June Sawyers, Special to Tribune Newspapers
8:30 PM EDT, July 2, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Word that bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs' Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone banjo is heading to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum here gives all the more reason to visit the shrine. On a recent Saturday morning, the line already was forming in the lobby of the downtown hall. The permanent exhibition, "Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music," traces the history of country from its pre-commercial roots on porches of Appalachia to the Hollywood glitz of today.
It includes artifacts, photographs, original recordings, films and videos, as well as instruments and costumes. The museum also features live performances and public programs. Though the exhibits are terrific (Elvis' gold Cadillac, Bill Monroe's mandolin, the scuffed-up boots of Rosanne Cash), the building itself is an architectural marvel. One of many features is windows resembling piano keys.
Inside is just as impressive. Be sure to see Thomas Hart Benton's mural "The Sources of Country Music" in the rotunda. In 1973 the Country Music Foundation commissioned Benton to create a painting for the museum. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before it was unveiled. Benton grew up listening to country, so he specifically wanted the mural to emphasize the folk cultures that helped to create the music he loved "before there were records and stars." The mural features more than a dozen figures — a singing cowboy, a black banjo player, a church choir, a woman playing the dulcimer — and draws on classic country imagery. countrymusichalloffame.org. Adult admission starts at $22.
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