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PART II: Music triggers Rutherford County tourism

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Across Murfreesboro Public Square on MTSU’s campus, Southern Gospel music rings the rafters of Wright Music Hall each July.

Both genres of music fill the night air in Murfreesboro each July.

Authentic Southern Gospel royal music heritage rolled into Murfreesboro the night of July 11, 2012 as “The Chuck Wagon Gang” arrived in concert on the MTSU campus as part of gospel music legend Ben Speer’s “Stamps-Baxter School of Music” that brings hundreds of gospel musicians yearly to Middle Tennessee.

“For decades, the Chuck Wagon Gang has been honored to be asked to be part of Ben Speers’ school of shaped note gospel music,” confirmed Shaye Smith, current owner/manager of the Gang.

Her grandmother, Anna Carter, was the original “alto” voice with the Gang that goes back to 1936.

And heavy-weight radio disc jockeys from throughout America are drawn to Murfreesboro each July like moths attracted to a light in the darkness.

“I’m here for both, Southern gospel and bluegrass” confirmed renowned New York disc jockey Bill Knowlton, house guest to Murfreesboro residents Robert and Barbara Eaton. “Tonight, I would not miss the opportunity to hear history being made by the seemingly-immortal Chuck Wagon Gang that’s been performing since 1936.”

Nashville media personality Eddie Stubbs was brought up out of the audience during the Gang’s MTSU performance.

“Ladies and gentleman, I bring ‘The Voice’ of WSM-Radio to you tonight,” Speers introduced. “Announcer Eddie Stubbs is the consummate disc jockey and music preservationist of all genres of America’s music.”

Stubbs directed remarks to Speers’ young music students from throughout America.

“You students of Ben Speers’ School of Music have the best opportunity to spread the word about Southern Gospel, by your enthusiasm and word of mouth,” voiced Stubbs. “This School of Music brings in musicians and church music directors from throughout the U.S.”

As evidenced by Donna Holtzclaw and son Hayden of Louisiana.

“My son is here for the Stamps-Baxter School of Music. It brings us here for 10 days each July,” noted the parent. “As Christians, we see Murfreesboro as the place to be for our son to grow in his music gift.

“And yes, we’re staying for Uncle Dave Macon Days here this weekend,” Mrs. Holtzclaw shared. “We love the restaurants and hospitality in Middle Tennessee .”

Ben Speers and family go back to deepest roots of America’s Southern Gospel genre.

“Our school is dedicated to the furtherance of Southern Gospel music, and to raising the standard of musical excellence in an art form,” described Speers, a retired member of the historic singing “Speers Family.” “We believe the way to do this is to offer a well-rounded course of study.

“We want our students to be able to read music, write it, sing it and perform it,” echoed Speers. “To give them a comprehensive understanding of music theory, where both future live and recorded performances will improve.”

It’s a non-denominational 10-day school that’s held on the MTSU campus.

“We have students attend from all faiths,” Speers recorded. “Christian values are encouraged while our students are on campus as guests of MTSU.”

The legendary Chuck Wagon Gang goes back more than 75 years, across parts of two centuries on America’s music scene.

“Ben Speers and his family go back as a perpetuating force of gospel music as far back as our Gang family members do,” noted Shaye. “So, we are always quick to say ‘yes’ when Ben asks us each year to do a concert here in Murfreesboro.”

Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce officials estimate the music industry annually attracts “multi-millions of tourism dollars” into Middle Tennessee’s economy.

“Some years, during July, as part of Uncle Dave Macon Days and the Stamps-Speers Southern Gospel music school at MTSU, we attract more than 50,000 tourists to our community,” accounted Chamber Tourism Director Mona Herring, who retired in 2013. “With MTSU having its mass communication college, that includes training in the music industry and a huge collective center of music history, we’re easily talking millions of dollars annually into our economy.”

Murfreesboro resident Dwight Faircloth confesses to being a “lifelong avid fan” of all types of music.

“Ben Speers’ music school and Uncle Dave Days bring some very talented and dedicated young musicians from around the globe for Tennesseans to enjoy and appreciate,” Faircloth assesses. “Although most will never be nationally-known entertainers, they get to put their musical gifts on stage here in Middle Tennessee, where all genres of America’s music are nurtured and appreciated.”

And as the music plays on, regional business owners like to hear the sounds of tourism coins hitting their cash registers…”ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching!”
Tagged under  Entertainment, Murfreesboro, Music, Rutherford County, Tourism, Travel, Uncle Dave Macon Days

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