The Evelyn Burrow Museum at Wallace State Community College is proud to premiere the Country Legends Rediscovered – an exhibition of stage wear, costumes and memorabilia from the private collection of country singer and north Alabama native Coby Greer.
You can almost hear the sinuous cry of steel guitars and twangy Telecasters when you see the historic relics on display, which include some of the biggest names in country music history such as George Jones, Buck Owens, Faron Young, Charlie Daniels, The Statler Brothers and many more. There's even a display featuring several "Nudie Suits," the rhinestone covered suits by famed tailor Nudie Cohn that are now synonymous with the heritage of country music.
The majority of the pieces in this exhibit are older than their owner who is 34 years in age but an old soul when it comes to his love of American culture and classic country music.
"I've loved it for as long as I can remember. It's as much part of who I am as my last name," Greer said "I was fortunate enough to get to know and work with most of the people in this showcase. They invested their time, knowledge and resources in me, and I now feel it is my obligation to preserve and carry on as much of it as I can.”
He educated himself on this music from an early age. "I was always picking up albums as a kid. I was always looking for old records that came along before my time because the more I dug the more I fell in love with this music. I was always digging. I wanted to know who produced the album, who played on it, who wrote it, why it sounded the way it did and how they were able to get those cool sounds. In many ways I'm still that way today. I am a constant student of this music," Greer said.
By the time legends like George Jones, Mel Tillis, and others came into his life Greer was well aware of the level of greatness he was fortunate enough to be around.
"I never took any of this for granted,” he said. “I knew exactly how special these opportunities were and I basically tried to be a sponge. I tried to soak up every detail. All I ever wanted to do was express my love and gratitude to these people because whether they knew it or not, they were my musical compass. They raised me. It didn't matter how old I was when I was around George Jones. I always felt like that little awestruck boy trying to figure out how in the world he was capable of doing the things he did." Greer said. That love and respect is what lies behind Greer's collection.
"Everyone showcased in this exhibit touched me, taught me and overall contributed so much to my life. I owe it to them to preserve these items so that it might do the same for others," Greer said.
The collection mostly covers artists from the 50s,60s, 70s and 80s.
"The oldest piece I have that is showcased is probably the suit that was made for Charlie Louvin of The Louvin Brothers from most likely the mid 50's,” he said. “If it looks like the old Wagon Masters uniforms (Porter Wagoner’s band) it is for good reason. That's because Porter had the suits made for The Louvins. It has the wagon wheels and all! Apparently, Charlie and Ira Louvin were experiencing hard times when they were booked on a string of shows with Porter. Porter could be a very generous man. Porter was awesome. Who knows where Ira's may have gotten off to? It may not even exist anymore."
Greer said the collection is more than just being about classic country music.
“It's a piece of Americana,” he said. “Face it, country music stopped being country music a long time ago. The great thing about this era is each artist brought a piece of their culture to the table. You can’t hear Buck Owens and not hear Bakersfield. You can't hear Billy Walker and not hear Texas. It shows in how they sounded, how they dressed, how they put forth that basic emotion that keeps us all coming back to this timeless music.
“So, I feel that not only is this exhibit a representation of country music but also a piece of American history," Greer said.
Accompanying the stage wear are photographs, album covers and vintage instruments that belonged to and feature these timeless legends. The labels for the displays feature QR codes so visitors can see footage and video of the artists featured.
Country Legends Rediscovered will be on display through the end of August. The Evelyn Burrow Museum is open Tuesday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. For more information call 256.352.8457 or visit www.burrowmuseum.org.
For more on Coby Greer check out @CobyGreerMusic across all social media platforms and look for his latest release "Classic Throwbacks" which features the legendary Bobby Bare and Georgette Jones, daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
Entertainers represented in the Country Legends Rediscovered exhibition include:
- Roy Acuff
- Jim Ed Brown
- Charlie Daniels
- Skeeter Davis
- Little Jimmy Dickens
- Donna Fargo
- Jack Greene
- George Jones
- The Kendalls
- Charlie Louvin
- Buck Owens
- Barbara Mandrell
- The Mandrell Sisters
- Cal Smith
- Hank Snow
- The Statler Brothers
- Mel Tillis
- Randy Travis
- Porter Wagoner
- Billy Walker
- Charlie Walker