Melvin Goins of the Goins Brothers, Lorrie Morgan and Jesse Keith Whitley in memory of Keith Whitley, Larnell Harris, John Michael Montgomery, Steve Wariner, and Patty Loveless are the 2011 Class of the KY Music Hall of Fame. By Jessica Bray

Kentucky’s finest musicians gathered at the Lexington Center in Lexington, Kentucky on Thursday night for the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Honorees included Patty Loveless, Steve Wariner, Larnell Harris, Molly O’Day, John Michael Montgomery, The Goins Brothers, and Keith Whitley. Chad Warrix started the event by singing a heartfelt rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The evening contained a blend of performances and stories by those honoring the inductees. In Keith Whitley’s honor, his son, Jesse Keith Whitley accepted on his behalf. He would also showcase his talent by singing Whitley’s hit tune, “My Amy.” In representing his dad, Jesse said, “there are no words to describe it. To be here amongst these guys and ladies I’ve looked up to being representing my daddy is a complete honor. I know he would be honored to be getting it to.”

Jesse Keith Whitley is currently making a name for himself in country music. “My biggest obstacle is showing that I’m not trying to ride the coat tails of mom and dad. I am my own person, but I’m not steering away from my heritage of where I come from. I want people to understand that I have my own style. Like my dad, I like my Harleys and ride my bikes with friends. I love having a good time.”

Patty Loveless would provide a haunting rendition of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” Audience members gave Loveless a standing ovation for the legendary performer who got her start by playing clubs in Louisville with her brother.

In being recognized for his talents, John Michael Montgomery has felt honored. “Over the years I’ve been blessed for hit songs that made it in both country and other genres. They were songs that were timeless. It is the best feeling of accomplishment to be recognized by my own state to be inducted into the KY Music Hall of Fame. To be honored, I don’t know if I never won another award, I know I’ve ended it all on a good note.”

Eddie Montgomery gave a very touching tribute in honor of his brother, John Michael Montgomery. Prior to the show, an emotional side of Eddie Montgomery said that John is, “the greatest singer, greatest guitar player, greatest brother, and greatest dad. This is the best thing to happen to him. He is definitely Mr. Kentucky and a country music legend. One thing people would be surprise to know about John Michael is that you couldn’t ask about a better friend. There are two things I believe in – the Bible and my brother. You can’t take either away from me.”

Legendary guitarist and songwriter Steve Wariner has been living a dream since he was younger. Being raised in Kentucky, he learned about making an honest living. When it comes to Kentucky, Steve said the best thing is “the roots, knowing the heritage that my mom and dad are from the same town just outside of Jamestown. I love visiting because dad would drive me around telling me stories, some over and over again.”

In leaving a legacy with his music, Wariner says, “I try to pick songs that will touch someone or will touch me. I try to pick the best songs I can make. To think that it will leave a legacy, it is an honor to think of it that it might. That is something you hope you achieve. It always touches me whenever someone says they enjoy a song, or it was played at a funeral. It’s an honor. I learned when I was little you can never dream too big. You keep working at it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. We didn’t have a lot growing up. Music was my savior and it got me out of trouble. I’m glad that God lead me down the road to music. I love it. I never got away from my roots even today. My mom is here tonight. That’s why this is so special to me tonight. This is my backyard, in fact I’m getting emotional talking about it, but it means a lot.”

Deep in the hills of eastern Kentucky, Molly O’Day, came from a coal mining family. She would go on to record 36 songs for Columbia Records from 1946 to 1951. She would be known for her hit songs “The Tramp on the Street,” “Don’t Sell Daddy Any More Whiskey,” and Hank Williams’ “The Singing Waterfall.” At the age of 29, she would devote her life to the Church of God. O’Day passed away in 1987, leaving a legacy behind for future generations, including Dolly Parton.

Without Bill Monroe, bluegrass music would not have existed. Thanks to folks like Melvin Goins of the Goins Brothers, that tradition is still alive. When he grew up, Goins wasn’t for sure what direction he was going to go. He wanted to go to school to be an attorney. Eventually he would trade four hens and a rooster for a guitar. In being inducted, Goins said, “it is the greatest thing that has happened to me in my life in all my years in bluegrass. That is the greatest music in the world. We’ve had some great entertainers that have come from this wonderful state of Kentucky – Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, Merle Travis, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, so many legends. I’m so glad that they picked the music up and expanded on it. I don’t think this good music will ever die. I thank the good Lord for blessing me to allow me to travel and play for people. I love it.”

Over time, there have been contemporary gospel singers that have made their start in Kentucky. Western Kentucky University graduate, Larnell Harris is very proud to where he is from. “I’m from Kentucky. This is like family. These are the kinds of things that my teachers told me about. If you took this award and cut it up into pieces, you wouldn’t have enough to give away to those that helped make me who I am.” The award winning icon has traveled all around the world spreading the good word about God through his soulful music. These days, he resides in Louisville with his family and continues to preach.

What exactly defines Kentucky music? John Michael Montgomery said that it was “the down heartedness of country artists I’ve worked with. We came from the grass roots and it shows in our music. Everybody that I’ve met from Kentucky, they’re really good class of people. That’s why I’m still living here.”

Jessica Bray has been a music journalist and historian for over 15 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite country music singers. She is a Kentucky Colonel, as well as a collector of Volkswagen and Gnome items.

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