The list of Mississippi musicians and songwriters who have made their way to Nashville over the years would almost stretch the length of the Natchez Trace. The Mississippi Country Music Trail recognized that legacy on June 4, 2015 by unveiling the Mississippi to Nashville marker on Music Row. It was a treat to attend the event acknowledging a path I am proud to have taken in 1987 when I followed the footsteps of fellow Mississippians who moved to Music City to pick, sing and write.
Of particular significance is that the Music Row marker is the first one on this trail planted outside of Mississippi. Visit Mississippi director Malcolm White said that Mississippi Blues Trail markers have been erected in Chicago and even Europe, but this is the first out-of-state plaque on the Country Music Trail. It was a treat to see Malcolm again. He co-founded the well-known
Jackson, Mississippi music venue Hal and Mal’s and I have been fortunate enough to perform there many times. Now, as director of Visit Mississippi, he is taking the state’s music message far and wide.
It is fitting that the marker’s location is just outside the office/studio of Big Loud Shirt Industries, the brainchild of Mississippi songwriter Craig Wiseman. Wiseman, whose hits include Live Like You were Dying by Tim McGraw and The Good Stuff by Kenny Chesney, has written twenty-one Number One songs and has had three hundred songs recorded. Originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he moved to Nashville in 1985.
It was also appropriate that Philadelphia, Mississippi native Marty Stuart spoke and helped in the unveiling of the marker. I remember seeing a teenaged Stuart playing mandolin with Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass in Monticello, Mississippi in 1975. The multi-instrumentalist’s talents, love of country music and Mississippi patriotism have grown larger as the years have passed.
Something else about this marker appeals to me – it recognizes songwriters from Mississippi, as well as artists. Hank Cochran, Johnny Russell, Mac McAnally and Wiseman are there along with Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride and Stuart.
The next time you’re on Music Row, make a point to see its newest point of interest. It doesn’t cost a thing to stop by 1111 16th Avenue South and read both sides of this marker. The back has interesting facts, photos and details about the Mississippi to Nashville connection. Whether you are from Mississippi or not, the names on this marker and the songs they bring to mind will spark some musical memories made possible by the Magnolia State.
Text and photos copyright 2015 by Les Kerr.