BY SHEENA BARNETT
TUPELO – The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau opened a new exhibit on Monday honoring Saltillo native Merle “Red” Taylor, known as the “King of Bluegrass Fiddlers” and one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.
“It’s not just about Elvis,” said CVB Executive Director Neal McCoy. “We have a lot of talented people from this region.”
Taylor was so talented he played at the Grand Ole Opy at 17. He joined bluegrass legend Monroe’s band and wrote his No. 1 hit, “Uncle Pen,” as well as Ray Price’s hit “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes.” He played with the likes of Hank Williams and was inducted in the Bluegrass and Country Music Halls of Fame.
Taylor died in 1987.
Taylor’s fiddle, photos, records, a pair of boots and other personal items are included in the exhibit. Also on display is Taylor’s address book, which includes Elvis’ Memphis home phone number.
“This is a great honor to my grandfather and my family,” said Taylor’s granddaughter, Angie Bates, of Saltillo. “I remember going to my papaw’s and watching him play, and he said, ‘You have to be able to hear the music and play by ear. You can’t play music if you can’t play by ear.’”
Bates said her grandfather played with so many stars she couldn’t begin to name them all.
“I remember how humble my papaw was,” she said. “He loved music, and he loved to play.”
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton was on hand to deliver a key to the city to Bates and Taylor’s son, Tracy.
The exhibit will be up about three months, McCoy said.