Music News & Reviews

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductees reminisce, accept honors

Exile members, from left: Les Taylor, Sonny Lemaire, Marlon Hargis, J.P. Pennington and Steve Goetzman posed for pictures before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Lexington Center Friday.
Exile members, from left: Les Taylor, Sonny Lemaire, Marlon Hargis, J.P. Pennington and Steve Goetzman posed for pictures before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Lexington Center Friday. Lexington Herald-Leader

The Kentucky Headhunters' Richard Young was drinking a cup of coffee at home in Metcalfe County one morning last year when he saw Kentucky Music Hall of Fame director Robert Lawson coming up his driveway.

"He walked up to the door and said, 'Why don't you ever answer your phone? ... We're going to induct you all into the Hall of Fame,'" Young recalled.

Standing in the lobby of Lexington Center with a stogie and a bourbon Friday night, Young and his bandmates were a long way from that amusing morning.

The Headhunters, along with Exile, The Hilltoppers, Skeeter Davis, Old Joe Clark, Emory and Linda Martin and Steven Curtis Chapman were inaugurated into the Hall of Fame on Friday night at a ceremony at the center's Bluegrass Ballroom.

For Don McGuire, a Hazard native and one of the original members of the Western Kentucky University-based Hilltoppers, the honor brought back memories of the quartet's heyday, when it was named the No. 1 group in the country in 1953.

"It's a thrill to know you're embraced in your own state," McGuire said before Friday's ceremony.

Sharing that sentiment were the members of country chart-toppers Exile, who said they were thrilled to be recognized with their friends in the Headhunters.

"Over the years we've tried to be good ambassadors for Kentucky, and now to have this given back to us, it means a lot," Exile member J.P. Pennington said. "We've had a lot of nice things happen to us over the years, but this is probably the best — top of the list."

In addition to the Hall of Fame inductions, several other honors were handed out Friday night, including the Danny R. Ford Distinguished Service Award going to Halfway to Hazard members Chad Warrix and David Tolliver and manager Josh J. Bleidt.

"These awards we're receiving tonight say a lot more about the people of Kentucky than just us," Tolliver said, receiving the honor for achievements including raising more than $600,000 for Kentucky charities.

Singer and songwriter Jackie DeShannon received the Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement.

"This is probably one of the most special things that's ever happened to me, being from Kentucky," said DeShannon, whose hits include Put A Little Love in Your Heart. Before Friday's ceremony, she recalled her roots singing in church in Hazel and said, "Getting the Governor's Award is a dream come true."

For McGuire, singing in church is all the singing he does now.

"I sing about eight bars and my voice is gone," he said with a laugh.

But on Friday night, everyone was singing the praises of his group and all the other inductees in a ceremony that included speeches, performances and video trips back in time.

Chapman did not attend the ceremony. Dave Baker, who co-emceed the show with DeAnn Stephens, told the crowd Chapman had a previous engagement.

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