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Pitstop at the Tina Turner Museum and West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center

During a recent road trip my family and I made a pit stop at the Tina Turner Museum. I’ve traveled this stretch of Interstate 40 several times and have never stopped thinking that it’s one of those pit stops that looks close and once you exit the interstate you see the attraction is hundreds of miles away.
Our usual stops on our road trip between is Memphis and Nashville is a pit stop in Jackson, Tennessee, home of Casey Jones. You know the story of the legendary Casey Jones, the railroad engineer who is the subject of legends and stories of lore. It was early, no one was hungry, no one had to pee so instead of pit stopping at our usual spot we just kept on riding towards our destination. As we neared Memphis, my kid noticed a sign touting a Tina Turner Museum, Welcome Center complete with aquariums and a gift shop. Hmmmm… Interesting.
We laughed a little thinking of Nutbush City Limits, the town made famous in a song Turner sung back in the day and after a few giggles decided it’d be worth a stop. We exited the interstate at Exit 56 right off I-40 and looked for the sign pointing to the museum. To the right. Another quick right. We’re here. The West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center. The Center has plenty of parking for cars and buses plus easy on- off highway access.

From the outside you can see what looks like an old shack, a one room school house and what appears to be a rest stop. The entryway – reminiscent of a rest stop lobby – was full of pamphlets touting nearby attractions in Kentucky and Tennessee and the spacious lobby reminded me of a log cabin. It’s a nice place to pit stop on your I-40 road trip. The restrooms are clean. Fresh coffee is brewed daily and the staff is very welcoming.

The lobby is spacious complete with a couple of rocking chairs, a fireplace and an inviting glass case. The docents stood behind the glass case which housed an Elvis Presley album and a few pictures. However, this hidden gem actually houses just the Tina Turner Museum but three other museums, the home of Blues Pioneer John Adam Estes, one of the largest private collections of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia and a gift shop. What a find!

The West Tennessee Cotton Museum sits just steps from the lobby. This museum traces the history of the cotton in the region. Old farm equipment including plows, bags and baskets used to hold the cotton, a cotton gin, and loom are on display. Be sure to look up to see a collection of intricately designed handwoven baskets. 

The baskets are from a private collection and many of the baskets were crafted late 19th and early 20th century. The workmanship on the baskets is truly amazing and some of the baskets are over 100 years old. Although tempting several of the displays were labeled “Do Not Touch” there are several items the kids can touch including bolls of cotton and will love the miniature cotton farm and church displays.

A huge collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia fills a long rectangular-shaped room. The collection is quite remarkable especially when you consider it is part of one of the largest privately owned Abraham Lincoln collections in the region. There’s a cap worn by a soldier in Lincoln’s army and several artifacts which personally belonged to Lincoln.


Before heading to the gift shop located adjacent to the Cotton Museum, be sure to check out the Hatchie River Museum and the West Tennessee Music Museum. Three large aquariums full of fish native to the region, a stuffed bobcat and a replica of a snapping alligator turtle occupy the small Hatchie River Museum. Be forewarned of Uncle Luther who stands on watch just waiting to share stories of days past. He scarred the bejeebies out of us as I am pretty sure I saw him move.


Being so close to Memphis you shouldn’t be surprised to find Elvis memorabilia. However, it was interesting to see pieces worn by the King on loan from Graceland and a vast collection of blues, rockabilly and gospel music memorabilia in this little inconspicuous tourist spot just off the interstate. 
A large mural of a blues trio graces one side of the wall and tall glass cases pay homage to artists from various music genres. We couldn’t help but belt out tunes as we glanced at each of the exhibits. 
You’re sure to sing “Are you ready for some football” as you pass the Hank Williams, Jr. exhibit and a chorus or two of “Down Home Blues” walking past the exhibit paying homage to the legendary Blues artist Denise LaSalle. LaSalle was a longtime resident of nearby Jackson, Tennessee. West Tennessee is home to so many musicians and a stop at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center is absolutely a must for music lovers. There are a couple of Tina Turner cutouts sprinkled throughout but it’s no “Tina Turner Museum”.
Step outside to tour the home of famed blues guitarist Sleepy John. Sleepy John recorded at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis and enjoyed a very successful career as a musical artist. His small, one-bedroom shack with it’s potbelly stove, twin size bed and chamber pot are open to visitors. The shack is the last home Sleepy John owned before his death in 1977. ’77 the same year Elvis died.





