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Get Out of Town, | Jun 20, 2019

Hot spots

Driving tour a hit for John Mellencamp fans.

John Mellencamp performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on March 29, 2019. // Photo by Jay Cridlin/Tampa Bay Times

Settled in the town of Seymour, Indiana, is an interactive tribute to the humble beginnings of a global superstar. American rocker John Mellencamp, known for songs like “Pink Houses” and “Hurts So Good,” was born in Seymour, Indiana in 1951. An interactive driving tour now memorializes Mellencamp and the time he spent in the southern Indiana town. 


The tour, called “The Roots of an American Rocker: An Audio Driving Tour of John Mellencamp’s Hometown,” started as a brochure and was eventually adapted into a CD, said Jane Hays, the public relations manager at the Jackson County Visitor Center. 

The tour features 14 stops, each of which are significant to Mellencamp’s life and career. The buildings can be recognized by anyone watching Mellencamp music videos, or perhaps his movie debut “Falling from Grace,” but Jackson County Visitor Center Executive Director Arann Banks said the tour is mainly a hit for hardcore Mellencamp fans. 

“We’ve had people from all over the country that come in to pick it up,” she said. 

The popularity of the driving tour ebbs and flows with what Mellencamp is doing, as visitors tend to increase when he’s touring, Hays said. More fans from overseas, particularly from Australia, visit when Mellencamp is on tour. 


The tour came about at the request of fans who wanted to be where John had been in the town, so the locations are those that are meaningful to Mellencamp, Hays said.   

“We just wanted to give them something they could put their hands on so they could be a part of our town and John’s history here,” Hays said. 

According to his official website, John Mellencamp started his professional career as Johnny Cougar at the request of his manager, who believed no one would buy an album from someone with the name “Mellencamp.” Many of the stops on the tour are locations seen in his music videos. 


Hardcore Mellencamp fans that flock to the area come in hoping to see or get in touch with the singer, Banks said. But for locals, the experience is like that of any town with a local celebrity. 

“To us, it’s just the guy that lived here and this is where he went to school, the same school thousands of us went to school to. But for Mellencamp fans though, that’s really fascinating for them,” she said. 


Along with directions on how to get from place to place in Seymour, the CD also includes interviews from people in Mellencamp’s life. The interviews featured in the CD are meaningful to fans because they know who the people are, Hays said. People like his mother and high school girlfriend, who he wrote the song “To M.G. (Wherever She May Be)” about, are among those you can hear from on the tour, Hays said.  

Hays said it was cool listening to the making of the CD, as she got to sit in on the interviews. Many interviewees shared memories they had of Mellencamp in Seymour. 

“The side of him that you see on TV and in concert is not the side that people around here see,” she said.

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