This post tells you the story of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The state of Georgia has produced a musical dynasty whose contributions shaped and defined American music, including the “Father of Gospel Music” Dr. Thomas Andrew Dorsey; the “Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey; the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown; the “Architect of Rock-n-Roll” Little Richard; the “Father of Commercial Country Music” Fiddlin’ John Carson; the “First Lady of Contemporary Christian Music” Amy Grant and the “First Family of Bluegrass Gospel” The Lewis Family.
Over 30 years ago, one of Georgia’s most loyal music fans took the first steps to preserve and honor the state’s rich musical heritage. In 1979, then Lt. Gov. Zell Miller appointed the Senate Music Industry Committee to begin work on a Hall of Fame. Two years later, a private organization, Friends of Georgia Music, with the support of the Senate Committee, produced the first Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Banquet and inducted Ray Charles and Bill Lowery.
Georgia’s studios are now used by the Recording Connection Macon Campus.
In 1983, Georgia Public Television began broadcasting the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards live and has done so annually since then. In 1989, the Awards ceremony found a permanent home in the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
In 1989, Macon was selected as the site of a future Hall of Fame museum because of its central location in Georgia and its amazing music history. From 1955 to 1962, Little Richard, James Brown, and Otis Redding all catapulted out of the city to international fame. Young entrepreneur Phil Walden founded Capricorn Records in Macon in 1968, and his roster of groups including the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Wet Willie.
Economic and feasibility studies determined that a Hall of Fame museum could serve as an anchor to develop downtown Macon into a significant tourist destination, and generate a positive economic outcome for the city and the state. In 1993, the General Assembly approved the sale of $6.5 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the construction of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
After four busy years, which included design, construction, fundraising, collection of archives and even a catastrophic flood in Central Georgia, the museum opened its doors to a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 1,200 at the Grand Opening Celebrity Gala on Sat., Sept. 21, 1996. The building formally opened for business on Sun., Sept. 22, when Gov. Zell Miller cut the ribbon to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Since then, visitors from over 40 countries have toured the Hall of Fame and attended its diverse schedule of events and programs. Undoubtedly, the most frequently heard comment by visitors is, “I didn’t know all those people were from Georgia!” No other state can claim as many groundbreakers and superstars in every musical genre.
Some of country music’s greatest stars are Georgians, including Brenda Lee, Bill Anderson, Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, Alan Jackson, Mark Wills, John Berry, Daryle Singletary and Cyndi Thompson.
Alternative music and the ’80s will forever be associated with Athens, the sleepy college town
that fostered the careers of mega-groups R.E.M. and the B-52’s and today provides an artistic haven for artists like Vic Chesnutt, Widespread Panic, and Kevin Kinney.
Arista Records C.E.O. Antonio “L.A.” Reid, songwriter/producer Dallas Austin and So So Def Recording’s owner/artist Jermaine Dupri have molded Atlanta into the urban music capital of the world. OutKast, Goodie Mob, India. Arie, TLC, Usher, and Monica call Atlanta home, as did their R&B predecessors Gladys Knight and the Pips, Peabo Bryson and Isaac Hayes. The capital city also rolled out rockers like the Atlanta Rhythm Section, the Black Crowes, Collective Soul,
Tommy Roe, Joe South, and newcomers Shawn Mullins, Marvelous 3 and Jennifer Paige.
The brilliant violinist Robert McDuffie, his sister, pianist Margery McDuffie and world-renowned singers Allan Evans, James Melton, Mattiwilda Dobbs, and Jessye Norman were born in Georgia. The classical music presence in the state is anchored by the award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Famed songwriters from Johnny Mercer (Moon River, Blues in the Night, Glow Worm) to Boudleaux Bryant (Bye Bye Love, Rocky Top, Wake Up Little Susie) drew inspiration from their Georgia youths, as did independents like country rock forefather Gram Parsons and guitar virtuosos Chet Atkins, Norman Blake, and Jimmy Bryant.
Since 1979, over 80 artists have been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, including 12-string guitarist and blues pioneer “Blind Willie” McTell; swing and big band leader Fletcher Henderson; chanteuse Lena Horne; soul artist/producer/ activist Curtis Mayfield; Dave Prater of Stax duo Sam & Dave; and Elvis Presley producer Felton Jarvis. Check here who were inducted in 2015.
The three-story museum documents the careers of these pioneering artists through music, videos, audio landscapes, instruments, photos, memorabilia, posters and performance costumes displayed in Tune Town, the main exhibit hall. Future musicians and young music lovers discover a world of entertainment and education in The Music Factory, a 2,400 square foot children’s wing featuring hands-on exhibits for kids.