This article is part of Wide Open Country's ongoing series Back to Country, which celebrates country music venues around the U.S.
Attractions for music fans visiting tourist-friendly stretches of Savannah include live music venues, from gritty bars for living out your Urban Cowboy fantasies to more luxurious options. There's also worthwhile stops for the record collector or aspiring music historian in your life.
Read on for a few sites worth visiting the next time you explore coastal Georgia.
The city's newest concert venue will bring numerous country acts to the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District through the Kessler Collection's partnership with Live Nation. Singer-songwriter Kendell Marvel will play the 500-capacity room on Aug. 24, with Maddie & Tae (Sept. 23), Paul Cauthen (Oct. 13), Liz Cooper & The Stampede (Oct. 30) and Drake White (Nov. 4) scheduled to appear there this fall.
Some of the riverfront venue's decor points to the economic and cultural impact of Gretsch, a world-renown creator of guitars and drum kits, on nearby Pooler, Ga.
Graveface Records and the Graveface Museum
Beyond serving your country needs on vinyl, Graveface Records and its sister site museum in downtown Savannah display way stranger artifacts than any side show of yore. A quick stop at the record store (multiple $1 finds by young Reba McEntire's duet partner Jacky Ward plus a couple of Billy Walker compilations were scored) exposed this writer to such peculiarities as a signed pair of Tonya Harding's ice skates and multiple pieces from owner Ryan Graveface's collection of paintings by John Wayne Gacy.
Events planned around the owner's gallery of Gacy originals, the largest such collection in the world, and a planned documentary will raise funds for victims' families and awareness of unsolved aspects of the Gacy case.
"It's phrased as this fun, insensitive sort of thing, but really, the documentary that I'm working on and the research that I've been doing with [James Sparks, a criminologist and Gacy's art dealer] for years is victims advocacy," Ryan Graveface told the Savannah Morning News. "There is a certain way to frame these things so that it's not so,...serious is not the right word because it is serious, it's life and death. I think I can be a PT Barnum and have people still have fun, but at the end of the day I'm doing something positive for the victim's families, bring them closure. My goal is to get the case reopened and put names and faces to some of these unidentified victims, and it looks more and more like it's actually going to happen."
Grab late night brews or bites at this cosmic country-themed spot which also hosts live music. It's your best bet for catching country, bluegrass or blues acts without feeling like you're hanging out at a tourist trap. Indeed, it's the sort of community space for outside-the-box artists that can seem scarce in large cities.
For a flashier experience, complete with a mechanical bull, stop by Saddlebags. It's a blue collar bar that attracts top-shelf touring acts (the Cadillac Three play there in November) and offers a rural-themed break from beach activities.
The Birthplace of 'Jingle Bells'?
If you're not on the lookout for live entertainment, nightlife hotspots or Gacy originals, there's plenty of musical history to explore in Savannah's historic district. For instance, one of the South's best beach getaways boasts being where James Lord Pierpont wrote "Jingle Bells" (though Medford, Mass. makes a similar claim). Its oceanfront scenery was for sure taken in by Johnny Mercer, the locally-born pop standard composer behind "Hooray For Hollywood" and "Moon River." There's a renovated "Jingle Bells" marker in Troup Square, while Mercer's statue rests upon a fire hydrant in Ellis Square.