The Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame is a permanent exhibit of the Museum of the Gulf Coast. The museum opened in 1994 and is located at 700 Procter Street in Port Arthur, Texas. The hall of fame features more than sixty artists from the Gulf Coast region, such as Janis Joplin, Marcia Ball, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Harry Choates, Clifton Chenier, George Jones, Tex Ritter, and ZZ Top. The museum also showcases the many genres that flourish along the Gulf Coast, including Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop, country, western swing, jazz, blues, soul, and rock-and-roll.
The 39,000-square-foot Museum of the Gulf Coast is designed to tell the story of the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast region through both conventional and unconventional methods. The museum shows the integration of the Gulf Coast region into the larger national and international community through its many exhibits, including the Music Hall of Fame. In addition to its permanent and rotating exhibits, the two-story museum also houses an orientation theater and a gift shop for visitors.
The Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame is one of the seven permanent exhibits at the museum. For induction into the hall of fame, a musician must meet specific criteria that include having direct ties to the Gulf Coast region, achieving national success either with a group or as a solo artist, and exemplifying the Gulf Coast’s musical heritage. Of the entertainers featured in the hall of fame, the late Janis Joplin is one of the best-known. Probably the most prominent female rock-and-roll artist to come from Texas, Joplin, a Port Arthur native, possessed a powerful voice and commanding stage presence which quickly gained her fame and helped popularize the new psychedelic rock genre. Through artwork, memorabilia, and a wide array of photographs, the museum’s Joplin exhibit paints a vivid portrait of the singer’s life and career. Other Port Arthur music celebrities are celebrated at the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame. J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Tex Ritter, two East Texas natives who made it big in music, represent the broad variety of musical styles found in the Gulf Coast region.
Along with its exhibits, the Museum of the Gulf Coast hosts an annual Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame Show every January. Formerly known as the Janis Joplin Birthday Bash, the event pays tribute to the Port Arthur native through a series of concerts and also serves as an induction ceremony for the Music Hall of Fame. The Museum of the Gulf Coast and its Music Hall of Fame are administered by the Port Arthur Historical Society (PAHS), in partnership with Lamar College and the city of Port Arthur. Leading figures in the museum’s operation include its director, archivist, and PAHS president. The museum and hall of fame are open seven days a week.