The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will open its latest spotlight exhibit, John Prine: It Took Me Years to Get These Souvenirs, on November 15. The exhibit will feature instruments, manuscripts and other relics from the singer/songwriter’s four-decade career, tracing his life from his early musical influences through his critically acclaimed career. The exhibition will run through May 2014.
John was born October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. His parents gave him his first guitar for his 14th birthday. Both his family’s love of country music and its roots in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, would prove to influence his music. After high school, John served two years in the U.S. Army before taking a job as a postal worker in Chicago, where he wrote songs while walking his route. He played those songs on the Chicago folk circuit and in 1971, Kris Kristofferson heard him perform and helped him land a record deal.
John’s self-titled debut album included the songs “Hello in There,” “Paradise” and “Angel from Montgomery,” later recorded by Bette Midler, the Everly Brothers and Bonnie Raitt, respectively. The album also included one of his most famous songs, “Sam Stone,” about a drug-addicted Vietnam Veteran.
John moved to Nashville in the early 1980s and founded the independent record label Oh Boy Records with his longtime manager, Al Bunetta. In 1991, his album The Missing Years earned him his first GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Folk Album. He won another Grammy in 2005 with Fair & Square. In 2007 he released Standard Songs for Average People, an album of duets with Mac Wiseman.
Among the artifacts on display in John Prine: It Took Me Years to Get These Souvenirs are his first guitar, a handwritten manuscript for “Sam Stone” under its original title, “The Great Society Conflict Veteran Blues,” the original, handwritten manuscript for “Angel from Montgomery,” his 1991 and 1995 GRAMMYs, his doodles of winged dogs and other figures and personalized tour books with travel itineraries.
Spotlight exhibits supplement themes or aspects of the museum’s core exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music. These short-term, informal displays either provide a closer look at a particular person, group or aspect of country music, or spotlight recently donated items or special anniversaries.