MEC hears from Belmont's McAnally

JACKSON – Mac McAnally, eight times in a row selected the Country Music Association’s musician of the year, credits his hometown of Belmont in Tishomingo County for any success he has had as a singer/songwriter.

McAnally spoke of his Northeast Mississippi heritage and performed Thursday during the annual meeting of the Mississippi Economic Council at the Jackson Convention Complex.

During a conversation with Scott Waller, MEC’s executive vice president, in front of about 2,000 attendees, McAnally said he was shocked and honored that the state’s chamber of commerce would want to hear from him.

“I am a very proud Mississippian, but it never occurred to me that Mississippi might be proud back,” said McAnally, who has written songs and performed with some of the biggest names in the recording industry.

For a person interested in the arts, “This dirt we grow up in provides great benefits,” McAnally said.

Regardless of where he is performing, such as Australia and New Zealand recently with fellow Mississippian Jimmy Buffett of Pascagoula, McAnally told the MEC crowd, he always speaks highly of his home state.

He joked, though, that he would have been less surprised to receive “a cease and desist” than an invitation to speak to the Mississippi Economic Council annual meeting, attended by the state’s business and political leaders.

McAnally credited his father, a school teacher, and his mother, “a gospel piano player,” for any success he has had. He said two or three times a week people with a wide range of musical instruments, ranging from dulcimers to saxophones, would come to his house to play.

He said every day, as he was leaving for school, his mother would tell him “to make use of yourself.”

McAnally, age 59, said he is “blessed” to get to try to make use of himself with a guitar every day.

In addition to hearing from McAnally, the MEC membership also played tribute to outgoing President Blake Wilson, who is stepping down in the coming weeks after 19 years leading the organization.