Jimmie Rodgers’ first recordings were captured by Ralph Peer during the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions. This led Rodgers on a meteoric path to stardom, earning him the title the father of country music. Stuart grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than an hour away from Meridian, where Rodgers was born, and cites Rodgers as an influence on his own music.
The marker honoring Rodgers is on the corner of State Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard and was created in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Tourism and Stuart.
“This town is very exemplary to me because I’ve watched it come back to life with music and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum,” Stuart said prior to the unveiling, noting he and others are working hard to connect Mississippi’s historic connections to country music with those of Bristol, with the aim of creating a “corridor” that runs between the city and his home state.
Stuart recounted seeing a map years ago that depicted the “spiritual hot spots of country music” across the United States.
“Bristol was the main one and I wholeheartedly agree,” Stuart said. “Because this is ground zero for country music. I come back to this town for inspiration. I come to this town for enlightenment. It puts music back in my heart.”
Stuart said he loves the placement of the new marker, next to a Tennessee historic marker, because it makes the two states official neighbors at the site, which is recognized both as the birthplace of the city of Bristol and as the site of the building where the Bristol Sessions were recorded.
“This is one of the most important sites in American music, unparalleled,” Stuart said.
Founded in 2010 and conceptualized by 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.
Earlier this year, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant joined Stuart and the Mississippi Country Music Trail Commission to announce five new trail marker recipients.
The ceremony marked the revitalization of the cultural music trail, which placed its last marker in 2016. The five new markers will honor Steve Azar, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marty Gamblin, Johnny Cash’s “Starkville City Jail” track and the Jimmie Rodgers’ Bristol, Tenn., music sessions. Stuart and Bryant were joined by Gamblin; Jerry Lee Lewis’ son, Lee Lewis; Birthplace of Country Music Executive Director Leah Ross; and Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill at the announcement.
To learn more about the Mississippi Country Music Trail, visit mscountrymusictrail.org. For additional information about the Congress of Country Music, visit congressofcountrymusic.org.