BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Several years ago, I visited Memphis and was mortified to find it had more music attractions than Music City.
At the time, they had Graceland, Sun Records, Stax Records, the Museum of Rock & Soul and an Isaac Hayes restaurant (they’ve now added a blues museum and a Memphis Music Hall of Fame). Back in the day, we had the Country Music Hall of Fame and Opryland, period.
Then came our George Jones Museum (2015), Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (2013), Ryman history exhibits (2015), Music City Walk of Fame (2006), Fontanel mansion (2010), Opry House dressing rooms (2010) and Musicians Hall of Fame (2005).
The coup de grace came from Shannon & Bill Miller. In the heart of downtown Music City, they opened the hugely popular Johnny Cash Museum (2013) and Nudie’s Honky Tonk, with its collection of vintage costumes (2016). On Thursday (April 6), they presided over the ribbon cutting of their latest triumph, the Patsy Cline Museum.
“I’m so grateful to Bill and Shannon, who stepped up to do this,” said Mayor Megan Barry. “Today, Bill and Shannon have once again created a great space. We continue to add to our ability to attract people to come to Nashville.”
The Mayor, the Millers and Patsy’s daughter Julie Fudge took hold of giant scissors to cut the red ribbon to officially open the new museum. The capacity crowd applauded enthusiastically. Champagne flutes began circulating to one and all.
“Welcome, everybody; I’m Bill Miller, the founder of the Patsy Cline Museum — That’s the first time I’ve been able to say that,” quipped our host. “It’s truly an honor to represent this very special life. This lady has remained one of the biggest icons of all time.
“Patsy had a short career — With Patsy, the first thing I’ve discovered is that there’s not a single interview, print or broadcast. But Patsy was a prolific pen pal, thank God. She was corresponding with about 20 ladies on a very regular basis.”
Many of those letters are on display, as are a remarkable number of original artifacts from her home. The museum contains some of the star’s jewelry collection, as well as furniture from her home’s dining room, lounge, kitchen and porch. As a teen back in Winchester, VA, she was a soda jerk at Gaunt’s Drug Store. One of its original booths is on exhibit, as is its old advertising sign.
A vintage jukebox, Patsy’s record collection, a number of items relating to the tragic plane crash that took her life, many industry awards and her collection of salt & pepper shakers are also in the museum. So are the stage costumes she designed that were hand sewn by her mom, Hilda Hensley.
“It’s been a real honor, exposing this life,” added Miller. “She was a very strong lady, kind of like our mayor.”
“This museum allows people to get a real feel for who she was,” commented Mayor Barry. “This is such an amazing space and such an amazing story. She was a mom, a star, a story and a voice. Every time she comes on the radio, you know it’s Patsy. This is really impactful to be here today.”
Julie took the Mayor through the exhibits, and they chatted at length. I was struck by the number of photos of Patsy I had never seen before that were in the displays. Videos of her performances air continuously on wall screens, and listening stations are scattered throughout. An illustrated timeline traces her life and career. One wall contains copies of every single she released.
Circulating and smiling their approval were Sarah Brosmer, Chuck Dauphin, Bob Paxman, Jim Zumwalt, Mark Logsdon, Steve Betts, Barry Mazor and Greg & Barb Hall.
Barb eagerly took me to the museum’s theater to watch the biographical short film she created using Baverly D’Angelo as its host and narrator.
In the gift shop, the merch is first rate. Tea towels, ashtrays, glasses, t-shirts, posters, kitchenware and records are just a few of the items for sale. Also in the shop is the wax figure of Patsy Cline that was created for the first all-music Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. It will soon become Nashville’s newest attraction.
Expect to see lifelike representations of Reba McEntire, Luke Bryan, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Minnie Pearl, Blake Shelton, Katy Perry, Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, Darius Rucker, Jason Aldean, Patsy and more. It opens in Opry Mills on April 14.
Your move, Memphis.