Georgia Music Hall of Fame
When Fiddlin' John Carson began playing on Atlanta's WSB in 1922, he created a musical genre today known as country music. Thomas Dorsey may have written bawdy tunes for Georgian Ma Rainey, but he is best known today as the father of gospel music. Ray Charles merged his deep gospel roots with rhythm and blues to create soul music. Georgia's TLC took the "edge" off urban music with the hip-hop ballad Waterfalls.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame
These are just a few of the stories presented at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon. The show actually begins in the parking lot with the recorded music of Georgia artists wafting across well-placed external speakers. Sponsors of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame are shown in the entrance hall as "gold records," along with a photo of Ray Charles, whose recording of "Georgia" is the official state song. After buying tickets, visitors are transported to "Tune Town," the heart of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

History of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame

With the dominance of New York, Los Angeles and Nashville in the music world, Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller thought that honoring Georgia's significant contribution to the industry was a good idea. Although the first election of music star to the Hall would occur in 1979 (it was Ray Charles, fittingly), it would be almost 20 years before the physical Hall of Fame was created.

Equipment, instruments and outfits at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame
Donations to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame include instruments, recordings, outfits and equipment. Many are rotated to the exhibit floor on a regular basis
Between 1979 and 1991 47 people, both performers and non-performers (which included Mr. Miller himself) were elected to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Memorabilia donations by performers, family members and fans were also being made. In 1991, the Georgia Assembly laid the groundwork for the creation of a memorial to the contributions of all Georgia artists to the field of music with the establishment of an authority to oversee raising and spending money to build the Hall of Fame.

Macon, which many of the honored artists had called home at least for some part of their lives, offered property downtown. Other cities made competitive bids as well. Once the authority selected the Macon property, plans were approved and construction on the Hall began in 1994. In 1996 the building opened with a gala celebration which included the 18th Annual induction of artists (Mac Davis and the Atlanta Rhythm Section).

Visiting the Georgia Music Hall of Fame

Rhythm and Blues Cafe at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame
There's always a party going on at the Rhythm and Blues Cafe
Organized by genre, "Tune Town" represents eight individual sections that define the work of the inductees. From the ticket booth visitors enter Jazz and Swing which highlights Georgia's favorite cool cats Fletcher Henderson, Harry James, Johnny Mercer, Lena Horne, Joe Williams and Ray Eberle, and it includes information on Mercer and his wife founding Capitol Records. The Rhythm and Blues Club takes a musical tour from early contributors right on up to TLC while Backstage Alley has in depth information on the pop and country explosion in the 1960's and 1970's. Here visitors find out that "Last Kiss" was written by Wayne Cochran, who lived on a particularly dangerous section of road near Barnesville, Georgia.

Two sections, the gospel "chapel" section and Gretsch Theater sections have video presentations. In the Gretsch section, visitors can cheer for their favorite genres and artists and the system will play selections based on the loudest cheers. Tune Town's "church" recounts the development of gospel music, especially the contributions of Thomas Dorsey. In a touching moment during the film, Dorsey relates the story behind his most successful gospel song, Take My Hand, Precious Lord (both his wife and young daughter had just died).

Skillet Licker Cafe may look like a place to eat, but inside the tables and walls are displays on Georgia's rich history of country, folk, bluegrass and "old-time" music. In this area visitors are introduced to legendary Fiddlin' John Carson, whose broad-based appeal made him a popular star on Atlanta's WSB and is generally considered to be the father of country music. The display takes visitors up to modern-era county, with Marietta, Georgia's Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood (Monticello, Georgia) and Alan Jackson (Newnan, Georgia).

Atlanta's contributions to the music of the 1950's and 1960's is presented in the Coca-Cola Drug Store. Vintage Vinyl concentrates on Southern Rock and Urban music.

For the kids

Inside the 2,400 square foot Billy Watson Music Factory kids get to learn about creating music in a multimedia and interactive area. They can hear how "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" might sound if it were played by a jazz musician or a rock 'n roll band, or they can play a musical selection, then highlight one of the instruments in the selection.

Changing Galley

This area gives Georgia Music Hall of Fame curator Joseph Johnson a place to exhibit pieces of the museum's vast collection that have not made it into "Tune Town" organization style or highlight a traveling show.

Why should you visit?

Interesting displays/information.

Why should you return?

Displays are frequently rotated.

Location: Downtown Macon
Directions: I-16, Exit 2. From I-16 West turn left. From I-16 East turn right. Cross the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge and travel .2 miles to the entrance on the left.
Additional information:
200 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Macon, GA 31201
478-750-8555 or 888-GA-ROCKS
Cost: Moderate. Parking is free, with plenty of space for large groups.
Time: Allow 2 hours
Date added: May 15, 2004
Last update: May 22, 2004

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