NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame is honoring one West Virginia musician.

Brad Paisley is the subject of “Diary of a Player,” which highlights his life growing up in West Virginia and his rise to becoming one of country music’s biggest stars. The exhibit runs through May 14.

Photo by Derek Cressman

Country music artist Brad Paisley performing at a concert in Hartford, Conn.

Michael McCall, museum editor at the Country Music Hall of Fame, said Paisley’s life is one worth highlighting.

“He’s had some history,” McCall said. “He’s got such a great story to tell with him because of where he started.”

Paisley grew up in Glen Dale in Marshall County. Paisley’s grandfather gave him a guitar for Christmas when he was eight years old. Paisley would later make appearances on the Wheeling Jamboree, a country music radio program based in Ohio County. In high school, he opened for multiple country music artists including George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Charley Pride. Paisley later moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University, and in 1998 signed with Arista Records.

McCall said Paisley has been so successful because of his ability to write about present issues while keeping in touch with the genre’s roots.

“I really think one of the influences is in his songwriting, which is sort of breaking the stereotypes and writing about your view of the world and writing about modern society and how people live today without having to follow old formulas,” McCall said.

The exhibit covers most of the Hall of Fame’s second floor. Some of the featured items include Paisley’s guitars and award trophies, as well as personal mementos like childhood drawings and photographs of his early performances.

“Even big fans who know a lot about him with see things that they’ve never seen here,” McCall said.

According to McCall, Paisley allowed museum employees to go through his two homes to pick items to display. Additionally, he said Paisley’s parents have been helpful in organizing the exhibit.

“We took things right off their walls,” McCall said. “They dug through every photo album and book they had and pulled things out for us. They’ve come by back and double checked things and keep bringing us new stuff. It’s a growing exhibit.”

McCall said in Paisley’s homes, there is a common theme: a love for the state he was born in.

“His mom was a teacher her whole life, and his dad worked the West Virginia transportation department,” McCall said. “Every place you looked in both of him homes, there was so many references to West Virginia. It is something that’s a part of him.”

McCall said the Paisley exhibit is one of a slew of displays honoring contemporary country musicians, and serves as a way to tie the genre’s history with current stars. Previous exhibits have featured artists such as Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert.

The exhibit opened on Nov. 18.

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