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Woodlawn Is Well Worth the Visit

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Many of Nashville, Tennessee's major tourist attractions are music related including the Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park. The cemetery located at 600 Thompson Lane is the final resting place for local families and famous folks. Woodlawn welcomes visitors by providing an informative booklet that lists the stars who reside there. They also report that bus tours frequently stop at their establishment to show their guests famous burial sites.

Woodlawn Is Well Worth the Visit
The final resting place of George Jones prominently featured his biggest song.

Nashville has a thriving music community but its best known for country which was a prevailing theme in the Ken Burns' Country Music documentary. Through footage and music Ken explained how Nashville was one of a number of regions that was instrumental in developing and popularizing country music. The growth of the genre was also conveyed through artist interviews. Many were asked to name the quintessential country song. More than half responded "He Stopped Loving Her Today" sung by the late George Jones.

So inspired by the documentary - one sunny Sunday in January, we decided to pay our respects to the greatest country song ever with a pilgrimage to Woodlawn. At the Funeral Home we inquired about a map and the gentlemen who greeted us inquired if there was someone in particular we were looking for and we replied George Jones. After telling us where to go, he shared that "The Possum" had purchased 60 plots with half allocated for family members and the others reserved for impoverished musicians.

Garden Of The Grand Tour is where George Jones rests. A large monument with benches, flowers and a guitar memorialize the legend. At the other end of the plot is Billy Sherrill who produced many of George's songs including the aforementioned hit. Sherrill with business partner Glenn Sutton are credited with crafting the "country-politan sound" - a smooth melding of country and pop that was trendy during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Johnny Paycheck (of "Take This Job and Shove It" fame) along with football placekicker Rob Bironas are also at The Grand Tour.

A number of well-known artists can be found at the Garden Of Gethsemane including Marty Robbins who frequently topped the country music charts and Webb Pierce a honky-tonk guitarist, singer, and songwriter of the 1950s. For many, Pierce, with his flashy Nudie suits and twin silver dollar-lined convertibles, became the most recognizable figure in country music at that time. Larrie Londin may not be a household name but it's likely that you have heard him keep the beat. Larry drummed for BB King, Diana Ross, Elvis, Emmylou Harris, Journey and countless others.

Dale "Stoney" Cooper and Porter Wagoner have Everlasting Life. Yet, Woodlawn is not all country as Dobie Gray whose musical career spanned country, pop and soul is nearby. Gray's hits include "The 'In' Crowd" (1965) and "Drift Away" which was one of the biggest songs of 1973 selling over one million copies.

Inside on the third floor Cross Mausoleum one can pay their respects to Jerry "Reed" Hubbard, Little Jimmy Dickens and more. As we walked the cold halls we observed that some fans left momentos by Tammy Wynette's marker. Also of note are Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Both born in the 1920's, this husband and wife team penned plenty of chart toppers such as "Love Hurts", "Rocky Top" and "Wake Up Little Susie" one of many tunes that they wrote for the Everly Brothers.

Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park has been serving the community since the early 1900's. It was originally a family farm with a history that dates back to the Civil War. Near a natural spring on the grounds is a stone structure that was used to store water for a Civil War Hospital. Woodlawn also hosts a sunrise Easter service at Dignity Hall along with other special events throughout the year. Woodlawn is well worth a visit for locals and tourists but please remember to be respectful as this is also a place of mourning.

Woodlawn Is Well Worth the Visit
The grave site of Dobie Gray in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on WOODLAWN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Woodlawn | Visiting the George Jones Museum | Country Music - A Film by Ken Burns

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