The History of Music in Tennessee

Discover the home of many music genres, country to rock ‘n’ roll, on Tennessee’s music trail.


Tennessee is a music lover’s dream. To the west is Memphis, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the home of the blues. In middle Tennessee, you’ll find Nashville, otherwise known as Music City, filled with legendary music venues. And, to the east is Bristol, the birthplace of country music and the home of bluegrass. Whatever music moves you, you’re sure to find it in Tennessee.

West Tennessee

TN Music Sun Studio
Sun Studio

Memphis is known as the “Home of the Blues” and the “Birthplace of Rock and Roll”.  The first commercially successful blues song was written at a bar on Beale Street in 1912 by W.C. Handy and the genre took off from there. 

Visit the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum to see the story of musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to make music that shook the world. Sun Records studio is the legendary studio where rock ‘n’ roll was born with the recordings of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Of course, no trip to Memphis is complete without a visit to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.


Middle Tennessee

TN Music Ryman AuditoriumRyman Auditorium

As the home of so many legendary artists, studios, and venues, Nashville has earned its name as Music City. In 1950, Capitol Records became the first studio set up in in the city, followed by RCA’S Historic Studio B in 1957.

Today, Nashville buzzes with live music. Must-see venues include the Ryman Auditorium, known as the “Mother Church of Country Music”, and the Grand Ole Opry. Hear up-and-coming singers and songwriters at the popular Bluebird Café. Then, take a walk down the Music City Walk of Fame and Nashville Music Garden that pay tribute to musicians, writers, and producers of all genres of music.


East Tennessee

TN Music Bristol Grand GuitarGrand Guitar Museum

East Tennessee is known as the birthplace of country music.  In 1927, the first commercial recordings of country music were made at a hat factory on State Street in Bristol.  Today, a 20-foot guitar welcomes visitors to the site that introduced Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.

Visit public-radio station WDVX at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center, where they offer a daily live performance called the Blue Plate Special. Then, head to Pigeon Forge where the Dollywood theme park celebrates the music and culture of the iconic Dolly Parton.

No matter where your next Tennessee vacation takes you, there’s always something new to listen to just around the corner.

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