Thursday, May 11, 2017

NASCAR in the South, Part Five: May 11, 2017--The Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports and Kannapolis

Another full program was in store as we rolled off to Kannapolis, North Carolina for the day.  First stop was the Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports, a rather odd combination on the face of it but there was a good explanation.

Mike Curb, who was born in 1944 and lives in Nashville, has had a very interesting and varied career.  Leaving college at 19, he started his own record company which became instrumental in launching a number of successful acts on the West Coast, including the Stone Poneys (which featured Linda Ronstadt).  He became President of MGM Records following a merger and composed scores for more than 50 films and wrote some 400 songs.  He formed his own musical group, the Mike Curb Congregation, which had a hit song "Burning Bridges" in 1971 and the singers were weekly regulars on the popular Glen Campbell television program.  In addition, the Mike Curb Congregation was also featured on the huge 1972 Sammy Davis Jr. hit "the Candy Man."  Curb wrote and produced songs for many of the big acts in the 1970s, including Roy Orbison, the Osmonds, and Lou Rawls.

His career took an unusual turn when, after being encouraged by Ronald Reagan, Curb ran for office and was elected Lieutenant-Governor of California in 1979, serving until 1983.  A motorsport enthusiast, he is currently a team co-owner (Curb Agajanian Performance Group) but has an impressive history in NASCAR, being the only owner to win in all 10 NASCAR auto racing series in the United States.  As a sponsor, his drivers have included Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.  In 2011, Curb's team won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon at the wheel.

Car in which Richard Petty had win No. 199

Dirt track racing cars

Winning car, 2011 Indianapolis 500

As a record company executive, Mike Curb has worked with many of the big names in popular music and the museum includes the Dodge Viper that Leann Rimes bought when working with him (when she was only 12 years old!).  

The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame was in financial straits when Curb rescued it and provided space in his museum, so the collection not only covers his stable of entertainers but musicians who have come from the state or where it has had a big impact on their careers.  Displays, including costumes, records and personal effects, were devoted to people like Roy Clark, Ray Stevens, Patsy Cline, Andy Griffith, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Kenny Rogers, and many others.  We met an old musician who had performed blues and he chatted with us about his life.  A walk down Memory Lane...

Billy "Crash" Craddock

Andy Griffith, who began his career as a gospel singer

Kannapolis, located around 35 kms from Charlotte, has an interesting history.  It was the location of an enormous textile mill owned by the Cannon Manufacturing Company, founded in 1888, and which, by 1924, had become the world's largest producer of textiles.  The town, which was founded in 1906 but only incorporated in 1984, was created from housing that the company constructed for its workers.  It was thought that naming the town with a "K" rather than a "C" was more stylish but still recognized the contribution of the company.  By 2003 the company, which continued to own downtown Kannapolis, was bankrupt.  Soon afterwards, the mill (covering an area the size of the Pentagon) was torn down and in 2008 the North Carolina Research Center, a public-private institute, was opened.

North Carolina Research Center
Kannapolis has a population of around 47,000, but one would never have guess this from the original downtown area.  It has many fine buildings, most in excellent condition, but almost all are vacant.  Needless to say, parking our fleet of Corvettes was not much of a problem.

Having arrived early after our visit to the nearby Curb Museum, we wandered the totally empty streets and then rested for a while in the Dale Earnhardt Plaza, named after the town's most famous son.  Dale Earnhardt Sr. was born here in 1951 (Dale Jr. was also born in the town, in 1974) and decided early on that racing was far more preferable to working at the Cannon Mills plant.  The local A-level baseball team is named "The Intimadators" after his nickname and the square where we sat featured an impressive bronze statue of the local hero, who died in a crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001.

Our day in Kannapolis concluded with an excellent buffet dinner at the oddly-named Restaurant Forty-Six, an upscale place whose moniker comes from the number of chromosomes in the human body.  The science theme continues with quotations by famous scientists stencilled on the walls, a salute to the nearby research center.

Restaurant Forty-Six
Continue on to Part Six here...

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