The Heart of Texas Country Music Museum, located at 1701 South Bridge Street in Brady, Texas, opened in 2000 and features artifacts from hundreds of country music artists. The collection includes photographs, stage costumes, posters, instruments, and other memorabilia illustrating the history of country music. Special features include pieces designed by such tailors as Nudie, Harvey Krantz, and Nathan Turk. Other artifacts include a wax figure of Bob Wills, as well as one of his fiddles, and “Big Blue”—the first tour bus owned by singer Jim Reeves.
The Heart of Texas Country Music Museum collection started with the acquisition of a Rose Maddox gold and rhinestone dress made by Nathan Turk. KNEL disc jockey Tracy Pitcox then began collecting other items related to the history of country music, and the museum was originally housed in the office of KNEL. Approximately 80 percent of the museum’s collections have come directly from the artists or their families. Other pieces come from estate purchases. These include the Jim Reeves tour bus and a variety of other items from Reeves, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, Faron Young, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Dottie West, Roy Acuff, Johnny Horton, the Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb, Speck Rhodes, and Grandpa Jones.
The museum is staffed entirely by volunteers from the Heart of Texas Country Music Association. The association, devoted to preserving traditional country music, began in 1989 and has aided in raising money for construction of a museum building through bake sales, memorial brick sales, and other fundraising activities. As the number of artifacts grew over the years, the Heart of Texas Country Music Association built a new facility for the museum. Local businessman Billy Jackson donated a lot on South Bridge Street in Brady in memory of his wife Peggy Jackson. The community collected contributions to fund construction of the 1,200-square-foot limestone structure, which officially opened on August 5, 2000.
In 2009 the association celebrated its twentieth anniversary with an expansion of the museum in order to accommodate such new items as George Strait’s Resistol straw hat, boots worn by Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Mel Tillis, and Johnny Bush, one of Minnie Pearl’s trademark hats, and colorful costumes worn by Patti Page, Kay Starr, Margo Smith, Dale Evans, and Dottsy. By that time, the museum complex also included access to a nearby studio.
The association produces a record label known as Heart of Texas Records which began as a fundraising project in 1999 with a CD featuring various artists that had performed in the area. Entertainer and longtime supporter Leona Williams suggested the idea, and the CD, titled Heart of Texas Country, featured twenty-one artists who each contributed one song. Building on the success of this project, the association launched the record label, which features artists who no longer have contracts with major labels. Recording projects have involved Floyd Tillman, Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Johnny Rodriguez, Hank Thompson, and Ferlin Husky.
In 2010 the museum association had more than 1,000 members. Additionally, the Heart of Texas Country Music Association continued its longtime sponsorship of area oprys such as the Marble Falls Opry and Llano Country Opry, as well as musical events in Brady. Live acoustic shows at the museum have included performances by Johnny Bush, Leona Williams, Justin Trevino, George Hamilton IV, and others. Disc jockey Tracy Pitcox has remained at the forefront of activities and acquisitions at the museum, which celebrated its tenth anniversary on August 28, 2010, with concerts by The Survivors (Darrell McCall, Tony Booth, and Curtis Potter), along with special guests Georgette Jones, Mona McCall, Frankie Miller, Justin Treviño, Rance Norton, Kimberly Murray, and Landon Dodd.
The museum is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays or by appointment, and group and bus tours are welcome.