Ongoing Exhibits: Carolina in My Mind: The James Taylor Story

Letters, Early Report Cards, James' Drawings and Poems

James Taylor and guitar

A comprehensive exhibition of the life and works of James Taylor, one of Chapel Hill's greatest favorite sons. The exhibit includes the actual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Trophy, his grammy for the "Hourglass" album, photographs, and documents from his early life in Chapel Hill. It also includes a video documentary in the new James Taylor Theatre.

Our exhibit Carolina in My Mind: The James Taylor Story was more than two years in the making. Created with Mr. Taylor's blessing, it includes memorabilia from James Taylor's life in Chapel Hill and beyond.

Former museum director Morgan Kenney visited Taylor's mother, Gertrude "Trudy" Taylor, at her home on Martha's Vineyard to choose photographs and other images and objects from James' past, especially in Chapel Hill or more specifically, his young life along Morgan Creek. The exhibit includes childhood photos from the Taylor home on Morgan Creek, songbooks, Taylor's Grammy award, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trophy, North Carolina Art medal, even his seventh-grade report card.

This exhibit includes a new, permanent feature of the museum. The James Taylor Documentary Theatre, a video media center, will feature James' interviews and concerts during the exhibit and documentaries and history related subjects into the future.

In the future, the theatre will allow museum visitors to enjoy DVD presentations about museum exhibits, documentaries on Southern Culture, local and regional histories, and special movie nights, starting with a video about the life of James Taylor.

Who is James Taylor?

James Taylor is a singer/songwriter who has earned 40 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards for his songs and albums. He's a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and has received Billboard magazine's Century Award for distinguished creative achievement.

In 1971, Time magazine featured him on its cover and called him the harbinger of the singer/songwriter era.

Some of his most well-known songs include "Fire and Rain," "Country Road," "Something In The Way She Moves," "Mexico," "Shower the People," "Walking Man," "Sweet Baby James," "Never Die Young," "Copperline," and of course, "Carolina In My Mind."

Life in Chapel Hill

Born in Boston in 1948, James Taylor came to Chapel Hill with his family when he was three years old. He began writing music in the mid 1960's while a student at a New England boarding school, far removed from his family and friends in Chapel Hill. He eventually graduated from Chapel Hill High School. Isaac Taylor, James' late father, was for a time Dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school.

The James Taylor Bridge over Morgan Creek

The recently-dedicated James Taylor Bridge spans Morgan Creek, down a steep slope from the house on Morgan Creek Road in Chapel Hill where James grew up. The museum lobbied the state to name the bridge in Mr. Taylor's honor.

(Text below is excerpted from an article by David Perlmutt of the Charlotte Observer and life-long friend of James and the Taylor family. Thanks to Mr. Perlmutt for allowing us to reprint portions of his article here)

Morgan Creek, down a steep slope from the former 11-room Taylor home on Morgan Creek Road, was mostly wooded and overgrown when Taylor was a boy. It crawled with snakes and lizards and poison ivy, with few houses in sight atop the slopes above.

Years later, "the creek" - as it was simply known - inspired the hit song "Copperline," which Taylor wrote with Duke University professor and author Reynolds Price.

The refrain goes: "Half a mile down to Morgan Creek, Leaning heavy on the end of the week, Hercules (the family dog) and a hog-nosed snake, Down on Copperline, We were down on Copperline."

Before co-writing the song, Taylor visited his old home and found "spec houses" lining the hills that overlook the creek.

As the song continues: "I tried to go back, as if I could, All spec houses and plywood, Tore up and tore up good, Down on Copperline."

Chapel Hill Influences

Many of Taylor's confessional songs provide glimpses of his abundant boyhood surroundings. In a 2000 interview with The Charlotte Observer, he attributed much of his creative energy to those surroundings.

"What I remember most about Chapel Hill is the landscape," he said shortly before his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "I tell my kids that we were pre-TV and there was a lot of empty time there, slow weekends when you just walked into the woods and found whatever you could to kill time.

"There was this long, uninterrupted time to let your imagination grow. I believe that was an important part of whatever creative life I've had."

Full text of Mr. Perlmutt's article from the Charlotte Observer

A detailed chronology of Mr. Taylor's life, comprehensive lists of albums, singles, and song origins, and other information is available on the FAQ page of the unofficial James Taylor online fan site at

(919) 967-1400 / fax (919) 967-6230
523 East Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27514