Music America Strikes a Chord with Iconic Artifacts at LBJ Presidential Library
Mar 17, 2024

Music America Strikes a Chord with Iconic Artifacts at LBJ Presidential Library

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas – The history of American music is now on display in the Live Music Capital of the World.

The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music created “Music America,” a touring exhibit currently at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. Music America features iconic artifacts such as the boots Gene Autry’s widow gave to Willie Nelson, Madonna’s wedding dress from the “Like a Virgin” music video, and one of Taylor Swift’s “Reputation Stadium Tour” costumes.

“What you can find here when you visit is a wide variety of music, instruments, handwritten lyrics, costumes and audio that really shows the depth and breadth of American music,” said Anne Wheeler, the LBJ Presidential Library director of communications.

The exhibit debuted in Austin on Feb. 17 and will be open through the summer before it begins a journey to other presidential libraries and museums. This is the library’s third music-related exhibit, which Wheeler said are the most popular among visitors.

“Music is universal, and it also runs through the veins of all Americans. Everyone has a tune that inspires them,” she said.

The opening included photo booths, giveaways, children’s events and bands from Austin. The event focused on the 1960s and paid homage to the Austin music landscape.

“We partnered with the Bruce Springsteen Archives because they know Austin and they know of the rich history of music, not only in Austin, but in Texas,” Wheeler said.

Attendees dance to 60s music performed by The Rebeats during the opening day of the Music America exhibit at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, on Feb, 17, 2024. (Campbell Choate/Reporting Texas TV

The mix of 1960s music and artifacts was nostalgic for some visitors. LBJ’s presidency started in 1963, so the event focused on music from that time. The Rebeats played 1960s hits throughout the afternoon in order to stay on theme.

“It’s the same era that we grew up with, and that we listened to in high school and college, so all these songs relate to us,” attendee Jan Mulloy said.

Visitors who attended opening day purely for the live music were able to immerse themselves into the exhibit’s most interactive feature, the “Song Bar,” which let them hear performances from artists featured in the exhibit and additional performances that showcase American music history. Visitors can hear a wide variety of genres and decades that the exhibit calls the most iconic of the century.

Some visitors stayed for hours after the exhibit opened. Dave Jones said he is very into the Austin music scene and is always looking for outdoor events like this one. The LBJ Presidential Library set out tables and heaters for visitors to sit while they listened to performers.

“We live for music, so this is our thing. We wouldn’t come out this early in this weather,” Jones said.

All University of Texas students and faculty can visit the exhibit for free with their ID. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the exhibit will be open until Aug. 11.