A stretch of West Tennessee highway — one starting in Carl Perkins' hometown — could soon honor the rockabilly music he helped invent.
Part of U.S. 45, from Jackson south to the Mississippi line, would be known as the "Rockabilly Highway" under a bill that has passed the state legislature. It's now headed for Gov. Phil Bredesen's desk for his signature into law.
With a country-esque twang mixed with a rock 'n' roll rhythm, rockabilly music dates to the 1950s, and Perkins is one of its most-well-remembered innovators. The man who penned Blue Suede Shoes in 1955 spent much of his life in Jackson and died there in 1998.
Today, Jackson is home to the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame Museum. It gets visitors from all over the world, including Ireland, which has a group of 104 people planning to visit in April.
"They come to Jackson because it's where the music was born and originated at," said Henry Harrison, its president and founder.
Rockabilly link is strong
Just as Memphis is known as the home of the blues, and Christian and country music are linked to Nashville, Jackson should be honored as the birthplace of rockabilly, said state Rep. Jimmy Eldridge.
"People aren't going to come to (visit) our state just because it's Tennessee, there has to be a reason to attract them," said the Jackson Republican, the bill's House sponsor. "One way to attract them is with our rich heritage of rockabilly music."
The bill passed the Senate by a 32-0 vote last week. It had passed the House, 96-0, earlier this month.
In Madison County, the Rockabilly Highway will intersect Interstate 40, which from Nashville to Memphis is designated as the "Music Highway."
The designation means local governments will have to buy road signs bearing the new name, for a total cost of $325.
A song titled "Rockabilly Highway," written by musicians Carl Mann, W.S. Holland and Rayburn Anthony, is scheduled to be performed on the floor of the state House in Nashville on April 7.
That day the General Assembly is planning to pass a resolution to honor Holland, a former drummer and manager for Johnny Cash, Eldridge said.
"You can learn all the genres of the state of Tennessee if you follow" the Music Highway, Harrison said.
By Stanley Dunlap (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Gannett Tennessee