Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue July 28 2015

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | July 28, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    Rolling On the River to the Tina Turner Museum

    Rolling On the River to the Tina Turner Museum

    Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    Memphis attracts scores of music fans with countless music landmarks and studios. After days of exploring blues on Beale Street, rock at Sun Studios and soul at the Stax Museum, I almost felt like I was in a music coma — and I don't consider that a bad thing. I felt like I had seen it all until I headed along the Mississippi River to a place called Brownsville about an hour northeast of Memphis, where I discovered a very unusual music museum.

    I had happened upon the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School. Filled with artifacts from her childhood as well as her glittering career, it is the only museum dedicated to the singer in the world. Yes, it's a music museum inside of a school, which was a little confusing at first. After I grasped the backstory of how the school is Tina's original schoolhouse and a historic landmark in itself, I understood the connection. Recently opened in September 2014, it inspires as much excitement as the Queen of Rock herself. 

    Stepping into the restored one-room schoolhouse where Tina attended grades 1-8, I was amazed at the details that were retained. The school was built by the singer's great uncle in 1889 and is equipped with the original wooden desks, benches and chalkboard. It was one of the first schools in the state for African Americans and it supplied a “separate but equal” education for the community until it was closed in the ‘60s. Originally situated in Tina’s hometown of Nutbush, Tennessee, which is a rural area near Brownsville, the schoolhouse was donated to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, who had it moved to Brownsville and restored.

    A video of Tina's (Ana Mae Bullock back then) schoolmates, teacher and community members recall an energetic and musical little girl who attended the school during the 1940s. Tina herself welcomes fans in a video as well, as she fondly remembers her years in Nutbush.

    Tina's hit “Nutbush City Limits” rings out from a monitor that flashes with Tina live in concert.  Glass encased displays of Tina's gold records and sultry costumes sparkle at every turn. There's a tiny silver skirt from her European concerts and the space-age get-up from her role in the “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” movie. Her high school yearbook, a letter written by Great Britain's Prince Charles after seeing her concert and wedding congratulations from fans, complete the largest known public collection of Tina Turner costumes and memorabilia.

    Fans flock to the area for the annual Tina Turner Heritage Days the fourth weekend of every September, for a festival of music, Nutbush tours and of course, Proud Mary dance lines.

    Taking in the unabashed local affection for the iconic singer, it’s not difficult to see what love has to do with it.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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