On November 4, 2010, the State of Mississippi recognized native son and renowned songwriter, Ben Peters with a marker along the Mississippi Country Music Trail. Although born in Greenville, the marker stands in Hollandale, where he was raised. Ben Peters blazed his own historic country music trail beginning with his first #1 hit, “Turn The World Around The Other Way,” recorded by Eddy Arnold in 1966. To date, his credits include 14 #1 hits and a string of awards including a 1972 Grammy (Best Country Song) for “Kiss An Angel Good Morning. In 1975, he was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association and inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980. At the height of his career, on average, a Ben Peters song played every six seconds! Understandably, he was honored with BMI’s Writer of the Century in 2000.
Peters’ rise to stardom was not an easy one. He learned music early by singing with the tenant farmers where he picked cotton. At thirteen, he started playing saxophone and by fourteen, he was performing at local clubs with a swing band. Even while earning his Bachelors of Business Administration degree from the Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) the music never stopped; although his heart did for a minute during those last few moments on campus when he met Jackie Macon, his future wife. Together 48 years, it was Jackie that encouraged him through the tough times and was the inspiration for many of his songs. The idea for his monster hit, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” was sparked when Jackie reminded Ben to “kiss his Angel good morning,” “Angel” being their daughter, Angela. Looking back on those times, Jackie comments, “I knew the talent he was given, and I told Ben to keep on keeping on. We worked a lot of jobs in the beginning including selling Christmas trees in Jackson. I’ll never forget those times.”
On March 1, 2010, the State of Mississippi introduced the Country Music Trail. Building on the success of the Mississippi Blues Trail, Mary Beth Wilkerson, Tourism director for the Mississippi Development Authority commented, “As we continue to spotlight the state’s slogan, ‘Birthplace of America’s Music,’ we are excited to unveil such a key element in that message, the Mississippi Country Music Trail.” Peters joins other country music notables on the trail including Jimmie Rodgers, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, and Faith Hill. Ben Peters is the fifth recipient and only songwriter included to this point.
Although the world lost Ben Peters in 2005, his music and legacy continues. Present to receive this honor on his behalf were his wife, Jackie Peters, his daughters, Angela Lauer and Deborah Peters Thomas and his son, Justin Peters. Also in attendance were noted radio personality Paul Ott, longtime friend, Shine Thornton and the Honorable Melvin L. Willis, Sr.