An Article by Johnny Cole
Photos by Stephen Anderson
From Elvis Presley to Jimmy Buffett, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has had a long and impressive history associated with great music. It doesn’t take long to discover a variety of things that have helped shape this exciting music scene.
In 2013, The Southland Music Line was officially founded at Jack’s by the Tracks in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Since forming we have enjoyed covering the local and regional music scene, including such memorable events as the annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival and Hall of Fame and the Jimmy Buffett Bridge dedication and beach concert. One of the Buffett photos by our own Stephen Anderson from the beach concert was used for the cover of the Buffett biography Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way by Ryan White.
In recent years, Gulf Coast music fans have enjoyed many live music events held at the historic Grand Magnolia Ballroom and Suites, located at 3604 Magnolia Street in Pascagoula. Grand Magnolia served as “ground zero” for the Jimmy Buffett Bridge dedication event as Pascagoula welcomed Buffett back home to his birthplace.
Top Photo: Jimmy Buffett at The Grand Magnolia Ballr00m (Jan. 14, 2017); Above photo: The Grand Magnolia Ballroom & Suites in Pascagoula, MS
The Chenoweth family-owned and operated boutique hotel and event venue has become a live music destination thanks to the many nationally acclaimed singer-songwriters who have performed inside its spacious ballroom.
The organizers at Grand Magnolia Music including its Executive Director and events host, Curtis Rockwell, promised there would be some outstanding talent coming to Grand Magnolia. They were totally right and the following examples definitely prove it.
▪︎ Mac McAnally has performed at both The Grand Magnolia Ballroom and several nearby events associated with the organizers at Grand Magnolia Music. McAnally’s long and amazing career has been recognized with many accolades which include multiple CMA awards for Musician of Year and a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction. McAnally has written, produced and collaborated with many artists and is a member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. Both he and Buffett were inducted into the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2020.
The Grand Magnolia Ballroom & Suites in Pascagoula, MS
▪︎ On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the sold out crowd at Grand Magnolia got a huge surprise when Jimmy Buffett joined Mac McAnally on stage. This would be the first time since the Jimmy Buffett Bridge dedication and beach concert in 2015 that Buffett would perform in Pascagoula. The evening’s host, Rockwell, had often hinted that this live collaboration would one day take place. On this particular evening everyone inside Grand Magnolia’s ballroom was a “Parrothead”.
▪︎ Often referred to as a principal architect of the Southern California sound, J.D. Souther, a 2013 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, is another of the talented people to entertain audiences at Grand Magnolia. Souther personally charted with such hits as 1979’s “You’re Only Lonely” and the 1981 duet “Her Town Too” with James Taylor. He has co-written some of the Eagles biggest hits “Best of My Love”, “Heartache Tonight” and “New Kid In Town”, written-produced music for Linda Ronstadt and provided backing vocals for such artists for Dan Fogelburg, Christopher Cross and Don Henley. In 2012, Souther starred in the successful TV series “Nashville”.
J.D. Souther at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Oct. 27, 2019)
▪︎ Widely acknowledged as a premier electric slide guitar player, Lee Roy Parnell performed for a packed house at Grand Magnolia in 2019. During the 1990’s, Parnell had a successful run of country hits with “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am”, “Tender Moment” and “A Little Bit of You”. Parnell’s famous slide guitar can also be heard on Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Shut Up and Kiss Me” and Delbert McClinton’s “Sending Me Angels”. By the early 2000’s his music took a much more bluesy direction that has been welcomed by fans.
▪︎ The Grammy-winning Rodney Crowell is another famous artist to have performed live on the Grand Magnolia stage. Crowell has performed with a who’s-who of fellow music artists, including Emmylou Harris’ “Hot Band” in the 1970’s. As a songwriter, his songs have been recorded by some of the industry’s biggest stars, including Bob Seger’s recording of “Shame on the Moon” from his 1982 album The Distance. During the 1980’s, he also scored multiple number one singles as a solo artist including a personal favorite “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried”. Crowell’s lengthy list of accolades and achievements easily makes him one of the industry’s most respected and honored artists. Crowell appears prominently in the 2019 documentary series Ken Burns: Country Music. Crowell’s success as a songwriter and music artist continues to this day.
▪︎ You can’t speak about Grand Magnolia without mentioning Will Kimbrough, who has performed at several events associated with Grand Magnolia Music including Jazz Fest Unplugged at the famous “Garage Mahal” in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Kimbrough has had an impressive career as a successful solo artist, songwriter, producer, sideman, music collaborator and a member of the bands Will and The Bushmen, The Bis-quits, Daddy, and Willie Sugarcapps. Kimbrough’s songs have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Little Feat, Jack Ingram, Todd Snider and others. He is also an honorary member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.
