The state of Mississippi will celebrate its bicentennial later this year, but the party will begin in Oxford ahead of the December date. On Saturday, June 24, the Ford Center will host the Bicentennial Concert North, with headliner country music star Marty Stuart.
Stuart, a native of Philadelphia, Mississippi, began his musical career alongside country legends Johnny Cash and Lester Flatt. With five gold records and one platinum, Marty will lead the lineup at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.
On hand to make the announcement of the lineup was Governor Phil Bryant, Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson and Ole Miss Chancellor Jeff Vitter. Governor Bryant talked the importance of music and how a concert is an appropriate way to honor the 200th year of the magnolia state.
“Two hundred years ago before there was a Texas, before there was a Florida, before there was a California, there was a Mississippi. People all over the world now know of our music, our arts and our entertainment, the place of home and hope that is this great state,” Bryant said. “A state that has come through the crucible of a civil war, the Great Depression, the dark days of the civil rights… Now a celebration of those times, and we come to Oxford to do so.”
Country star Steve Azar, who will also be entertaining at the Bicentennial Concert on June 24, was among the crowd at Rowan Oak today as Bryant made the announcement.
Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Azar’s song “I Don’t Have To Be Me, Til Monday” is one of the top five most played songs of the past decade on country radio. Earlier this year Azar was named the Music and Cultural Ambassador of Mississippi. Alongside Azar will be Philadelphia’s Marty Stuart, who was a member of Johnny Cash’s band. Also performing will be Belmont’s Mac Macnally, longtime singer/songwriter who has performed alongside Jimmy Buffet.
Azar addressed the crowd with stories of his Mississippi roots and how he returned home to raise his three kids in his home state. After giving the crowd a preview of the song he wrote at the request of Governor Bryant, Azar expressed his gratitude for being selected to perform at the upcoming celebration concert.
“I got my entire existence from osmosis of being around great music and writing in Mississippi. I wear it proudly, and I know that I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for them,” Azar said. “To get to do this, something marked in time and history, this stuff matters to me more than anything.”
Azar knows that Oxford is the perfect place to host such a concert and looks forward to the crowd coming out to celebrate the state’s monumental landmark event.
“Oxford is one of the true treasures of Mississippi. It has kept its old-school charm, and I have great memories with my brother when he was going to school here,” Azar said. “Obviously, this campus is known around the country for being pretty special when it comes to celebrating, so if we’re going to celebrate, let’s do it here.”
In addition to the concert, the Ole Miss campus will host numerous events in the celebration of the bicentennial. One portion has already begun, as the “Mississippi – 200 Years of Statehood” special collection will continue to be featured throughout the year. On the night before the concert, a live taping of Thacker Mountain Radio will take place in the Grove followed by a Mississippi Soul Singer Tribute concert by Damian Walsh. The night will conclude with fireworks in the Grove.
“It’s an honor for us at the University to participate in the bicentennial celebration. As the flagship and largest University in the state, we at Ole Miss are proud to have played an important role in our state’s history and many of our states great achievements,” Vitter said.
Governor Bryant knows that while Mississippi’s exports are important, he knows which one is the most important.
“We may export automobiles and warships, but our first export was music. We’ve exported the blues, country music, and rock and roll all over the world,” Bryant said.
The concert is free to the public but is a ticketed event. Tickets can be found on visitmississippi.org/200.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.