By Deborah Burst
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Learn the legacy of the three cousins here

Explore the roots of rockabilly, country and gospel in Ferriday, Louisiana

Along the Mississippi River in Ferriday, Louisiana, lies the Delta Music Museum and Hall of Fame. Visitors from throughout the country have explored this museum that highlights the careers of local legends and music trailblazers.

Located in the downtown historic district, the Delta Music Museum opened in 2001 in the town’s old post office. In 2008, the museum expanded to include the Arcade Theater, a 1920s-era movie hall. The theater, which also serves as a concert hall and recording studio, hosts the Louisiana Country Music Opry on the fourth Saturday of each month and an annual November concert sponsored by the Concordia Parish Library. 

At the museum’s entrance, sculptures of Ferriday’s three most famous (and infamous) first cousins—Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart greet visitors. Lewis, known as “The Killer” for his piano-pounding rockabilly music, became a national celebrity in the mid-1950s. With no formal training, he started playing piano at age 9 by listening to the radio and sneaking into Haney’s Big House, the famous Delta blues juke joint. Lewis earned multiple gold records and Grammy® Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. The 1989 film Great Balls of Fire profiled his life. In 2009 he performed at Madison Square Garden for the Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concert.

Mickey Gilley earned his country stardom with more than 30 Top 40 hits. Mickey left town as a teenager and found success in the Houston area where he opened Gilley’s nightclub in 1971. He had a string of country hits including Room Full of Roses and Stand By Me , which he sang in the movie Urban Cowboy —filmed in part at his bar. The bar was so successful that it was extended to hold 6,000 customers, nearly twice the population of Ferriday. Now in his seventies, he entertains in Branson, Mo., occasionally making visits to Ferriday.

Jimmy Swaggart began as a gospel musician before becoming one of the most recognized television evangelists in the country. At one time, Jimmy Swaggart operated a 7,200-seat Family Worship Center in Baton Rouge. He has recorded 50 albums and sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. He preaches weekly on a national radio show with television stations carrying his revivals on Sunday mornings.

Visit the Delta Music Museum and Arcade Theater for more of the three cousins’ stories and learn about the rich musical heritage of Ferriday—a town that claims to have produced more famous people per square mile than any small town in America.

Elvis Was in the Building

Another iconic music venue in north Louisiana, Shreveport Municipal Auditorium is best known for the Louisiana Hayride, a weekly show of singers and performers popular in the 1950s. Modeled after the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the Hayride featured legendary singers Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, who made his television debut at the Municipal Auditorium. The Hayride was broadcast throughout the nation and overseas on Armed Forces Radio. The Auditorium offers tours on Sundays and hosts year-round musical events.