For many of us locals, a trip down West Main Street is just an everyday occurrence. The appeal of Main Street Market might be easy to overlook since this quaint little shop is right in our backyard and has been for a long time now. For others, however, it’s a destination worth planning a trip to visit or making an unexpected stop along a route going elsewhere. Just this month alone, the guestbook indicates that visitors have checked in from 10 other states and one country.
Of course, this isn’t news to store manager, musician, and collectible enthusiast Michael Bright.
“Main Street Market and the Music Memories Museum brings hundreds of new visitors in every single month. Over the last seven years, all 50 states and 21 countries have signed our guestbook. Every month, we have more than 150 new visitors check in here and sign their names as well,” he said.
He went on to say that most people here have no idea how many visitors the market and its Music Memories Museum brings to the Crossroads of the Great South. However, the volume of visitors makes sense as the Music Memories Museum has been acknowledged on roadsideamerica.com as a tourism attraction.
The museum here is one of the largest private collections east of Nashville, Tennessee and the largest in the state of Georgia of authentic items and personal clothing once owned by country music, rock-n-roll, and R&B singers. That display includes local ties that most in the area are probably, according to Bright, none the wiser about as well.
“We have an exhibit in the museum for local music history as there is a lot of it here in Swainsboro people don’t know about,” Bright explained. “Hundreds of country music and rock-n-roll singers performed right here Swainsboro from about 1950 to around 1970.”
Some of these folks included Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Hank Williams Jr., whose first time ever performing in front of a live audience was in 1958 at the ripe age of 8-years-old here on a Nancy Auditorium stage with his mother, Audrey Williams.
Richardson, known as the “Big Bopper” who sang the song “Chantilly Lace,” performed on the stage in November 1958. Three months later, he was killed in an airplane crash known as “The Day the Music Died” with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
Patsy Cline performed on the stage in April 1957 at the young age of only 25.
In this way, Bright says these are the kinds of opportunities unique to Swainsboro that draw visitors downtown. “I feel like Augusta always rides on James Brown’s coattail to get people in town, and we can do the same thing here with the history of the Nancy Auditorium. To date in October, we’ve had visitors from 10 states and one country, and we’ve still got a week and a half left in the month.”
Some of those visitors hail from as close as South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Kentucky and as far away as Ohio, New Jersey, California, Texas, Michigan, and Canada. This doesn’t include the multitude of visitors from various Georgia cities. Their trips to Main Street Market have been prompted by a number of different means, including passing through the area, coming to see family, advertising by way of Facebook or billboards, returning for a repeat visit to the museum, and more.
If you haven’t been to Main Street Market or walked through its music museum, plan a trip today. It’s free and features a newly acquired Patsy Cline dress. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.