“About halfway between Nashville and Memphis” not only describes Jackson, Tennessee’s physical location, but also a rich local music scene that blends the honky tonk of Nashville’s Lower Broadway with Beale Street’s blues in Memphis.
Jackson holds its own in a state with no shortage of musical claims to fame. Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll Tina Turner, country crooner Eddy Arnold and Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Isaac Tigrett were all born in or near Jackson, Tennessee. Legendary train engineer Casey Jones (of “The Ballad of Casey Jones” fame) died here.
Paul McCartney once said “there would be no Beatles” without Jackson singer-songwriter Carl Perkins. The city was a vital proving ground for the burgeoning rockabilly style when Perkins wrote “Blue Suede Shoes.” W.S. “Fluke” Holland, a drummer for both Perkins and Johnny Cash, remains active in the Jackson music scene to this day.
With 30 to 50 live shows every weekend, Jackson’s rich music heritage lives on, and the city continues to churn out hitmakers including Lauren “LOLO” Pritchard, who is featured on Panic! at the Disco’s “Miss Jackson” and shares a writing credit on another of the band’s top hits: “High Hopes.”
Combine the music calendar with more than 2,700 area hotel rooms (including a new SpringHill Suites that opened October 2019), and Jackson is a strong contender for any music tourist’s itinerary.
“Our roots are in rockabilly,” says Jackson Tourism Executive Director Lori Nunnery, “but our music scene has a wide range of focus. The best thing about it is its diversity.”
From May to September, one of Jackson’s most beloved music experiences is a free summer concert series on the laid-back lawn of Jackson’s Amphitheater at the Market (AMP).
Drawing as many as 5,000 people for each concert, the AMP series celebrates Jackson’s musical legacy while also showcasing today’s best West Tennessee and regional musicians. The music is free, but don’t forget to bring your own chair or blanket (and a cooler).
Music & Beer Are on Tap
Downtown Jackson is home to two breweries: Rock’n Dough Pizza + Brewery and Hub City Brewing. The latter doubles as one of Jackson’s most active and eclectic music venues. Recent genre-spanning shows have included the aforementioned pop artist LOLO to up-and-coming country artist Kenton Bryant (“Way Back”).
Rock’n Dough began as a popular Memphis food truck before opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant and expanding to Jackson shortly thereafter. One of more than 40 locally owned restaurants, Rock’n Dough smokes its own meats and sources ingredients from local farms. While emphasizing its pizza and beers, Rock’n Dough features an expansive menu and a popular weekend brunch.
Grab a Unique Rock ‘n’ Roll Souvenir
Don’t leave downtown without stopping by Jackson’s signature music-heritage experience. Housed in a historic Andrew Carnegie library building, The Legends of Tennessee Music Museum (also known as The Southern Legends of Music Museum or The Carnegie) traces the history of West Tennessee music.
It’s also here that visitors can obtain a unique piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. It’s a little-known fact that America’s first Hard Rock Cafe was opened by Tigrett in Jackson’s Old Hickory Mall. While the restaurant itself has since closed, Jackson’s Hard Rock continues to be commemorated by authentic Hard Rock Jackson T-shirts, which can only be purchased in person, with proceeds benefiting the museum.
Oh, and just like seemingly everywhere else in Jackson, the Carnegie also hosts concerts in its intimate, 70-seat theater. For a full list of weekend concerts in Jackson, be sure to check out Visit Jackson’s weekly music newsletter, published Thursdays or the calendar of events.