Rodney Crowell, Grand Magnolia Music’s Curtis Rockwell and Will Kimbrough
▪︎ The legendary singer-songwriter, musician and record producer, Keith Sykes, is another favorite to perform on Grand Magnolia’s stage. Sykes’ songs have been recorded by John Prine, Rosanne Cash, The Judds, Jerry Jeff Walker and more. He is possibly best known for co-writing Jimmy Buffett’s “Volcano” and writing “Coast of Marseilles” that appears on Buffett’s 1978 album Son of a Son of a Sailor.
▪︎ One of our favorites, Cary Hudson, is another artist who has made multiple appearances at Grand Magnolia and the Jazz Fest Unplugged Series. In 2008, Gibson magazine named Hudson as one of the all-time Top 10 Alt Country guitarists. During a Hattiesburg, Mississippi concert in 2014, Jason Isbell called Hudson a “true American treasure”, and he couldn’t have been more right about the native Mississippian and former frontman of the band Blue Mountain.
▪︎ The popular husband-wife duo of Anthony and Savana Crawford, Sugarcane Jane, have appeared at both Grand Magnolia and the Jazz Fest Unplugged Series. Anthony Crawford has previously recorded and toured with Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam and many others and his songs have been recorded by some of biggest artists in the music industry. Earlier this year, Sugarcane Jane opened at a number of shows for Dwight Yoakam with likely more shows to come. Readers at The Southland Music Line have named Anthony and Savana Crawford “Music Artist of the Year” six times in the annual Readers’ Choice Awards (five times as a duo and once as part of Willie Sugarcapps).
Only a select group of musicians can bring New Orleans to a town like the incredible Johnny Sansone and John Fohl. They are two of New Orleans’ most recognizable music artists on the scene today due to their extreme talent and popularity at such events as the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Sansone, deeply rooted in electric blues, is a multi-instrumentalist and rousing entertainer. Fohl, who has played and toured with a stellar class of music artists such as Dr. John, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Charlie Musselwhite, Bo Diddley, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and more, always brings his best to each performance. Sansone and Fohl performed at Grand Magnolia in 2021 as things were beginning to come around following the lengthy pandemic. It was a privilege to see them again.
Cary Hudson at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (May 23, 2021)
▪︎ Louisiana’s LeRoux, famous for such hits as “New Orleans Ladies”, and their highest charting single “Nobody Said It Was Easy (Lookin’ For the Lights)” appeared to a full house in early 2020 that had many talking after that spectacular show.
▪︎ Pascagoula native, Libby Rae Watson, has been playing authentic blues since the early 1970’s. Watson’s magnificent stories about blues greats Big Joe Williams and her mentor, Sam Chatmon, are priceless. Watson is a longtime favorite of many fans from across the state and abroad. Watson has been spotlighted by The Southland Music Line as a solo artist and part of The Jericho Road Show.
▪︎ Molly Thomas has performed at Grand Magnolia several times, with her popular band, Molly Thomas and The Rare Birds, or accompanied by Rick Hirsch, an original member of Wet Willie and co-writer of their Top Ten hit “Keep On Smilin'”. In 2019, Thomas released the highly praised Honey’s Fury. Our article “Molly Thomas and The Rare Birds – Time For These Wings To Fly” spotlights this release.
▪︎ Blue Mother Tupelo, the husband-wife duo of Ricky & Micol Davis began in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1995. A couple years ago, The Southland Music Line spotlighted them in the article “Blue Mother Tupelo – The Work of Our Hearts”. While most artists relate their music to a particular genre, the music of Blue Mother Tupelo is a multi-layered diverse style with the elements of blues, gospel and country-rock as its source. In the spring of 2021, Blue Mother Tupelo performed to a huge crowd of fans at Grand Magnolia that were ready for live music!
Lee Roy Parnell at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Nov. 14, 2019)
▪︎ At that same show mentioned above, Mississippi’s George McConnell, the former Widespread Panic guitarist and a co-founder of the highly popular Beanland joined the impressive list of acclaimed artists to perform at Grand Magnolia. The show’s organizer and host, Curtis Rockwell, promised it would be a great evening of live music and true to his word, it was.
▪︎ Double Dee, the singer-songwriting husband-wife duo of Darwin and Dana Nelson, have performed a number of times at Grand Magnolia including recently opening for John Conlee’s sold out show. They are founding members of the Mississippi Songwriters’ Festival and perform at numerous other festivals and events across the country including the popular Frank Brown International Songwriting Festival.
