It is museums like the Texas Musicians Museum that can ignite our love of music and appreciation for the extraordinary power it has in connecting us around the world and from generation to generation.
For starters, the museum (located in Downtown Irving’s Heritage Crossing District) houses the largest public display of Texas music history in the world. So… “If you are from Texas, it’s a museum to be proud of,” says Tom Kreason, the Museum’s Director. But he is also quick to point out that you don’t have to be Texan, nor a music aficionado, to appreciate what a visit to the museum can do for you.
This is because the museum features artists that were born and raised in Texas (and there are a lot of great ones) as well as musicians with connections to Texas (and there are a lot of great ones). The collection is extensive, valuable and celebrates all genres of music from over 100 Texas artists. And today, visitor pins cover the world map on the wall in the front lobby and Tom says: “Everybody comes out of the museum with their mouths wide open”.
“Some travelers have hopped on the TRE from DFW Airport to visit the museum during a layover,” says Tom.
On display are personal belongings of renowned Texas musicians such as Beyonce, Bobby Patterson, Buddy Holly, the Dixie Chicks, Janis Joplin, J.P. Richardson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tanya Tucker, Waylon Jennings and ZZ Top. And that’s just naming a few.
Two of Willie Nelson’s braided pigtails, along with a denim vest he wore in a TV episode of Nash Bridges have become a big draw. Buddy Holly’s six-grade annual – signed by him – is also there to see.
“An annual itself is rare and hard to find and this one includes probably one of Buddy Holly’s first autographs,” Tom says. Tom has spent over three decades buying, selling and collecting memorabilia for himself and organizations such as The Hard Rock Café and Sun Studio. He says there are times when he finds the remarkable artifacts and there are times when they find him. They come mostly from Texas but a few have “returned home” from around the country and other parts of the world.
“Tom has an outstanding collection of rare and unusual items and an ability to mount special exhibits,” says Johnnie Pegues, who attended many museum events before eventually becoming a Museum Advisory Board Member last year. “His work in presenting live local music is a huge plus. Many local Texas artists have gotten exposure in the live venues and the shows can produce exceptional moments. Meeting visitors who have traveled many miles to see the collection is always eye-opening.”
Thanks to a loan from a board member, the museum is currently showcasing Elvis Presley with an outfit he wore in the 1950s, a guitar he used in the movie Girls Girls Girls and a personal radio he had when he was stationed in the army in Fort Hood, Texas. “Texas was pivotal in helping Elvis Presley launch his career through the Louisiana Hayride touring show,” says Tom.
Also honored are Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Benson (Asleep at The Wheel) who came to Texas, stayed and did a lot to promote and popularize music in the state.
“People come to the museum because of the relationship they have with music and the artists,” says Tom.
And it is in that same spirit that Tom and his wife Marianne partnered to open the museum ten years ago using their own private collection to get started… and probably also why all tours are provided by museum volunteers. (There isn’t a headset in the building.) “It is always good to have someone telling you the stories behind the pieces. And what we find is visitors have stories to share too and that becomes part of the tour,” says Tom.
And there are tributes everywhere. The museum’s Smokin’ Joe’s Cafe is named after the late guitarist and Irving native Smokin’ Joe Kubek. And coming soon to the menu (if not already added) is a new sandwich called Willie’s Toasted THC, a toasted panini sandwich piled high with thc – turkey, ham and melted Gouda cheese.
Live shows featuring Texas artists are held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Tom is working on the 2017 line up. Jim Suhler and Bobby Patterson are confirmed and he’s hoping new Fort Worth artist Leon Bridges will soon be too. Stay tuned… and there’s also the museum’s annual festivals to time a visit around.
The Lemon Blues Festival and Crawfish Party and Jam are in the Spring. The TMM Car Show and Concert (benefitting the Stevie Ray Vaughan Scholarship Fund) is in the Fall and the Texas Musicians Museum Arts Festival and Christmas Bazaar are held in the wintertime. And starting up again this year is the Texas Musicians Museum Hall of Fame Awards and Show where Texas artists will perform and be inducted into the Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Some of Johnnie’s special times at the museum have been viewing the Big Bopper’s casket and Johnny Winter’s purple velvet bell-bottoms and finding out who the first Texas woman was to record a song. “Having known many of the Texas musicians featured in the exhibits, as well as meeting current Texas musicians, makes me feel that their heritage is not lost, but treasured,” she says.