and they made something entirely new. This is a museum that preserves their memory so that they can continue to inspire creators in the future. It's also a museum that honours the people who their music was made for. Those people are all of us, people who've ever been lost confused or sad or felt excluded. This museum helps to preserve these tributes to our condition."

Looking at the outer front of the building, the left hand rotunda houses the HallThe Rotunda Of Fame with the bronze plaques of the many inductees. When the architects were planning the building numerous people connected in the country music business were asked for their input as regards to how the building should represent the many aspects of country music. The roof of the rotunda is made-up of four round layers signifying the changes in record production, 78s, 33s, 45s and the CD. Looking very much like a water tower, the antenna of country radio station WSM tops the tower. The upper walls are encircled with huge slabs of Tennessee crab orchard stone, depicting the musical notes of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken". The windows of the outer facade represent a piano keyboard and as many prison songs were a fundamental part of country music, the long narrow windows also symbolize this section of country music. As the building stretches way to the right, it appears to rise and form the tail fin of the 1950's Cadillac. I'm told that an aerial view of the whole building is shaped like a bass clef.

Step inside the massive foyer and make your way to the ticket office and find the Ford Theatre staging "This Moment In Country"…original and exclusive film showing a variety of country music from around the world. The film is 25 minutes long and is shown every 45 minutes.

The Carter Family
The Carter Family

The elevator takes you to the top floor (the American's call the 3rd floor, we call the 2nd) where you find the main exhibits. You start your tour with a history lesson, as you journey back in time to the 1920's and the very beginnings of country music. Exposed cables and wooden floors give the illusion of a backstage appearance as we travel on towards the 1970's. Look for the old battered 1928 Gibson guitar of Mother Maybelle Carter. See the collection of Hatch Show Print posters. Interactive exhibits give you the opportunity to listen to country music from an age now gone and large Web Pierce's Pontiacvideo screens offer interviews from the top names in country music. Step inside one of the soundproof booths playing a record from one of the long past veterans of country music. On your right-hand side are the museum's glass fronted archives where the restorers are lovingly working on a future exhibit. A display of great interest finds the gold Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis, standing next to Webb Pierce's Pontiac Bonneville, with 1,000 silver dollars imbedded in the upholstery, six shooter door handles and mounted Winchester rifles.

Marty Stuart
Marty Stuart

As you take the spiral staircase down to the second level, continue the story of the working-class music as the theme changes, depicting a recording studio with vinyl floors, the story of country music is brought up to the 1990's. See Marty Stuart's personal collection of artistes' stage cloths. Fashion and stagewear is well portrayed throughout the museum, featuring Nudie Cohen and his famous suits along with those of his protégé Manuel. See Nudie's original giant shop sign and the Singer sewing machine that Nudie Cohen used. Marvel at the collection of famous and gaudy Nudie stagewear elaborately decorated with rhinestones. Marty Stuart's over-the-top suit featuring Jesus bearing the cross, Gram Parson's pink suit adorned with marijuana leaves and the suit any country music fan would kill for; Hank Williams famous white suitewith bars and notes embroidered down the sleeves and pants. Museum director Kyle Young explained how the suite came into their hands. "Merle Kilgore (HankWilliams Jnr's manager) pulled up in his car and it was in the back. No one had seen it in years and we weren't sure where it was. Turns out that Junior had it in storage down in Alabama and decided at theNudie cloths label last minute to donate it to the museum."

See Tod Oldham's outrageous costumes with the rows of safety pins instead of rhinestones, worn by the Dixie Chicks when they accepted their Grammy Awards; Patsy Cline's cowgirl suite can be seen, as can Dolly Parton's dazzling sequined dress. Don't miss the hand-sewn stage-dress that Loretta Lynn made at the age of 14 years and worn by Sissy Spacek when she portrayed Loretta in the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter".

The Country Music Hall of Fame is not just a museum of artefacts to look at. On the second floor find the sound proofed songwriters round, where you can listen to the songwriter perform his/her own material. A demonstration gallery finds one of Nashville's notable musicians demonstrating the playing of various stringed instruments. After the demonstrations take the opportunity to talk with the songwriters and musicians and learn a little more about their craft.image of a Gold Record

The wall of Golden and Platinum Records spans a whole wall of the second and third floors. Open one of the door-like frames to hear to the actual recording that sold in excess of half-a-million copies. Another exhibit not to be missed is the late record producer, Owen Bradley's office, recreated exactly as it was when he died in 1998. Find Cindy Walker's pink portable typewriter and the original scraps of paper and manuscripts with lyrics of songs that are now country standards, including Townes Van Zandt's composition book. While you visit, you can even cut your own personal CD for the modest price of a few dollars.

The Hall Of FameAs you come to the end of this self guided tour, enter the 4,500-square-foot inner sanctum of the rotunda. A most reverent experience...The Hall Of Fame is bathed in natural light from the circle of clerestory windows. Running round the circle are those famed lyrics of the Carter family's song "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and from the 70-foot high ceiling, hanging like a chandelier, is the antenna of WSM-AM 650.

The greatest honour in country music is to be inducted into the Country Music The Hall Of Fame plaque of Minnie PearlHall of Fame. The walls are set like music scores, adorned by the 85 plaques of the members (as of 2001). The first inductees were Jimmie Rogers, Fred Rose and Hank Williams in 1961, whose plaques were first displayed at the Tennessee State Museum until the first Country Music Hall of Fame Museum opened in 1967. This year (2002) Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle are to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the CMA Awards on November 6, joining the list of famous names already recognised for their outstanding contributions to country music.

The Country Music Hall of Fame honours the music that tells of everyday life of the workingman. It is a living legend, preserving the memory of the artistes who lived the legend of country music!!!