Tupelo, MS Culture & Economic Development

Tupelo, MS has a rich music scene that is a critical part of its cultural identity as well as a major lure for tourism.

Kevin Litwin
On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 23:39
Tupelo, MS

Tupelo's rich music scene is a critical part of its cultural identity as well as a major lure for tourism dollars.

Elvis' Legacy

Elvis Presley is an iconic name in Tupelo, and for good reason. This city will always be known as the rock ‘n’ roll king’s hometown. Even the small house where he was born in 1935 has been transformed into a museum in his honor. Tupelo is also home to an annual Tupelo Elvis Festival.

“The city understandably has a deep appreciation for Elvis and everything he accomplished,” says Bobby King, program manager for the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area that promotes tourism throughout northern Mississippi. “But even though Tupelo is primarily known for Elvis, the live music scene here is so much more.”

BancorpSouth Arena

Another musical lure for visitors is BancorpSouth Arena, a 10,000-seat venue that hosts dozens of concerts each year.

The arena is a former mall that was vacated and then started to deteriorate. City officials later purchased the empty mall from the original developer.

After much architectural planning and an astute transformation process, the eye-pleasing building now hosts concerts and conventions.

“This has become a venue that can be compared to fine arenas found in larger cities throughout the United States,” King says. “Besides concerts, BancorpSouth Arena also hosts regional musicals as well as off-Broadway productions.

The arena has become such a popular and important gathering place in Tupelo that a Hilton Garden Inn was constructed adjacent to the site in order to mostly accommodate event attendees.”

Summer Concert Series

Each year music lovers count the days until summer, when they can enjoy yet another aspect of the Tupelo music scene – the Down on Main Street Summer Concert Series in the Fairpark District near city hall.

“There are quite a few Tupelo residents under 40 years old who are married and have children, and they still want to go out once in a while to have a good time,” King says. “The Summer Concert Series provides such an opportunity in a comfortable greenspace setting, with several diverse musical events scheduled on various evenings during the summer.”

Tupelo Symphony

Tupelo is also home to its very own Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, even though a full orchestra in a smaller city the size of Tupelo (population 35,000) is a rarity.

The symphony has been around since 1971 and showcases approximately 15 annual concerts, most of which occur at the Link Centre.

“Everyone who plays in our symphony is a professional, and they live all over the region,” says Margaret Anne Murphey, executive director of the Tupelo Symphony. “We contract with them by the concert, and we have a core of musicians who come to every performance.”

Mississippi Blues Trail

Tupelo is also a part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, which is overseen by the Mississippi Blues Commission. The trail is widely promoted on their www.msbluestrail.org website that lists 120 Mississippi blues music and culture hot spots that bring tourism dollars into their respective communities.

Learn more about the arts in Tupelo, MS.


Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.