Our state powers that be, to my knowledge, have yet to lay claim to “The Music State.” There is Music City, U.S.A., better known as Nashville, TN. And this memo will not suggest we vacate our Volunteer State motto, so aptly earned and noted throughout our nation. It is true that throughout the U.S. there are world class symphony orchestras, ballets, and many other venues and variety of music. However, if you travel the length and breadth of Tennessee, you will begin to realize that the state is brimming and bubbling over with the sounds music. Join me in a brief written enumeration as we travel from East to West Tennessee. You will realize we live in a lush and fertile state of music like no other.
We begin in Sevierville, TN; home of Dollywood, a world class theme park based on the iconic music of Dolly Parton and East Tennessee. From gospel, pop, and bluegrass to Broadway Theater at Dollywood; to a dozen additional music theatres and venues, the Smokey Mountains are alive with music. A short distance west is Knoxville, home to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Opera, and Jazz Company. There is also the historical Cradle of Country Music Tour, the Tennessee, Bijou, Laurel, Clarence Brown theatres and Knoxville Civic Auditorium & Coliseum. If you enjoy marching music, there is no better place to see a great college band than Neyland Stadium at a VOL football game. Knoxville is the first major city on our tour. We will also make brief stops in Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville; as well as our own Cumberland County. To save space I will note that each of the major cities has a symphony orchestra, a majority has ballet companies, and all have major music festivals, such as Bonnaroo.
Traveling South to Chattanooga we visit the historic Tivoli Theater for classic, blues, gospel, jazz, pops, and country music. There is also the Mountain Opry, Riverbend Music Festival and a host of music clubs. Then we elevate to the Cumberland Plateau and Crossville, TN, where the historic Palace Theatre hosts a steady stream of local and regional talent. Stone Memorial High School is home to the Southern Stars Symphonic Brass Band and Cumberland Playhouse provides some of the best Broadway and musical entertainment in the state. Throughout Tennessee there are great venues for amateur and professional bluegrass, jazz, pops, gospel, blues and classical music. The numerous college and universities of Tennessee add a plethora of musical groups, such as the many outstanding groups at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville and the music and dance departments of Belmont University in Nashville.
Moving south again we stop in Memphis. Do the names Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison or B.B. King ring your bell? They all started their careers in Memphis and most recorded great music at the landmark Sun Studio, the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Graceland, the home of Elvis, is the second most visited home in the U.S. after the White House. Beale Street is a music destination and host to some of the mid-South’s best music and festivals. Now we head for Nashville, the Mecca for songwriters, musicians, and the music industry; it is also home to the Grand Ole Opry. Bands and performers spread across the U.S. from Nashville spreading the message, and the message is music. There is much more to tell but the claim is valid; Tennessee is the music state!