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From his boyhood days performing here, Marty Stuart displayed singular zest for every flavor of country music. Beginning as a teenage mandolin player with Lester Flatt, he became an ebullient Grand Ole Opry star, “hillbilly rock” hitmaker, accomplished songwriter, multi-instrumentalist bandleader, and country artifact collector. With a musical missionary’s zeal and a bold showman’s style, Stuart committed himself both to preserving country’s history and contributing to its future.
Country Music Trail marker honoring Meridian native
c. 1889. The center includes a fully restored historic 1889 Grand Opera House theater. Throughout the year musical performances and theater presentations offer world-class entertainment. This famous structure seats approximately 950, offers a 200-seat studio theater, and consists of 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including a large exhibit hall, break out rooms and board rooms, all equipped with teleconferencing capabilities and built-in technical features to create the optimal meeting environment. Be sure to visit the MSU Riley Center website to see a list of year round performances and top name entertainment.
Country music singer and composer O. B. McClinton, born and raised here in Senatobia, found his first musical success as a songwriter for 1960s Memphis soul labels. When Stax-Volt founded the Enterprise imprint for release of his country records, McClinton emerged during the 1970s and ‘80s as one of the most successful African American artists in the field, with fifteen chart hits.
Raised here in Vancleave, through the 1980s Paul Overstreet became one of Nashville’s most consistently successful and honored songwriters, penning major hits for George Jones, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, The Judds, Kenny Chesney, and Alison Krauss, while becoming a chart-topping singer himself. Some of his songs about family, marriage and religion such as “On the Other Hand,” “Sowin' Love,” “Seein' My Father in Me,” and “When You Say Nothing at All,” became modern country classics.
Formed in 1987 when three local musicians—Joe Lee Huffman, Willie Gene Huffman, and Robert Eaton—got together to play music and share supper, the Sparta Opry has become a community institution. Having offered more than 100 country, bluegrass, blues, and gospel performances some years, all staffed by volunteers, the Opry has become a beloved destination for residents of Chickasaw County and beyond.
Born Virginia Wynette Pugh and raised on her grandparents' farm near Tremont, Tammy Wynette (1942-1998) might have remained an unknown local hairdresser, but with fierce determination and a voice and resilient life story that touched millions, she built on an after-hours singing job to become one of the most acclaimed performers in country history. With twenty era-defining No. 1 records, she became celebrated internationally as "The First Lady of Country Music."
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