Memorabilia belonging to country music’s best — from Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait to multi-platinum act Taylor Swift — is on display in a new exhibit at the Hall of Fame and Museum, where the genre’s vault neatly escaped the ravages of Nashville’s recent flooding.
The Hall’s caretakers held an invitation-only preview Thursday for its updated exhibit, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Though Country Music, which features a bevy of memorabilia from acts that had their commercial peaks in the last three decades. Behind the glass are such pieces as the boots Reba McEntire wore her first night on the Grand Ole Opry, the Martin D-28 guitar Garth Brooks played on his recording of “The Dance” and Bill Anderson’s hand-written lyrics to “Whiskey Lullaby.”
Materials representing the careers of Dwight Yoakam, Rosanne Cash and Miranda Lambert provide a contemporary thread to the Hall of Fame’s mission to preserve country’s history. The exhibits already paid homage to such inductees as Hank Williams, Tom T. Hall and Kris Kristofferson.
But a couple of images — a sign and an empty guitar stand — serve as a reminder of the peril that threatened the building. The sign, at the entrance to the Ford Theater, asks patrons to stay out of the room, which took in five feet of water when the Cumberland River overflowed its banks. As a result, the official medallion ceremony next weekend for two new Hall of Famers — Ferlin Husky and record producer Billy Sherrill — will be conducted in the Hall’s conservatory. One Sing Me Back Home case is missing Brad Paisley’s guitar, reclaimed by Brad, who needed it back when most of his instruments were destroyed at a storage facility near the river.
Just a few short feet apart are significant artifacts with a thread of similarity: George Strait’s Entertainer of the Year award from the Academy of Country Music and the dress Taylor Swift wore when she picked up her Entertainer trophy from the Country Music Association.
The updated exhibit officially opens at the Hall of Fame on Friday.