From Outkast to Gladys Knight, musical landmarks abound in Atlanta

A mural of Outkast resides at 453 Moreland Ave., NE in Atlanta.
A mural of Outkast resides at 453 Moreland Ave., NE in Atlanta.

Credit: Nicole Smith/nicole.smith@ajc.com

Credit: Nicole Smith/nicole.smith@ajc.com

Travelers can also pay homage to Otis Redding, Alan Jackson and James Brown throughout the state.

They’re a little different than the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park or the Big Chicken in Marietta, but musical landmarks around the city — and state —maintain their own charm.

The continued growth of the music industry in the city and region, coupled with its peerless history, means plenty of opportunities to swing by iconic spots, both new and old.

Some locations, such as strip club Magic City and Lenox Square Mall, are well-immortalized in Atlanta music history. Record stores including Fantasyland, Criminal Records and Wax N’ Facts remain — thankfully — to fulfill our listening desires beyond a digital playlist. And we’re not overlooking Outkast’s legendary Stankonia Studios, but we’re guessing that Big Boi isn’t looking for visitors right now.

Here are some of the area’s music landmarks worth a visit.

ExploreAtlanta's originals: Visit landmarks that are unique to our city

Atlanta music venues

While there is no shortage of live music havens in Atlanta — more than a dozen court major-name shows — a trio stands out as historical and iconic. Eddie’s Attic, in Decatur, was founded in 1992 by Eddie Owen as part bar, part listening room. The warm environs groomed a host of artists who would blossom into radio stars — Jennifer Nettles, the Indigo Girls, Kristian Bush, Shawn Mullins. Even John Mayer worked the door for a spell. Owen now runs the Red Clay Music Foundry in Duluth, but the current regime has retained all of the venue’s charm — and importance. 515 N. McDonough St., Decatur. 404-377-4976, eddiesattic.com.

The Tabernacle, a former church converted into a House of Blues in 1996 as part of Atlanta’s buildup around the Olympics, switched owners a couple of times before Live Nation (SFX Entertainment at the time of change) scooped it up. History witnessed the debut of Tyler Perry’s first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed” on that stage, as well as the 2004 recording of an Elton John concert for a DVD complement to his “Peachtree Road” album. Legendary shows from Prince, Outkast, Coldplay and hundreds of others dot the lore of the majestic, five-level building. 152 Luckie St., Atlanta. 404-659-9022, tabernacleatl.com.

The famous 1976 quote by Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie Van Zant lights up above a stage doorway inside the Fox Theatre. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The famous 1976 quote by Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie Van Zant lights up above a stage doorway inside the Fox Theatre. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Whether it was Elvis Presley performing a string of sold-out dates, Ronnie Van Zant imploring Lynyrd Skynyrd to “play it pretty for Atlanta” or Prince taking the stage for a pair of stripped-down shows in 2016 that would turn out to be his last, the Fox Theatre has witnessed some of music’s most iconic moments. The long-ago movie palace — which opened in 1929 — and its lighted “sky” ceiling, retains its allure to still be referenced as “The Fabulous Fox.” 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-881-2100, foxtheatre.org.

Outkast mural

Looming 30-feet high on the side of Little Five Points boutique Wish, the piercing gazes of Andre 3000 (on the left) and Big Boi stand as a reminder of Outkast’s prominence as hip-hop royalty. Greensboro-based muralist JEKS created the work of art in October 2019, painting freehand from a photo taken by hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion. The mural, created as part of the Outer Space Project that aims to beautify public spaces, was finished in less than a week. 453 Moreland Ave. NE, Atlanta.

Owner Grant Henry participates in a pingpong tournament at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium. At times, the dive bar has been the hangout of celebrities including Lady Gaga, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM 2014
Owner Grant Henry participates in a pingpong tournament at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium. At times, the dive bar has been the hangout of celebrities including Lady Gaga, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM 2014

Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium

Known among the faithful as, simply, The Church, the celebrated Old Fourth Ward dive bar has become a favorite hang for visiting celebrities in town to film. Susan Sarandon, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Marisa Tomei are among the familiar names to pick up a ping-pong paddle. But Lady Gaga’s 2011 visit while in town for “The Monster Ball” tour — when she asked to buy the bar’s Virgin Mary statue but was turned down — is legend among the Little Monsters. 466 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-522-8275, sisterlouisaschurch.com.

Cascade Skating Rink

The 2006 coming-of-age dramedy “ATL” — loosely based on the young lives of producer Dallas Austin and TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins — not only served as a launchpad for the acting career of T.I. and earned a cameo from Outkast’s Big Boi. With the roller rink as the film’s centerpiece, it became a necessary stop for any visitor with a desire to experience hip-hop history. 3335 MLK Jr. Drive, Atlanta. 404-996-0078, cascadeskating.com.