From the window in Sleepy John’s bedroom you can see a small one room schoolhouse.
The Flagg Grove School is a one room schoolhouse that Tina attended when she was a kid. Correction: Anna Mae Bullock attended. True fans know Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock. Tina Turner was her stage name. Ring the bell and climb the steps to the classroom. 
Once you open the door you are in for a real treat. It’s the Tina Turner Museum. 
Concert videos streaming in the background as you check out Tina’s high school yearbook, her wedding invitation and some of the “thank you notes” she received. A couple of her Bob Mackie gowns and even the outfit she wore when she performed her classic song “Proud Mary” at the 2008 Grammys with Beyonce’. 
The school has a rich history. It was founded by Benjamin Flagg and it was the first school for African American kids in the Nutbush community where Tina grew up. You’ll “ooh” and “aah” getting up close and personal with some of the iconic fashions Turner has worn over the years including the Mad Max headdress and gown from her last worldwide tour,. *screams in excitement* Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
Be sure to stop by the gift shop to pick up a souvenir or two. There are books, coasters, cotton plants, rag dolls, snacks, sodas, shot glasses, posters featuring President Lincoln and all of the artists scattered throughout. You can even buy a ready to frame print of the mural featured on the wall of the West Tennessee Music Museum. You can get 3 postcards for $1 and if you ask, the docents will gladly put them in their outgoing mail.
So the next time you’re traveling between Memphis and Nashville, take Exit 56 and check out the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center.

Comments

Melissa Chapman said…
I feel bad because I will probably not be on that road any time soon. Tina Turner is a great performer and I am sure she had to go through a lot to get to be as famous as she is.
Alli Smith said…
I love Tina Turner so I'd love to visit the museum! I'm singing her song in my head now. Looks like such a fun trip.
AiringMyLaundry said…
What a neat museum! I would love to explore this one. I've always liked Tina Turner. Her music is awesome.
Terri Steffes said…
Hey there! So good to see you again! I love Tina and I will add this museum to my list of places to go. She is iconic and those clothes!!!
Gust si Aroma said…
I love museums and I would like visit this one one day! Sounds so interesting!
Ruth I said…
Visiting museums are so interesting and fun for me. This looks like a good one, so many stuff to see!
Lisa Favre said…
I had no idea there was even a Tina Turner museum but I would absolutely adore visiting this. I would love to see her wardrobe! How inspiring!
Anonymous said…
I love Tina Turner, I had no idea they had this museum. I would like to visit and see it looks really interesting.
Tiffany La Forge-Grau said…
That would be a lot of fun to go see! She was so talented!
Rena said…
Looks like an amazing museum. I will definitely stop the next time I'm in Tennessee. I love to go to things like this.
Ice Cream n Sticky Fingers said…
I love going to museums especially those that feature items from the old days. It is amazing how things have changed majorly over the years and it is neat to look at those changes.

I have always wanted to go to some of the music museums in TN but traveling is complicated when you have health issues.
That looks like such a special trip and fantastic little find. I love the history you discovered. Thank you for sharing!
Swathi said…
I would like to visit this museum . I love Tina turner as she is amazing performer. May be next summer, you wrote a great detailed post.
Rika said…
I have never been to Tenessee. The Tina Turner museum looks amazing! My family and I love visiting museums. We love history, can't wait to visit this place!
Unknown said…
A great time to come visit is the Tina Turner heritage days weekend in September, I can't wait until next Friday to see all of the family, friends and fans in Brownsville Tennessee!

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