When you think of country music museums, you probably think of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, where Nudie suits sparkle at every turn and Webb Pierce’s famous 1962 Pontiac Bonneville is parked. But in the Hill Country town of Brady, Texas is a much smaller, but equally dedicated museum that honors the first century of country music. The Heart of Texas Country Music Museum is one of the most impressive country music museums in the country. And it all started with a rhinestone dress.
Disc jockey Tracy Pitcox, an announcer on Brady’s KNEL, is a lifelong fan of country music. In fact, he started his radio show Hillbilly Hits when he was just 17. So when country legend Rose Maddox donated a gold rhinestone dress designed by Nathan Turk to the radio station, Pitcox knew the item should be preserved for future generations. He set out collecting more country music memorabilia, storing his finds in the KNEL offices. Soon, he was running out of room.
Pitcox opened the museum in 2000, transferring his collection of country music artifacts to the new 1,200-square-foot space. Eager to support an organization honoring traditional country music, country legends began donating stage costumes, guitars and other pieces of music history.
Today, the museum holds items from over 100 artists, from George Strait’s Resistol hat to Buck Owens’ guitar.
The museum displays pieces from Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Bob Wills, Faron Young, Ernest Tubb and more. In 2003, the museum purchased Jim Reeves tour bus “Big Blue” and offers a bus tour to visitors. According to Texas Highways, the museum is also home to an extremely rare Jimmie Rodgers record, a picture disc vinyl featuring “Cowhand’s Last Ride.”
The museum is operated by the Heart of Texas Country Music Association, a group of over 800 volunteers. The association also operates Heart of Texas Records, an independent record label with Texas legends Darrell McCall and Johnny Bush on its roster. The label has released albums from Grand Ole Opry star Norma Jean, Texas traditionalist Justin Trevino, singer-songwriter Dallas Wayne and Georgette Jones, the daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Some of the artists on the Heart of Texas label have even relocated to the small town.
The Heart of Texas Country Music Association hosts a music festival in Brady every March.
The museum is open Fridays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Saturdays ( 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Sundays (12 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Admission is free.