In 2015, the state Senate unanimously passed a proposal to name State Route 9 from Peachtree Street to 14th Street after Knight, who was born in Atlanta. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
In 2015, the state Senate unanimously passed a proposal to name State Route 9 from Peachtree Street to 14th Street after Knight, who was born in Atlanta. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: hshin@ajc.com

Credit: hshin@ajc.com

Gladys Knight Highway

Yeah, yeah, enough with the midnight train jokes. The “Empress of Soul” was honored in 2015 when then-Gov. Nathan Deal signed a resolution to rename a portion of Ga. 9 — West Peachtree Street where it intersects with Peachtree Street, south to 14th Street — after the Atlanta-born superstar. It was the first thing named for Knight in her home state, and she relished the significance. “When you ride down the street and see my name, have some pride in it to know that you have a piece of it,” she said at the dedication ceremony.

Trap Music Museum

Founded by Atlanta-bred hip-hop star and one of trap music’s founders, T.I., in 2018, the unassuming building on the outskirts of downtown Atlanta is packed with memorabilia and nods to the origins of trap. It aims for authenticity, with plenty of prop drugs and a recreation of T.I.’s closet that includes, among his Grammys and neatly pressed shirts, an array of glass-enclosed weapons. A female-focused exhibit spotlighting Cardi B and Nicki Minaj was introduced last year, and one of the museum’s prime photo spots is with the iconic pink car that 2 Chainz commissioned for the one-time tourist mecca, the Pink Trap House. The connected “Escape the Trap” escape room has also drawn thousands of thrill-seekers. 630 Travis St. NW Atlanta. trapmusicmuseum.us.

Lionel Hampton Park, named for the jazz musician, is in Atlanta.
Lionel Hampton Park, named for the jazz musician, is in Atlanta.

Credit: Yvonne Zusel/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Yvonne Zusel/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Lionel Hampton-Beecher Hills Park

The nature preserve is a combination of two parks, one named for nearby Beecher Hills School and the other in homage to musician Hampton. A career jazzman, the philanthropic Hampton worked with an array of fellow notables, including Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Quincy Jones. The 1.2-mile Lionel Hampton Trail is built on land previously owned by Hampton and given to the PATH Foundation; midway, it meets the Southwest Connector Trail, which is part of the BeltLine. 366 Willis Mill Road, Atlanta.

If you’re inclined to traverse the state in search of iconic musical touchstones:

Outside The Big House Museum in Macon, a shrine for fans of the Allman Brothers Band. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Outside The Big House Museum in Macon, a shrine for fans of the Allman Brothers Band. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Allman Brothers Big House Museum

Since 2009, the handsome 1904-built Tudor house has existed as a living testament to the band that defined Southern rock in the ’70s. The 6,000-square-foot house contains about 20 rooms filled with artifacts including instruments, photos and even the pool table once owned by Gregg Allman and Cher. 2321 Vineville Ave., Macon. 478-741-5551, thebighousemuseum.com.

Alan Jackson Highway

A five-mile stretch of 1-85 through Coweta County has borne the name of the Newnan-born country star since 2004. Jackson has said that the part of Newnan crossed by the Chattahoochee River inspired his 1993 hit, “Chattahoochee.”

The life-sized James Brown statue was dedicated in 2005, before the singer's death.
The life-sized James Brown statue was dedicated in 2005, before the singer's death.

Credit: Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Credit: Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau

James Brown statue

The life-sized statue of the Godfather of Soul stands downtown in his hometown of Augusta. Arriving in 2005 — Brown died the following year — the figure contains a “James Brown CAM,” which will take a photo and send immediately to your phone. 830 Broad St. (between James Brown Blvd. and 8th Street), Augusta.

Atlanta International Pop Festival marker

In 2012, the Georgia Historical Society unveiled a historical marker at the site of the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival, the second organized by renowned Atlanta concert promoter Alex Cooley. In 2017, a stretch of U.S. 41 was named Cooley-Conlon Highway for Cooley and concert promoter partner and friend, Peter Conlon. Marker located at Middle Georgia Raceway — 4015 U.S. Highway 41 North — in Byron.

Ma Rainey House and Blues Museum

Though she died at just 53 (in 1939), Gertrude “Ma” Rainey accomplished a lifetime of work as the “Mother of the Blues.” After she stopped touring in 1935, Rainey moved back to her Columbus hometown and her two-story house on Fifth Avenue now pays tribute to her life and career. 805 5th Ave, Columbus. 706-653-4960, exploregeorgia.org.

Otis Redding statue

Sitting in Gateway Park, guitar in hand and foot resting on a tree stump, the bronze statue of the R&B icon is adjacent to the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge, which connects to the Phil Walden Memorial Interchange. Walden, the co-founder of Capricorn Records, is another Macon treasure. MLK Jr. Boulevard at Riverside Drive, Macon.

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