From Nashville to Memphis to Bristol, Tennessee is known for its music significance and contributions across the world. From the music legends of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton to the young music stars of today such as Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini, and Justin Timberlake, seven genres of music call Tennessee home–Country, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Blues, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Soul, and Gospel. The state’s rich musical heritage offers a musical oasis for all generations through a broad array of events, locations and stories that are all made uniquely in Tennessee.
Tennessee Music Pathways: The Tennessee Music Pathways connects visitors 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 interactive ways and much more. You can also travel the Ken Burns Country Music Pathways featuring the locations spotlighted in Ken Burns’ documentary Country Music.
Tennessee Songwriters Week: Tennessee Songwriters Week (Feb. 20-26, 2022) supports music venues, generates awareness of songwriters’ contributions to Tennessee, paves the way for future artists and inspires travelers to experience the state’s music stories, history, attractions and venues.
Explore the Historical Sites
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum: It was in 1927 in Northeast Tennessee where Ralph Peer conducted recording in which country music foundation artists, the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers, were discovered. Johnny Cash would go on to say these sessions were “the single most important event in the history of country music,” and now guests can learn about these sessions and the story at The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol. Visit Bristol in September to attend the award-winning Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion where the roots of traditional Appalachian music are brought to life through talented musicians.
Ryman Auditorium: Head to Nashville to walk on the hallowed ground 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.” It is a culture engine for Nashville and continues to bring music and fans together for over 128 years through concerts and behind-the-scenes tours.
Graceland: Second only to the White House, Graceland is the most-visited residence in the country. Purchased by Elvis Presley in 1957, it was his home until his death 20 years later. In 1982, it opened to the public and more than 20 million people have visited since. In 2017, it expanded to include Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a 200,000-square-foot-square exhibition space, museum and automobile collection, all in Memphis, Tennessee.
Find more of Tennessee’s Music History Destinations HERE.
Feel the Sounds
The Caverns: They say bluegrass is mountain music, but sometimes you need to go down below. Descend more than 300 feet underground to a stone amphitheater in The Caverns, situated at the base of Monteagle Mountain near Pelham, where Bluegrass Underground has hosted countless music greats. Visitors to the Volunteer state will not want to miss the chance to get down in such an unforgettable place.
Bluebird Café: If you’re looking for the next Garth Brooks, take in a show at The Bluebird Café, a singer-songwriter haven in Nashville. The tiny venue always sells out, regardless who’s playing, so get tickets in advance or come early to wait in line to make sure you get a seat to one of the hottest writers’ rounds in Nashville. Afterwards, head to the Broadway Historic District: Honky Tonk Highway where visitors can hop around to the numerous famous bars where many music legends first got their start such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where Kris Kristofferson, Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings were all regular customers. Every year in June mark your calendars for CMA Music Festival where country music biggest, brightest and upcoming stars takeover downtown Nashville.
Beale Street Historic District: Declared by an act of Congress as “Home of Blues,” Beale Street in Memphis is a historic center for jazz, blues and rock enthusiasts. Here, relive some of the musical greats such as B.B. King and Louis Armstrong while exploring more than 25 bars, cubs and restaurants that line the district. Plan a trip this April 29- May 1 for the popular Beale Street Music Festival where the 2022 lineup is filled with some of the hottest stars including Foo Fighters, Van Morrison, Weezer, and many more.
Feel the Music Now Playing in Tennessee HERE.
Connect to the Music
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Learn about all the country music greats at the world’s largest music museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville. Walk through 350,000 square feet of galleries, educational centers, ever-changing exhibits and much more.
West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center: While in West Tennessee, make a trip to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center where you can find the home of Sleepy John Estes, and the one-room schoolhouse Tine Turner attended which now houses memorabilia including costumers, posters, videos and much more at the only Tina Turner museum in the world.
National Museum of African American Music: 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.
Stax Museum of American Soul: In Soulsville U.S.A, Memphis, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music presents the story of Stax, from early hits from music icons such as Booker T. & the MG’s and Isaac Hayes. Next door is Stax Music Academy, where students can learn about soul and tour the world playing it. Just around the corner from the museum is Royal Studios where current soul artists such as Bruno Mars cut their recent hits such as “Uptown Funk.”
Museum Center of 5ive Points: Cleveland is in the heart of the Ocoee Region, an area rich in traditional crafts and music. The Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland’s Five Points neighborhood includes regional crafts on exhibit and for sale together with live music events and 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. and were printed in Cleveland using a Linotype, which is also on display.
About Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
Tennessee is the home of the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll— delivering an unparalleled experience of beauty, history and family adventure, infused with music that creates a vacation that is the “Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.” Join other Tennessee travelers by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.