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Published on June 18th, 2019 | by TLV News

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Mississippi Country Music Trail Honors Five New Inductees; Marty Gamblin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, and Steve Azar Receive New Markers

On Wednesday, June 19th at 3 pm, The Mississippi Country Music Trail Commission will honor Steve Azar, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marty Gamblin, Johnny Cash’s “Starkville City Jail” track and Jimmie RodgersBristol, Tennessee music sessions with five new trail markers at a special ceremony in Philadelphia, Mississippi (431 Center Avenue, Philadelphia, Mississippi, 39350).

Governor Phil Bryant will join Marty Stuart to announce the five new trail marker recipients, and inductee Marty Gamblin, as well as Jerry Lee Lewis’s son Lee Lewis, Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, and Leah Ross, the Executive Director of Birthplace of Country Music will all be in attendance.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Country Music star Marty Stuart.

“Mississippi’s unparalleled musical legacy lives on as we make plans to dedicate five new markers on the Mississippi Country Music Trail,” Governor Bryant said. “From past to present, Mississippi has remained instrumental in molding and inspiring country music icons, and these new markers will celebrate their contributions to the genre.”

Marty Stuart adds, “Mississippi has such a profound legacy pertaining to the culture of country, not just the past, but the present as well as the future. This class of inductees furthers that point, with everyone from Jimmy Rodgers the father of Country Music, to the contemporary sounds of Steve Azar, and everyone in between. That is the beauty of Mississippi country music.”

Founded in 2010, and conceptualized by Marty Stuart, the Mississippi Country Music Trail recognizes the state’s contributions to country music. Stuart will further honor Mississippi’s country music legacy with the future Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music, a state-of-the-art country music museum and performing arts center in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The facility will house more than 20,000 country music artifacts Stuart has collected over the years while also offering space for live musical performances and educational programming.

The Mississippi Country Music Trail 2019 Inductees

Jerry Lee Lewis.

Jerry Lee Lewis – Nesbit, Mississippi

With his innovative and flamboyant piano playing style, Jerry Lee Lewis emerged as one of rock music’s early showmen in the 1950s, and was the first person inducted into the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. As he looks back on six decades of music and what the future holds, Lewis says he’s grateful. “I just think it’s a blessing from God that I’m still living… and I’m still rocking. Lewis spends most of his time-off at The Lewis Ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi, where he is happily married to his wife Judith, since March 9th, 2012.

Johnny Cash / Starkville City Jail – Starkville, Mississippi

Johnny Cash. Photograph by Marty Stuart.

Johnny Cash wrote “Starkville City Jail” after his arrest in Starkville on May 11, 1965. Cash had played two shows on the campus of Mississippi State University the preceding evening, and at about five o’clock in the morning, police arrested him for picking flowers. Cash played the song during a February 1969 concert at California’s San Quentin prison that was recorded and released the following June as an album, Johnny Cash at San Quentin. As with much of Cash’s music, “Starkville City Jail” evokes an image familiar to his fans—that of the Man in Black, hardened by years of drinking and drug abuse (which likely played a role in the actions leading to his arrest. Listeners not familiar with Cash’s past might categorize “Starkville City Jail” as a protest song—a one-man indictment of small-town government rules and restrictions. Indeed, the image of Starkville suggested in Cash’s song seems consistent with negative public perceptions of Mississippi. However, Mississippi’s recognition of its troubled past and the state’s continued attempts to move beyond that past echo Cash’s struggles to overcome his drug and alcohol addictions.

Jimmie Rodgers / The Bristol Sessions- Bristol, Tennessee/Virgina

Jimmie Rodgers.

According to Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee, Johnny Cash, the collective 1927 Bristol Sessions was, without a doubt, “the single most important event in the history of Country Music”. Mr. Cash’s claim is fairly easy to understand when one realizes that those every simple, yet creative rare, field recordings, which were conducted by Victor’s Ralph Peer, managed to produce two of Country Music’s first superstar acts, The Original Carter Family, and Jimmie Rodgers, the undisputed Father of Country Music (Meridian, Mississippi). Rodgers’ Bristol recordings pioneered the integration of popular tunes, jazz, and blues influences on the country music idiom. The themes in Jimmie Rodgers’ songs became the standard upon which the entire culture of country music is built.  Jimmie Rodgers’ presence at the Bristol Sessions has proven inestimable.  His contributions to an event which is of often referred to as the “Big Bang” of Country Music, places him in the rarified air as one of America’s musical forefathers.

Steve Azar- Greenville, Mississippi

Steve Azar.

Steve Azar is a hit songwriter, recording artist, and music producer.  He refers to his brand of music as “delta soul”, a mixture of country, rock and blues.  Azar’s hit single “I Don’t Have To Be Me, Til Monday” received three Million-Air awards from BMI and is one of the top five most played songs of the past decade on country radio.  Azar has been honored with “Steve Azar day” in the states of Mississippi (on March 13) and South Dakota (on August 10th ). He is the co-founder of Ride Records and co-founder of the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, dubbed “A Southern Gem” by the American Blues Scene magazine and included in Acoustic Guitar magazine’s 2014 Roadside Americana: 50 States 50 Must-Attend Events. The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival has also been featured in the third edition of 1,000 Places in the United States and Canada to See Before You Die.  Azar has also been recognized by the Mississippi Senate, and on January 25, 2017, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Azar as the Music and Culture Ambassador of Mississippi.  “I am delighted my longtime friend Steve Azar has agreed to serve as Music and Culture Ambassador for his home state of Mississippi,” Bryant said. “Steve has spent his entire career promoting Mississippi, and I know he’ll continue that good work in his new role.” Azar has worked closely with the State of Mississippi in his official role.  He also wrote a song for the state’s bicentennial, which was celebrated in 2017.

Marty Gamblin.

Marty Gamblin – Philadelphia, Mississippi

With a career in the entertainment business in Los Angeles and Nashville spanning almost 40 years, as a manager, Gamblin has represented such artists as Alan Jackson, Bryan White, Dorothy Moore, Ruby Lovette, Pearl River, and Glen Campbell. As a music publisher, Gamblin’s company was named one of Billboard’s top 10 publishers and had 16 number one singles including ASCAP’s song of the year two years in a row.

About Marty Stuart:

Marty Stuart. Photograph by Alysse Gafkjen.

Marty Stuart is a five-time GRAMMY-winner, platinum recording artist, Grand Ole Opry star, country music archivist, photographer, musician, and songwriter. Since starting out playing with southland bluegrass stars the Sullivan Family, Stuart has spent over four decades celebrating American roots music. His teenage years on tour with bluegrass pioneer Lester Flatt in the ’70s were followed by six years in Johnny Cash’s band in the ’80s, and a chart-topping tenure as a solo artist in the ’90s. Stuart hosts a Late Night Jam at The Ryman, a yearly tradition which kicks off the CMA Music Festival, with guests including Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris, Dan Auerbach, Steve Miller, Sheryl Crow, John Prine, as well as Stuart’s wife, Country Music Hall of Famer Connie Smith and many more.

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About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.



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