For country music fans planning a trip to Georgia, all roads--namely the Travis Tritt Highway in Dallas and the Alan Jackson Highway in Newnan--lead to Atlanta and its surrounding areas. In a city known more for hip hop than honky-tonk, you can visit an early country star's grave or enjoy a beverage at a dive bar that's survived multiple rounds of gentrification. Considering you pretty much have to drive to get around the city, it's not cheating to look beyond the metro area to find live music that never involves laptops.
Outsiders probably assume that pre-Olympics Atlanta has been replaced by expensive condos and businesses that look like they were stuccoed together in the past 20 years or so. That's not completely inaccurate, but fortunately there's still bars that look like places your honky tonk heroes might've played in decades past. For example, there's the Star Bar in Little Five Points with its famed Elvis vault and its ties to the city's infamous redneck underground music scene of the '80s and '90s. For a genuine truck driver bar that looks like something out of a '70s movie, check out Southern Comfort. It's one of the last true dives in driving distance.
Fiddlin' John Carson's Grave
While there's no obvious destination site tied to Ray Stevens, Bill Anderson, Jerry Reed, Jack Greene or anyone else to pass through Atlanta, the city does host the final resting place of its original country star. Fiddlin' John Carson gets credit as one of the earliest "hillbilly" radio performers. In 1923, he made history when his recording of "The Old Little Log Cabin in the Lane" for the OKeh label went on to sell an estimated 500,000 copies. To pay respects to the first country megastar outside of the twin cities of Bristol, visit the Sylvester Cemetery in East Atlanta (2073 Braeburn Cir SE).
Mill Town Music Hall
There's an outstanding, family-friendly country and gospel venue not far off Interstate 20 in the West Georgia region. It's the Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen, the hometown of legendary Nashville producer Harold Shedd. In addition to hosting great music, its walls tell the story of Shedd's career through gold records, business correspondence and other memorabilia from one of the state's biggest contributors to modern country music.
Bluegrass Barns and Old-Time Music Venues
If you've got time for a road trip, head out to a nearby rural area for some old-time music. Everett's Music Barn in Suwanee--about 40 minutes North of Atlanta--has hosted bluegrass since 1964. Little venues that maintain their down-home charm never really went away in Georgia, especially in more rural areas like Pike County, home of the Williamson Music Barn and Hollonville Opry House. Depending on the time of the year, there's ample options for bluegrass festivals in towns with names like Armuchee and Hiawassee.