The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame will induct the Class of 2018 on Friday, May 11, 2018 at 6 p.m. at Renfro Valley. Those being inducted are Billy Ray Cyrus, Stringbean, Jackie DeShannon, Jason Crabb, Dale Ann Bradley and Bobby Lewis. For more information, see the kentuckymusichalloffame.com. I plan to be at the celebration!
I wrote this story last summer for The Anderson News. Enjoy!
It’s almost impossible to measure what impact the state of Kentucky has had on the music industry but the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and museum is a place that tells the stories of singers, instrumentalists, song writers, and others from the state who have played even a small part in the rich and diverse music heritage the state enjoys.
Located on US 25, about a mile off I-75 and just past Renfro Valley, the Hall of Fame is one of those must-sees for anyone who has turned on a box radio, seen a concert or watched videos on MTV. It’s almost 20,000 square feet of honoring music in Kentucky.
Music. All kinds of music.
Whatever your taste, chances are there is something in the Hall of Fame honoring someone who has been successful in the business.
My wife and I made the trip to the Hall of Fame on July 29, spending a good portion of our afternoon with Hall of Fame manager Avery Bradshaw for a tour that was much more than we expected.
The Hall of Fame museum is housed in what was at one time a barn and stable owned by John Lair, who turned the Renfro Valley Barn Dance into a nationally known showcase for country music. The Lair family donated the building which is located just up the road from the Old Barn and New Barn at Renfro Valley. The restored building and an addition were opened in 2002.
But even with the heavy roots in country music, the Hall of Fame exists to honor anyone who has played a small part in Kentucky’s music heritage.
Is pop music your thing? There is a display paying homage to Kentucky natives Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Are the 60s your favorite music? Mary Travers, the Louisville native who made it big with Peter, Paul and Mary, is another inductee. So are The Everly Brothers, from Muhlenberg County.
Rhythm and Blues from the 50s? The Moonglows, who traced their origins to Louisville, were inducted the same year as Richardson and Littrell.
The list of inductees varies from saxophonist Boots Randolph (Paducah), to gospel singer Larnelle Harris (Danville) to singer and Owensboro native Florence Henderson, better known as TV supermom Carol Brady.
And, of course, being next to Renfro Valley, the country music roots are deep, whether it is inductees Grandpa Jones (from Henderson) or Loretta Lynn, from Butcher Holler in Johnson County. Woodford County native John Conlee, who grew up close to the Anderson County line, is a member of the Hall and there’s even a mention of Anderson County native William B. Houchin, a fiddler from nearly 100 years ago.
With such connection to country music, it would be easy to think the Hall of Fame simply honors those from the state who have made their name picking and grinning.
“That is probably the biggest thing we hear,” Bradshaw says of the misconception. “This started out as the Kentucky Country Music Hall of Fame, but Kentucky has had so much influence on rock-and-roll and jazz. Soon after it opened, the name changed.”
Bradshaw is only 20, but already has a wealth of experience in the music industry. The Mt. Vernon native is a banjo picker who has appeared at Renfro Valley and he’s also spent time as a disc jockey at Mt. Vernon radio station WRVK. In June, Bradshaw was in Lawrenceburg as part of his gig running the sound system for the gospel group His Heart when it appeared at Sand Spring Baptist Church.
For a while, the Hall of Fame had its own board but it has since been taken over by the Rockcastle County Tourist Commission which is giving the museum a major facelift. A true music lover could spend hours in the building and not digest it all.
Like most museums, there are interesting artifacts ranging from an old Bible used in the Brush Arbor Movement of 1824 to countless items from Renfro Valley to a dress worn by gospel star Dottie Rambo to an autographed drum that was played by the Kentucky Headhunters.
“We have a room for presentations to school groups,” says Bradshaw. There are several video presentations and interactive displays available.
The museum, in conjunction with the Daniel Boone Society, is preparing a display devoted to music and artifacts brought to Kentucky by the state’s earliest settlers. There is also a small area devoted to the impact of the religious revivals, such as Cane Ridge, in the early 1800s and also of how music developed in Kentucky after the Civil War.
A visitor can even take a seat in a rocking chair to pick a banjo during the visit.
Bradshaw said that entertainers playing at Renfro Valley are generally unable to have meet-and-greets or album and book promotions at the Hall of Fame due to contractual obligations but it is not unusual for some of them to make their way over to the museum. He said some members of Bluegrass band Dailey and Vincent recently stopped by before a show.
For this music lover, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame was a trip down memory lane. I saw mentions of childhood heroes such as Louisville’s Randy Atcher up to some of my recent favorites like Steve Wariner, a native of Russell Springs. But the tour was much more educational than I expected, with many of the explanations concerning artifacts and displays revealing unknown tidbits about an industry that Kentucky has influenced.
It was well worth the two hours my wife and I spent touring this little gem located about 75 miles from Lawrenceburg.
We could have spent two more.
If you go
The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame is located on U.S. 25, just north of Renfro Valley in Rockcastle County. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for those 60 and over, $7 for children 12-and-under with children under 5 admitted free. There are special rates for groups of 10 or more. School groups can also take advantage of discounted rates.
Photographs are welcomed but no video-taping is allowed.
For more information, see the kentuckymusichalloffame.com or see the organization’s Facebook page.