Tennessee is filled with music’s hidden gem pilgrimage sites honoring the likes of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash. These music locations show that “The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.” doesn’t end when you leave Tennessee's big cities. It’s just getting to the good part.
Southern gospel fans rejoice. The Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland, an Ocoee region history and culture center, maintains a permanent exhibit called "The Red Back: America’s Best-Loved Hymnal." These famous hymnal books and their signature red covers lived in the pew-back pockets of churches around the U.S. The exhibit is dedicated to six decades of this Southern gospel tradition. Why Cleveland? The Red Back Hymnals were printed right here, using a kind of printing and typesetting machine called a Linotype. A real-deal, working Linotype is on display, along with an integrated gospel listening station, and a hands-on shape note board to learn to read music. The Museum at 5ive Points is located at 200 Inman Street East, Cleveland, Tennessee 37311.
Live bluegrass and meat-and-three country cooking is found at the T. B. Sutton General Store, the center of life in Granville, located on the banks of Cordell Hull Lake. It’s said to be one of the biggest general stores still standing in the South, adorned with interior fixtures original to the store and memorabilia from the turn-of-the-century. Famous for its corner stage, the Sutton Ole Time Music Hour radio show is live recorded every Saturday night featuring bluegrass performers. Visitors are served a family-style meat-and-three dinner before the show, which is broadcast around the world, and heard locally in Tennessee on 650 AM WSM, home of the Grand Ole Opry. So, you could say it’s in good country music company. The T. B. Sutton General Store is located at 169 Clover Street, Granville, Tennessee 38564.
Lester Flatt is one half of bluegrass’ most influential duo. Flatt & Scruggs, born out of the genre’s namesake act, Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, lent undeniable influence to the music’s signature sound. Lester Flatt is buried in Sparta at Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau. Located downtown is a Lester Flatt memorial and museum. But Flatt’s legacy isn’t all cemeteries and rock slabs. Sparta hosts the annual Liberty Square - A Lester Flatt Celebration which honors the living legacy of Flatt, Scruggs and Monroe by featuring contemporary bluegrass music performances. Lester Flatt’s grave is located at 1694 Smithville Highway, Sparta, Tennessee 38583.
They called it “One of Country Music’s Darkest Days.” It was March 5, 1963. A small airplane carrying country music royalty and Grand Ole Opry stars Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, as well as pilot Randy Hughes, crashed in the woods near Camden, Tennessee. There were no survivors. Bad weather and low visibility combined to create this tragedy. A pilgrimage to the Patsy Cline Plane Crash Memorial is a humbling experience. The quiet wooded park where the crash occurred is oddly peaceful and beautiful, knowing what occurred there. A boulder, engraved with the names of the crash victims, sits just down a hill where visitors participate in quiet reflection to honor the memory of some of Nashville’s brightest stars. You can learn more about her humble beginnings and shining stardom at the Patsy Cline Museum in downtown Nashville. The Patsy Cline Plane Crash Memorial is located at 2746 Mt. Carmel Road, Camden, Tennessee 38320.
On the courthouse square in Centerville stands a statue made completely from chicken wire. It’s made in the likeness of hometown Grand Ole Opry star Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, better known by the stage name Minnie Pearl. She was a pioneering female comedian on the Opry stage and on the television show "Hee Haw," and it is perhaps in this spirit that her hometown decided to dedicate such a whimsical and eccentric statue to her. Minnie Pearl claimed to be from a little Tennessee town called Grinders Switch, which many thought to be a fictitious town invented for Pearl’s character. It is in fact a real place. Just outside of town is the old depot and railroad switch. The Minnie Pearl statue is located at 1105 Grinders Switch Road, Centerville, Tennessee 37033.
Loretta Lynn is one of country music’s most iconic performers. The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” owns Loretta Lynn’s Ranch & Campgrounds in Hurricane Mills that includes her plantation home, the famous Coal Miners Daughter Museum - an 18,000-square-foot museum commemorating her influential career – and more. Alongside the permanent attractions on the ranch is an incredible array of music events to center a visit around, including Gospel Fest each Labor Day weekend and Tennessee Motorcycles & Music Revival each October. And, you never know who’ll be playing right out front of the grist mill. The Loretta Lynn Ranch is located at 8000 TN-13, Hurricane Mills, Tennessee 37078.
Explore more of Tennessee's music history by traveling along the statewide self-guided Tennessee Music Pathways.
Be awed by preserved pioneer-era structures. It's where history dances with the 21st century in Rogersville, Tennessee.