▪︎ Singer-songwriter Taylor Craven is another talented Mississippian, which is a feature recognizable among many performers who have appeared on the Grand Magnolia stage. In 2019, Craven performed alongside Darwin and Dana Nelson as part of Delta Coast and earlier this year returned as a solo artist. A well respected songwriter and collaborator, Craven’s songs have been recorded by many artists.
John Conlee at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (June 11, 2021)
▪︎ Mississippi born Lynn Drury, who calls New Orleans home since the mid-nineties, has taken her unique style of NOLA-Americana to stages around the world. Drury has released a number of albums, including 2017’s critically acclaimed Rise of the Fall and has received several accolades from a variety of New Orleans publications.
▪︎ Bayou Troubadour, featuring Matthew Hoggatt and Johnny Mire, are a duo with two very impressive resumes. Hoggatt who signed with Jimmy Buffett’s Mailboat Records in 2012, has also worked as a radio host on Sirius XM and written for American Songwriter magazine. Singer-songwriter Mire spent over thirty years working in Nashville, including management at the Grand Ole Opry/Ryman Auditorium.
▪︎ Cole Hill is quickly becoming one the region’s most popular and rising stars who has made multiple appearances at Grand Magnolia. He was named “Best Male Vocalist” in 2019 and 2020, and his song “Love Me, Rosie” was honored as 2020’s “Song of the Year” in Signature Magazine’s Best of the Pine Belt Awards.
Louisiana’s Leroux at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Mar. 5. 2020)
▪︎ Phil & Foster (Phil Proctor and Stan Foster) are two of the region’s most beloved performers and have both received numerous awards. Their regular Wednesday night shows at Callaghan’s in nearby Mobile, Alabama are extremely popular and feature an array of musical guests including Jimmy Hall, Grayson Capps, Molly Thomas, Cary Hudson and others. They are also part of the successful Marlow Boys.
▪︎ On June 11, 2021, John Conlee, country music icon and the man behind such hits as “Rose Colored Glasses”, “Backside of Thirty”, “Miss Emily’s Picture”, “Common Man” and “I’m Only in It for the Love” performed a sold out show while keeping in rhythm with many of the post pandemic shows held at Grand Magnolia. When the organizers first promised that they would be bringing top-notch live entertainment to Pascagoula, the Conlee show was definitely one they had in mind.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast and its nearby neighbors have much to be excited about Grand Magnolia Music’s mission of bringing an incredible line up of live music and enjoyable entertainment to its stage. Curtis Rockwell and all the organizers have informed us that we can expect many more great shows in the coming months. Plus, several performers from past shows have already scheduled to make their triumphant returns such as Rodney Crowell (June 26), Will Kimbrough with special guest Libby Rae Watson (Aug. 20) and many others.
The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS
We want to thank Grand Magnolia Music Executive Director Curtis Rockwell, the Richard Chenoweth Family, everyone at Grand Magnolia Ballroom & Suites, all the event organizers and show sponsors, the City of Pascagoula, and of course, the amazing talent who have brought exceptional joy to our lives.
Click Here for Grand Mag Music’s Official Website.
Mac McAnally and Jimmy Buffett at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom (Jan. 14, 2017)
Photo Collections taken at Grand Magnolia by Stephen Anderson:
● John Conlee with guest Double Dee at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Fri. June 11, 2021)
● Some Highlights from the Magnolia Mayfest ft. Blue Mother Tupelo, former Widespread Panic guitarist George McConnell and Cary Hudson at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Sun. May 23, 2021)
● Some Highlights from the 3rd Annual Grand Magnolia Music Festival ft. Johnny Sansone & John Fohl, Molly Thomas & Rick Hirsch, Cole Hill, and Taylor Craven at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Sat. Apr. 17, 2021)
● Louisiana’s LeRoux with guest Double Dee at The Grand Magnolia in Pascagoula, MS (Thur. Mar. 5, 2020)
● Mac McAnally with guest Cole Hill at The Grand Magnolia in Pascagoula, MS (Thur. Jan. 30, 2020)
● Lee Roy Parnell wsg Phil & Foster at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Thur. Nov. 14, 2019)
● An Intimate Evening with JD Souther at The Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Sun. Oct. 27, 2019)
● Rodney Crowell wth special guest Will Kimbrough at the Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, MS (Mon. Oct. 14, 2019)
● Mac McAnally, Jimmy Buffett & Libby Rae Watson at The Grand Magnolia in Pascagoula, MS (Sat. Jan. 14, 2017)
Page Designed & Edited by Johnny Cole
Additional Editing by Brenda Germany
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