The United States is famous for many things, but music is one of the most well-known and cherished. From jazz and soul, to rock ’n’ roll, blues, country, hip-hop and R&B, America is a hotbed for musical talent and artists.

Across the country, groups can explore the birthplaces of genres and some of music’s most famous names at comprehensive museums and childhood homes. Pack the band T-shirts, turn on some tunes and head out for a musical journey.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin music exhibit at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas
Janis Joplin music exhibit, Museum of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur, Texas
Credit: Museum of the Gulf Coast

Forging her own path and paving the way for female singers to come, Janis Joplin is one of the most iconic and influential musicians in all of rock ’n’ roll. She’s been nicknamed “The Queen of Rock” and “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul,” and for good reason.

Joplin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin rose to fame in the late 1960s and became known for her electrifying, blues-inspired vocals.

“The Port Arthur Convention & Visitors Bureau gets Janis Joplin queries all the time,” said Darragh Castillo, destination management specialist at the Port Arthur CVB. “Her legacy of song and personality continues to captivate. We love that the Museum of the Gulf Coast has a replica of her psychedelic Porsche and a collection of artwork she created.”

The Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Legends Hall of Fame honors Joplin with a display of memorabilia from her childhood. 

“Her childhood home in Port Arthur has a Texas State Historical Marker and our office has a brochure with a driving guide featuring sites important to her development,” Castillo said. “Locals have Joplin stories from ‘She babysat me’ to ‘We were in the church choir together.’”

Hank Williams

Hank Williams statue in Montgomery, Alabama
Hank Williams statue, Montgomery, Ala.
Credit: Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce

Known as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century, Hank Williams transformed country music into a major cultural and musical force. His influence can be heard in Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, among other stars. Born in Mount Olive, Alabama, Williams is a cherished figure in the Southern state.

“Hank Williams transformed country music and sowed the seeds of what is now American music, blues and even rock ’n’ roll — all here in our riverfront capital city of Montgomery,” said Dawn Hathcock, vice president of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. “Hank’s significance, not just as a great songwriter and cultural icon, but as a kind and warmhearted person, lives on in our city for eternity. Hank is a true treasure to Montgomery, and we encourage guests to pay a visit to our Hank Williams Museum to learn more about his legendary life during their trip.”

Williams started charting hits back in 1951, beginning with “Dear John” and its No. 1 flipside, “Cold, Cold Heart.” Other hits included “Honky Tonk Blues” and “You Win Again.”

At the Hank Williams Museum, groups can step back into the past and view personal artifacts in over 25 showcases, including Williams’ 1952 baby blue Cadillac, 17 of his suits and his 1937 Gibson guitar.

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas
Buddy Holly Center, Lubbock, Texas
Credit: Visit Lubbock

Everyone knows his iconic, thick black frames — Charles Hardin Holley, known professionally as Buddy Holly, was a major pioneering figure of mid-1950s rock ‘n’ roll in America. Born in a musical family during the Great Depression in Lubbock, Texas, Holly learned to sing and play guitar with his siblings, eventually making his way up as an opener for Elvis Presley.

Holly’s band, The Crickets, topped both U.S. and U.K. singles charts with “That’ll Be the Day” in 1957. The Crickets’ sound was so distinct and iconic, it inspired young rockers across the globe, including two musicians from Liverpool, who went on to form The Beatles.

Groups can even see where Holly wrote that song and many other hits with The Crickets’ drummer, J.I. Allison, at the J.I. Allison House at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock.

“Buddy Holly made a tremendous impact on the music industry both locally and nationally,” said Amy Zientek, director of sales for Visit Lubbock. “Lubbock welcomes visitors from across the world who travel to honor his legacy, learn about his life and hear performances from the new generations of performers he inspired.”

The Buddy Holly Center showcases exhibits and programs that reflect Holly’s legacy and the diverse culture of the region. The center also preserves and interprets artifacts from Holly, such as fan letters, a recording microphone, stage clothing, original tour itineraries and a custom guitar strap.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, Arkansas
Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Dyess, Ark.
Credit: Arkansas Tourism

As one of the best-selling music artists of all time, Johnny Cash is a name everybody knows. Having sold over 90 million records worldwide, Cash is remembered as a country music icon; however, his genre-spanning songs often embraced rock ’n’ roll, blues, gospel and folk music.

His most well-known songs include “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.” His music was often themed on sorrow, moral affliction and redemption. Born in Arkansas, Cash grew up in Dyess, a New Deal colony, from age 3 until the end of high school. 

Today, groups can take a guided tour of his boyhood home in Dyess. The home is furnished exactly the way it was when the Cash family lived there; a popular feature is a table Cash made in shop class. Some items in the house are original to the family and home, and others are of the time period.

“Johnny Cash was born and raised in Arkansas, and his experiences while growing up here impacted his life, but especially his music,” said Kimberly Williams, travel writer for Arkansas Tourism and director of Arkansas’ Great River Road. “Songs such as ‘Five Feet High and Rising’ were written about his life in Dyess during the flood of 1937. Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess is a great addition to tourism in the Arkansas Delta and gives visitors insight into the young man that would become known worldwide as ‘The Man in Black.’”

In Nashville, Tennessee, groups can visit the Johnny Cash Museum, which features the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Jonny Cash artifacts and memorabilia. The museum includes many interactive exhibits, giving visitors the chance to dive into Cash’s life and legacy.