Friday night, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inducted six members of the music community into their prestigious Hall of Fame. David ‘Stringbean’ Akeman, Dale Ann Bradley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jason Crabb, Jackie DeShannon, and Bobby Lewis were part of the 2018 class. The ceremony took place at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, which sits next door to the Hall of Fame and Museum.
On Thursday night, a special VIP dinner with the inductees and community members took place at the museum. It was then that the individual cases of memorabilia were revealed to the inductees. Historic memorabilia reflected on each inductee – Stringbean’s rabbit hunting gun, Dale Ann Bradley’s first hymnal, the shoes that Billy Ray Cyrus wore in ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ video, Jason Crabb’s Grammy awards, Jackie DeShannon’s touring posters, and one of Bobby Lewis’s stage costumes that his wife made.
For the ceremony on Friday night, a video biography was presented before each inductee spoke about their love of being from Kentucky and their induction into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Each would then go to perform a few selections that reflected upon their catalog of music.
Opening the ceremony were the Martin Family Circus of Winchester and Kentucky Just Us of Greensburg. The young talented singers really showed off their musical skills and provide an inside look at what Kentucky’s musical future is all about.
For Bobby Lewis, he noted, “what a great honor to be here at Renfro Valley on one of the most famous stages ever and be with all of my friends. I cannot tell you how much this means to me. I got into the country music business and had many hits thanks to people like you. Without the audience and the fans, there would be no stars in country music.”
Up on stage, Dale Ann Bradley was overcome with emotion in receiving the honor. According to Dale Ann, “When I received the call that this was happening, I was breathless. I was honored and humbled at the same time. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to play music, to make a living, and to make friends. Kentucky has been so blessed in all genres. If you look into the inductees into the Hall of Fame, so many styles of music. It comes out of these hills and these hollers and it’s born in our hearts.”
Jason Crabb was full of positive energy and light, even on the day that he said goodbye to his grandma that morning. “It sure is good to be a Kentuckian. To be up here today, on this wonderful journey that God has allowed me, my parents did the very best that they possibly could. One of the greatest things that they have taught me is honor and respect. Honor the Lord with all thy heart and respect people.”
In lieu of Billy Ray Cyrus’ absence due to movie filming, his cousin, Bobby Cyrus, took to the stage to accept on his behalf. He played a short video of Billy Ray apologizing for not being in person to accept the Induction award.
From opening for the Beatles, to writing hit songs including “Bette Davis Eyes” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon has been a real ambassador of Kentucky through her music across multiple genres. While wearing a beautiful blue ballgown, Jackie DeShannon accepted her Induction Award on stage. “This is a wonderful organization and I’m honored to be a part of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.” Prior to the ceremony, she indicated that she was in awe of her fellow inductees and the music that has been created for generations from Kentucky.
The final inductee for the evening was David “Stringbean” Akeman, who was posthumously awarded. On his behalf, was nephew Phillip Akeman speaking and performing alongside his son and grandson. On stage, Phillip spoke about several stories of Stringbean and his humor over the years, as well as his friendship with Grandpa Jones. “He would be tickled to death and so proud of this honor. He’s just an old mountain boy who had a dream to go to the Grand Ole Opry,” Phillip mentioned before the ceremony. Any Kentuckian that performed at the Opry, Stringbean always took the time to talk to them. In his honor, every year in June, the Stringbean Memorial Bluegrass Festival is held in Jackson County.
Three special awards were presented last night along with the inductions. Don Evans’s family were presented with the Unbridled Spirit Award. Don purchased Renfro Valley in the early 2000s to make sure that its legacy would continue to grow. Don and his wife Verra looked over the property for many years until their death. He passed away just 10 days after his wife passed away. Last night’s ceremony was a true marriage of Renfro Valley and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame with their combined efforts in preserving Kentucky’s musical heritage.
The Outstanding Service Award was presented to Steve Estes of Rockcastle Regional Hospital. He was recognized for their contributions with the Hall of Fame events and ceremonies over the years.
Exile were recognized for 55 years in the entertainment business with the Milestone Award. The 2013 Hall of Fame inductees spoke highly of the board of directors and employees. They also thanked the audience for the support over the years as they hope to make it to 60 years in the business.
At the conclusion of the evening, Jason Crabb and Dale Ann Bradley lead the audience into a sweet soulful rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” With the latest list of inductees, it is proof that the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame’s circle will never be unbroken.
Be sure to discover the musical history on display at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Renfro Valley, Kentucky. For more information, be sure to check out www.kentuckymusichalloffame.com.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.