Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed House Bill 907 designating a section of U.S. Highway 45 in Alcorn, Prentiss and Lee counties as Rockabilly Way.
The new name designation will pay tribute to the historic style of music that blends country music and rhythm and blues. It will tie Mississippi to Rockabilly Way in Tennessee. When completed, the section will connect Jackson, Tenn., home of the Rockabilly Museum, to Tupelo, birthplace of popular Rockabilly artist Elvis Presley.
One of the driving forces behind the highway designation is local resident Dale Rushing. He worked with Rep. Randy Boyd of Mantachie to draft the bill earlier this year.
“It feels great to have this step out of the way,” said Rushing. ”Unfortunately there’s still a lot left to do.”
The bill will become law on July 1, but Rushing said MDOT has yet to schedule sign installation.
“I’m currently working on creating groups of interested people in Alcorn, Prentiss and Lee counties,” said Rushing. “Hopefully we can create a storyline of Rockabilly history for each county and possibly add historical signage along the route.”
Rockabilly music was born in the early 1950s and has roots in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.
Several events happened all along Highway 45 where people would perform, Rushing said.
“They would stop in Corinth, Booneville and Tupelo,” said Rushing. “People don’t realize the caliber of musicians who performed in Corinth at the coliseum and the courthouse throughout the 50s and 60s – many performing Rockabilly music.”
Artists such as Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis popularized rockabilly, with some of these artists recording labels in Corinth and Booneville, added Rushing.
Selmer, Tenn., has embraced the Rockabilly Highway concept with signage and downtown murals. There is an annual Rockabilly Festival and the town even has a Rockabilly Cafe.
“They have had success with bringing people from all over to see those murals,” Rushing said. “We would love to do something like that with the highway, where people could stop in Corinth and Booneville and see these beautiful wall murals.”