New instruments and objects added to Country and Rock and Roll

Both quintessential genres of the American musical landscape, country and rock and roll have influenced music around the world and branched out into many different styles over time. MIM’s exhibits for country music and rock and roll in the United States / Canada Gallery were recently updated, offering a robust portrayal of the genres’ histories through exciting new loans and acquisitions.

“There are similarities between both genres,” says Richard Walter, PhD, MIM’s curator for United States / Canada and Europe. “When they became commercially successful, they were drawing from multiple traditions and coalescing into something that helps us understand the American melting pot idea.”

Rooted in rural string-band music, country music grew audiences through recordings and radio programs like the Grand Ole Opry. As the style gained popularity in the early 1930s, it began transforming into different variations, including western swing, country-pop, and honky-tonk.

New highlights of the Country display include Webb Pierce’s custom guitar and fancy stage wardrobe, on loan from the Grand Ole Opry archives in Nashville; a ukulele and banjo used by early Opry star Roy Acuff; a J-160E cutaway acoustic-electric guitar previously owned by songwriter Steve Earle; and a Sheraton electric guitar used by Leon Rhodes, the lead guitarist for Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours and a cast member of Hee Haw for many years.

While country music is always evolving, it continues to provide a voice to people’s day-to-day experiences, emotions, and stories. Learn more about the artists who have made country one of the most popular genres in American music and the historic Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in MIM’s Artist Gallery at the CMA Awards exhibit.

MIM’s updated Rock and Roll display provides an overview of the genre through the decades, highlighting various styles such as early rock, 1960s psychedelic rock, 1980s progressive rock, and modern rock. Emerging from a blend of blues, rhythm and blues, and country music, rock and roll captured the imagination of young Americans in the mid-1950s. By the ’60s and ’70s, the genre became an international phenomenon as musicians pushed the limits of their instruments, equipment, and stage performances. Today, rock music continues to transform, expressing the styles and tastes of the times.

“In MIM’s exhibit, there’s a historical sweep of instruments that people would have found at live rock-and-roll performances,” says Walter. “The updates feature a wider variety of musical instruments that have all contributed to the sound of rock and roll over the years.”

Highlights from MIM’s permanent collection now include a set of clear acrylic drums played by Joey Kramer in the early days of Aerosmith; a 1963 Stratocaster played by Johnny Ramone and Ed Stasium on Ramones recordings; the only known left-handed Rickenbacker 4005/6 electric bass; a collection of special electric pianos and synthesizers; and a 1940s Gibson ES-300 identical to the guitar used by Danny Cedrone on the number-one hit “Rock Around the Clock.”

To see the MIM Music Theater’s lineup of country and rock-and-roll performances, click here.