Traveling Around - Carthage, Texas - Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
In east central Texas about 60 miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana, is Carthage, Texas. This small town in Panola County, Texas, is a hot spot of country music in Texas and home to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Tex Ritter Museum. Tex Ritter grew up nearby in Galloway as did Jim Reeves in Murvaul.
The Tex Ritter Museum was established upstairs in the building next door (the Hawthorn-Claibaugh-Patterson House) on October 18, 1992. Much time was spent accumulating and cataloging Tex Ritter memorabilia. The Texas Hall of Fame was established in its new building next door in 1998.The Tex Ritter Museum moved into the currently shared quarters with the Hall of Fame in 2003. With a recent expansion the museums now occupy 13,000 square feet of space.
The museum was established to honor native Texans in the country music industry and as with many museums that are continuously adding new members, there are signs that more space is needed.
Just to the east of the main entrance to the museum is a statue of Tex Ritter and his horse White Flash. The sculptor, in addition to the statue, created the plaques of the inductees that decorate one of the walls in the museum.
Immediately inside the front entrance is the gift shop area. Tickets to the museum are on sale at this counter. The gift shop contains many music items as well as some memorabilia. Hours of the museum and ticket information can be found on their website.
To the left of the lobby is a large meeting/banquet room. Not only are the annual induction ceremonies held there but the space is available for other functions. It is large enough to seat 300 people at a lecture or some 200 for a catered meal. The space had been reserved for a birthday party the day we visited.
Walking straight through the lobby leads to a long hallway. The restrooms are located on one side of the hallway and the walls of the opposite side are adorned with the plaques created by Bob Harness (the sculptor who created the statue in front of the museum). There are currently 46 plaques on the wall, each one honoring an inductee into the Hall of Fame.
The museum proper is just across the hallway from the rest rooms. It is a large, open area. In the center of the room is a replica of the stage of the Grand Old Opry. On the state is a diorama of a radio music show.
Behind this display is a large display of information about and memorabilia from the Tex Ritter family. It encompasses his entire career from his time as a country music star through his entry into motion pictures. In his later years he moved to Nashville and worked extensively at the Grand Old Opry and with Ralph Emery on Nashville radio. During this period his family remained in California so that his son, John, could finish school there.
There is a display devoted to his son, John, even though John wasn't involved in country music to the extent that his father was. Early pictures of "Three's Company" are intriguing because of the inclusion of various stars.
Next to the diorama and display there is an ice cream shop looking area with tables and chairs and a jukebox. The juke box has some 25 CD's on it that are the music of the members of the Hall Of Fame. Obviously, with 46 inductees and only 25 CD's, all members are not represented. However since it doesn't take coins, but is free, it is enjoyable to sit at the tables and pass the time listening to various recordings. The music can be heard throughout the museum.
It is interesting to note that in one exhibit that references the Presidents Bush, one of them is referred to as a Texan and one is obviously not a Texan. George H. W. is not amongst the native Texans honored in the museum while his son is mentioned frequently and defined as a "Texan".
Each member of the museum has their own (or shares) a glass case full of memories and printed text about the musician. It is startling to realize that many of the musicians that rose to prominence were on the stage and performing before they even became teenagers. Several of them were seasoned performers at 7 and 8 years old.
On one side of the museum there is a major display about Jim Reeves and his work at KGRT of Henderson, Texas. During the early 1960s, Reeves worked in South Africa and was more popular than Elvis Presley. He recorded several albums in the Afrikaans language. The diorama is a replica of the working station in Henderson and by activating the sound portion of the exhibit, the viewer can not only see the broadcast but can listen to one.
To the side of the KGRT diorama is an area devoted to Friends of Texas Music. These are stars that lived and performed in the state but that are not native Texans. Also included in the museum is an area devoted to disk jockeys on the Texas stations.
We had a good time at the museum and spent about two hours reading our way through the exhibits. There is much more information available on the internet particularly at the website devoted to the Texas County Music Hall Of Fame.