The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame announced its incoming class for 2018 on Wednesday afternoon that includes country star Billy Ray Cyrus, gospel singer Jason Crabb, bluegrass artist Dale Ann Bradley, singer and songwriter Jackie DeShannon, comic and musician David “Stringbean” Akeman and country musician Bobby Lewis.
“This is one of the best classes we’ve had in years,” said the Hall of Fame’s manager Avery Bradshaw. “It’s a great way to celebrate our new administration and to honor some of the great musical talent in our state that have put an incredible amount of work into their craft over the years.”
The Hall didn’t induct a class this year due to financial struggles stemming from a former manager stealing money that left the current staff feeling they couldn’t be prepped for the ceremony in time.
▪ Of the incoming class, Billy Ray Cyrus boasts the biggest name recognition. A native of Flatwoods, Cyrus’ career took off in the early 1990s with the hit “Achy Breaky Heart,” which launched his career as a multi-platinum selling recording artist. Cyrus returned to the spotlight from 2006-11 as his daughter, Miley Cyrus, starred on her own Disney Channel show, “Hannah Montana,” along with Billy Ray, who played her dad.
▪ Beaver Dam’s Jason Crabb brings a flare of gospel and Christian music to the Hall of Fame class. He was the lead vocalist for The Crabb Family, prior to the group’s 2007 breakup. After going solo, Crabb signed with Spring Hill Music Group, releasing a self-titled record in June 2009 that won a Grammy in 2010 for best southern/country/bluegrass gospel album.
▪ Dale Ann Bradley has been honored by the International Bluegrass Music Association five times as Female Vocalist of the Year (2007-2009, 2011, 12). Born in southeastern Kentucky to a Baptist minister, Bradley didn’t receive her first guitar until she was 14. Bradley has performed solo and with the group New Coon Creek Girls, releasing 10 albums to date.
▪ Jackie DeShannon is known as one of the first female vocalists of rock ’n’ roll, best known as the voice behind “What the World Needs Now is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” DeShannon’s big break came in 1964 when she was a supporting act for The Beatles on their first U.S. tour. Also an accomplished songwriter, DeShannon wrote “Don’t Doubt Yourself” and “When You Walk in the Room,” popularized by The Byrds and The Searchers, respectively, along with partnering with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page on “Dream Boy” and “Don’t Turn Your Back on Me,” and co-writing the Kim Carnes hit “Bette Davis Eyes.”
▪ David Akeman, known to most as “Stringbean,” was a prolific banjo player known for his comedic demeanor along with his tall, slim figure that lent to his nickname. “Stringbean” was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and even performed with Bill Monroe, a member of the inaugural Kentucky Music Hall of Fame class, in the mid 1940s after meeting him while they both played semi-pro baseball. Akeman and his wife were murdered on Nov. 10, 1973, after returning to their Tennessee cabin following a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, where the killers had reportedly waited for hours.
▪ Hailing from Hodgenville, Bobby Lewis released a slew of country songs charting from 1966 to ’85, the most notable being “How Long Has it Been,” which peaked at No. 6 in 1966. Lewis is also known as being the only country artist to perform with a lute live and in studio, garnering him the pseudonym “The Boy with the Lute.” Lewis is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and continues to release new music, the most recent being 2015’s “Here I Am Again.”
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset on May 11, 2018.
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites