Coast Life: Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame

This week, you’ll be able to listen to some of the best music you’ll find anywhere.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - This week, you’ll be able to listen to some of the best music you’ll find anywhere. The sounds of the Coast Life will echo across Jackson County during the Mississippi Songwriters Festival.

The annual event gets started on Thursday night with the latest inductions into the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“Music is the Soundtrack to our lives,” said Darwin Nelson, Mississippi Songwriters Alliance board member.

So much of the soundtrack can be traced to Mississippi. B.B. King is one of 17 current members of the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“If you go back to the roots of what developed their storylines and their cultural influences comes back to Mississippi,” said George Cumbest. “That’s what we’re trying to showcase, here’s what we produce in the music world.”

Cumbest is on the board of directors for the Mississippi Songwriters Alliance. He and the other board members help select the Hall of Fame inductees, many of whom are responsible for some of the most familiar sounds in music.

Board of Directors for Mississippi Songwriters Alliance, left to right: Andy Dalgo, George...
Board of Directors for Mississippi Songwriters Alliance, left to right: Andy Dalgo, George Cumbest, Darwin Nelson, Kevin Westbrook(WLOX)

While Hall of Fame members Tammy Wynette and Conway Twitty’s faces might be recognized around the world, this Hall of Fame honors the writers of the lyrics. Many of those writers’ words were made famous by other performers.

“Tommy Barnes was one of our original guys that helped us build this and wrote ‘Indian Outlaw’ for Tim McGraw, that’s what got his career going,” said Cumbest.

Vancleave’s Paul Overstreet was part of the Hall of Fame’s first class in 2019. The list of singers who’ve picked up his songs include Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney. Overstreet now has a Hall of Fame trophy thanks to an idea the board members think was long overdue.

“We didn’t have a Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame, it was just sitting there waiting,” Nelson said.

“The legislatures said go for it and we’ll help you,” said Cumbest.

Of course a songwriter’s Hall of Fame based on the Mississippi Coast would have to include the late Jimmy Buffett. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020.

“You go back and listen to all of Jimmy Buffett’s catalog, it’s not just beach music. He was trying to make it as a country artist in the beginning, but he was just a great songwriter,” said Nelson.

Coming soon, the legacy of Jimmy Buffett and other Hall of Fame songwriters will be on permanent display. The Sound Amphitheater under construction in Gautier includes plans for a Hall of Fame building, it’s on track to be finished in 2025.

“We’re going to have our Hall of Fame which is basically a museum and performing arts center,” said Andy Dalgo, Mississippi Songwriters Alliance board member.

The new facility will have plenty of space to feature future Hall of Farmers who will carry on the proud Mississippi music tradition.

“When you get a really good writer that’s writing from the heart and writes a song that’s genuine and real, you’ll get chill bumps,” said Cumbest.

Five new members will be welcomed into the Hall of Fame with an induction ceremony at the Mary C O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center in Ocean Springs on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

The 2023 inductees are Bo Diddly, Jim Weatherly, Jimmie Rodgers, Elsie McWilliams and Don Poythress.

The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony gets the Songwriters Festival going with events happening through Sunday in Ocean Springs and Gautier.

For the entertainment schedule, more information on the Mississippi Songwriters Festival and the Hall of Fame, visit

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