Grammy Museum seeks state money

Advertising executive Allan Hammons (left) was the driving force behind the B.B. King Interpretive Center and Museum in Indianola, which opened in September 2008. Hammons seen here with King (seated), and former museum director Connie Gibbons (behind King) at the museum's opening, is trying to get funding for a Grammy museum showcasing the musical talent of Mississippians like Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley and Jimmie Rogers. (Photo by Monica Land)

JACKSON – (AP) A Cleveland group raising money for a satellite Grammy museum to celebrate Mississippi’s rich musical heritage is seeking $6 million for the cause.

The museum, which would be styled after Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum, would use interactive exhibits to commemorate the surplus of local musicians and their contributions to America’s musical legacy.

The Cleveland Music Foundation, a non-profit created to raise funds for the project, has already secured $3.5 million. It hopes to raise an additional $3.5 to $5.5 million more from Bolivar County and private donors.

Project manager R. Allan Hammons told a crowded room of legislators that the museum would be the first satellite of the Los Angeles museum, which is named after Grammy music awards.

Hammons, an advertising executive, was behind the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola. He hopes the two museums would draw tourism to the state with a “full meal deal” of music education.

Hammons says that many locals don’t realize how many of their favorite musicians are from Mississippi.

“We’ve never really celebrated that musical heritage,” Hammons said. “Not the way we’re doing now.”

Mississippians like Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Jimmie Rodgers, and Charley Patton are all considered to be among the founders of their musical genres.

The project remains in its preliminary stages. No architecture firm has been hired, and agreements with the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles have not yet been put into writing. Still, Hammons says the project is moving quickly and hopes it will be completed in 2014.

Enthusiasm for the project was evident during Tuesday’s meeting, with legislators snatching up copies of glossy booklets explaining the museum and speaking about their own connections to hometown music stars.

“We don’t get a lot of excitement around here,” said Tourism Committee Chair Rita Martinson, R-Madison. “We can all see the benefit to people all over the state.”

Martinson said the Legislature was likely to approve a smaller bond this year than the $6 million requested, with the possibility of more money in the future.

“We’re going to take it piece by piece,” Martinson said. “I suspect they’ll get closer to one or two million this year.”

Though the museum will mimic the style of the Los Angeles Grammy Museum, its executive director, Bob Santelli, said it would get no financial benefit.

“The museum will become part of our family, almost like adopting a son or a daughter,” Santelli said.

Santelli called Mississippi the logical place to start a satellite institution. Depending on its success the Grammy Museum would consider satellites in other states.

“It’s like Mississippi’s slogan – it’s the birthplace of American music,” Santelli said.

“If you were to take Mississippi off the music map, you’d be hard-pressed to have American music.”

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