A decade of planning coupled with four years of construction and the new state-of-the-art Grammy Museum is beaconing visitors to the Delta. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
The voice of Eden Brent ripples over the grounds of the new Grammy Museum Mississippi. It's a weekend of excitement coupled with anticipation over the grand opening of the first official Grammy Museum outside of Los Angeles. This performer from Mississippi is thrilled.
"Hello everybody, Vasti Jackson here from McComb, Mississippi, at this fantastic Grammy Museum. You know Mississippi is the birth place of America's music. The land where the blues began and we have more Grammy winners in music than any other state," said Jackson.
Museum officials say artists like B.B. King, Faith Hill and Elvis have helped shape the nation's musical heritage. Just ask Delta State University President Bill LaForge about Mississippi's contributions to American music. The 28,000 square foot museum is right next door to the university. Delta State houses the Delta Music Institute, has a performing arts center and hosts a blues conference.
"Jazz, soul, rock n' roll, gospel, country western, all of it either started here or came through Mississippi. To understand American music you have to understand Mississippi and our music," said LaForge.
Music is Delta State Senior Keith Johnson's passion. He says the museum will benefit students like him. Johnson is pursuing a music career like his great uncle Blues Legend Muddy Waters.
"A lot of guys my age feel like well, the opportunity for them is either hip hop or R&B and I want my community to know you still can be a young man, sing and play the Blues and make a descent career," said Johnson.
The hope is the museum will inspire young people to pursue careers in entertainment. The building features photos of performers like Beyonce. The structure has a contemporary feel that features corrugated metal siding--similar to the look of rural farms in Mississippi.
"It's beautiful. Hollywood is in Mississippi. I love it," said Moore.
That's R&B Singer and Mississippi native Dorothy Moore, known for her hit song, "Misty Blue."
"Well it says that to me, I have done something that everybody appreciates and not only myself, other entertainers," said Moore.
Other entertainers are here to help celebrate the historic occasion including the Mac McAnally, the Williams Brothers, and the Southern Komfort Brass Band.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the CEO of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, Governor Phil Bryant, and state and local officials, visitors line-up to see what took just under $20 million and about four years to complete. Guitarist Eddie "Chank" Willis, is already inside looking around. The 79-year old is one of only two living members of Motown's Funk Brother's Band, which performed on many of the label's hit records.
"This is so awesome. It's a dream. For me to come back home and experience this you know, being a part of this. It's coming up and it's all new. It's doing something for me, you know. It really is," said Willis.
It's got Edward Hill a Willis fan excited. "Yes, oh my God. We just saw his Grammy on the other side and we're waiting to get a picture," said Hill.
The museum boasts more than 300 artifacts, like Bob Dylan's guitar. There's a special Beatles exhibit with Ringo Starr on a digital monitor teaching guests how to play the drums on an actual set. The museum has a sound stage, interactive exhibits about writing, recording music, and the history of dance. It's the most technologically advanced music museum in the South.
Eight-year old Wilson Blake is at pool table sized exhibit learning about artists and listening to their recordings. "I like how you can just touch something and it will just come up," said Blake.
Officials from the Grammy Museum in LA say they hope the museum will become the preeminent showcase for the southern region's musical heritage.