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A San Francisco bookstore gave Janet Byron, a free-lance writer living in Adams Morgan, the idea for her own travel planner. “They had The Jazz and Blues Lover’s Guide to the USA and the Rock and Roll Road Trip in a big window display,” Byron recalls, “and I just thought a country book was missing.” Three years and 20,000 miles later, Byron completed the trilogy with The Country Music Lover’s Guide to the USA.
Byron says she grew up listening to the alternative music of Dwight Yoakam and Lyle Lovett—and defying the non–country listeners in her Long Island family. Her own tastes aside, she keeps fans of both new and traditional country in mind while compiling her state-by-state listings of museums, jamborees, and historic locations. She does not limit herself to such famous temptations as Graceland, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., or Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood. Instead, she directs the curious to Hank Williams’ boyhood home in Georgiana, Ala., and Patsy Cline’s plane-crash site in Camden, Tenn. “I was trying to find unique places you could visit,” she explains. “I stayed away from halls [where] you could just see music.”
Besides describing the sites and giving directions, Byron offers tips on navigating high-profile music meccas. She points out noteworthy country scenes in all but seven states (Hawaii and Michigan evidently are not ideal spots for line dancing). Yet, in spite of seven cross-county voyages in search of cowboy hats and twangy tunes, she suggests a tried-and-true tourist trap for the neophyte: “The best country-music vacation is Nashville,” she says with authority.—Ben Buja