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These Museums Rock!

En español | The Motown Museum recently announced plans for a $50 million expansion. It’s just one of the institutions dedicated to sharing America’s musical history.

Studio with piano and drums at the Motown Museum


Motown, aka Hitsville USA, was the home of many R&B artists during the 1960s.


Motown Museum, Detroit
Opened: 1985
Cool stuff: The ’60s-era Studio A, where hit after hit was recorded; outfits worn by the Four Tops. The old houses where Berry Gordy Jr. founded and operated his revolutionary record label now serve as a tribute to the “Sound of Young America.”


National Blues Museum, St. Louis
Opened: 2016
Cool stuff: A halam—a stringed musical instrument that originated in West Africa and is a precursor to the banjo; a “Lucille” Gibson guitar signed by B.B. King. 


Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Opened: 1995
Cool stuff: A piano on which Paul McCartney and John Lennon composed many iconic songs; the first draft of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” lyrics. Cleveland DJ Alan Freed is credited with coining the term “rock ‘n’ roll,” and so this massive collection of pop music artifacts sits on the banks of Lake Erie.

Isaac Hayes' Cadillac Eldorado

Paul Briden / Alamy Stock Photo

Isaac Hayes' custom Cadillac Eldorado is one of many exhibits at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.


Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis, Tenn.
Opened: 2003
Cool stuff: Isaac Hayes’ custom Cadillac Eldorado; a reassembled early-1900s Mississippi Delta church where gospel music was performed. Memphis’ musical legacy is vast. A key component was the driving soul music that came from this legendary record label.


American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Mo.
Opened: 1997
Cool stuff: Charlie Parker’s sax; one of Ella Fitzgerald’s sequined gowns. This city’s music scene was key to jazz’s transformation from big bands to small combos. The museum tells the story of the genre’s past.

Maybelle Carter exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame

Photo by: Rick Diamond

"Mother” Maybelle Carter played this Gibson guitar throughout her career, which began in 1927.


Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville
Opened: 1967
Cool stuff: “Mother” Maybelle Carter’s 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar; Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 Master Model mandolin. No American city is more connected to a style of music than Nashville is to country. Learn about the development of Music City and its artists at this museum.

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