Mississippi: A home for country music’s cherished artifacts

Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 1:42 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2023 at 1:51 PM CDT
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PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (WLBT) - One of Marty Stuart’s first public performances was on WLBT-TV.

Since that time, the Neshoba County native has made a name for himself working with Johnny Cash, having his own hits with the Fabulous Superlatives, and collecting more than 20,000 items connected to performers of the American art form known as country music.

You are already able to see a small sampling of those items with the opening last year of phase one of the Congress of Country Music. Now Stuart is busy raising money to fund the rest of the project.

Superstar Dolly Parton will be a big part of that, with two scheduled performances at the 500-seat Ellis Theater in Philadelphia, August 26.

“Dolly understands when people are trying to get things up and running. She understands the importance of what’s happening in Neshoba County,” said Stuart, talking with WLBT+ from his tour bus. “It wasn’t hard at all. I went and laid it out for her and she says, ‘Well, I don’t tour anymore, but I better come and do this.’”

Stuart said he was honored that his friend agreed to the appearances.

Stuart said he began collecting country music “treasures” in his youth and had amassed more than 20,000 items. He said that he began wondering what he would do with all of it, but was inspired when the announcement was made that the Grammy Museum would be located in Cleveland on the campus of Delta State University.

“I had gone to Indianola to spend the day with B.B. King, to help him out at his place to raise funds. On the way out of Indianola I thought I know what I’m supposed to do with my whole world of country music, taking it back home to Philadelphia and establishing the spiritual home of country music in the Magnolia State,” he said.

Stuart referred to his collection as his “hillbilly presidential library.”

“In reality it is a cultural center, a destination for the furtherance and preservation of country music,” he said.

Parton’s performance is the beginning of the second season of performances at the restored Ellis Theater, which this year includes Booby Rush (90th birthday celebration), Dorothy Moore, Stuart’s own 65th birthday bash, and Roger McGuinn (leader of the Byrds), as part of the Ham Jam Festival in October.

Tickets for Parton’s performance have not gone on sale. Prices and availability are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

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