There’s no shortage of historic country music sites across the U.S. Everyone knows about The Ryman, the Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – all beloved venues that should be honored. But what about the lesser known and less visited sites? At a time when some of the genre’s most respected spaces face destruction, we should make a point to visit country’s historic landmarks and buildings to show their importance in shaping the music we love. Here are 10 historic country music landmarks to add to your bucket list.
10. Ernest Tubb Record Shop
True to its name, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop was founded by country legend Ernest Tubb in 1947. The shop moved to Nashville’s Lower Broadway in 1951 and has been a Music City mainstay ever since. It’s also one of the hottest tickets in town on Saturday nights, when the Midnite Jamboree packs in locals and tourists alike for a free performance from one of country music’s best. The Midnite Jamboree is the second longest running radio show in history.
9. Jimmie Rodgers Birthplace
Jimmie Rodgers was one of country music’s first superstars and is widely considered to be the father on the genre. The “Blue Yodeler” grew up in Meridian, Miss. and the town is incredibly proud of their hometown hero. Meridian has a Jimmie Rodgers memorial, monument and museum to celebrate the legend’s contribution to country music.
8. Johnny Cash’s Boyhood Home
Any country music fan knows how an artist’s upbringing can shape their music. Johnny Cash was no exception. The Man in Black grew up in the Dyess Colony in Dyess, Ark., which was created as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to help ease hardships created by the Great Depression. The Cash family home is furnished as it was when Johnny was a boy.
7. Grinder’s Switch, Tenn. (Home of Minnie Pearl)
There may not be much to Minnie Pearl’s hometown of Grinder’s Switch, but that’s kinda the point. The beloved country comedian and Grand Ole Opry star frequently made references to Grinder’s Switch, a town filled with lovable country characters. Grinder’s Switch is actually a small spot in the road in Centerville, Tenn., where a young Minnie Pearl (Sarah Ophelia Cannon) would go with her father. Today, you can stop by the Grinder’s Switch Winery in Centerville and raise a glass to Minnie.
6. Cheatham Street Warehouse
The unassuming Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas holds an important piece of country music history. The Cheatham Street stage is where George Strait played his first shows back when he was a student at Texas State. Cheatham Street founder Kent Finlay was an early champion of Strait’s music and even drove the Texas singer to record his first demos in Nashville.
Finlay also created a weekly Songwriters Circle that spawned Texas artists like James McMurtry, Bruce Robison and Randy Rogers.
5. The Bluebird Cafe
Perhaps no place is more important to Nashville songwriters than the Bluebird Cafe. The venue opened in 1982. Since then, singer-songwriters have clamored to play in the esteemed listening room. in 1987, Garth Brooks was signed to Capitol Records after a record executive caught his showcase at the Bluebird.
4. The Broken Spoke Dance Hall
The Broke Spoke is one of the last true Texas dance halls. Founded in 1964 by James White, the Spoke is a giant helping of old school Texas honky tonk in the middle of Austin. Country legends from Willie Nelson to George Strait have played the on the iconic stage.
3. Butcher Holler, Ky.
Butcher Holler is the heart of Loretta Lynn. It’s the place where the Coal Miner’s Daughter gained inspiration to write so many of her classic country hits. Visiting the Queen of Country’s homeplace may be the closest we get to meeting the country legend herself.
2. Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Ala.
No country music history road trip is complete without a visit to the final resting place of Hank Williams. Thousands visit the Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Ala. to pay their respects to one of country music’s greatest singer-songwriters.
1. Bristol, Tenn. and Bristol, Va.
Nashville may be Music City, but Bristol, a town that straddles the Tennessee-Virginia state line, is the birthplace of country music. The 1927 Bristol Sessions featured the first recordings of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. The songs recorded during those sessions created a nationwide interest in country music and are still considered to be some of the most important recordings in the history of the genre. Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music Museum showcases recordings and artifacts from the Bristol Sessions as well as a variety of exhibits on the history of country music in the region.