The 15th class of inductees in the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame was recognized the night of March 25 at the Wilkes Heritage Museum in Wilkesboro, which houses and is responsible for the hall of fame.
With a sold-out crowd on hand, musical histories of the inductees were celebrated. The emcee was Art Menius, folk music radio promoter, artist manager and former MerleFest director.
Assisting Menius were Carol Rifkin, western North Carolina traditional artist, and Americana singer and guitarist Jim Trice of Wilkesboro.
Terry and Cindy Baucom introduced Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, 2023 nationally known artist inductees. Lawson joined the Baucoms, David Johnson, Eric Ellis and Scott Freeman on “Shenandoah Breakdown.” Lawson is a multi-instrumentalist best known as a singer and mandolin player. He was strongly influenced by the music of Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys on the Grand Ole Opry while growing up in Tennessee.
Wilkes native Donnie Story was presented the Dr. T. R. Bryan Wilkes Heritage Music Award. Friends and bandmates Billy Gee and Mel Jones talked about what Story has meant to the local music scene and how area artists appreciate his friendship. The Non Prophets and Tin Can Alley, bands led by Story, performed. Story said the evening was one of the greatest nights in his long career as a musician.
Pam Terrell, daughter of the late Dr. T. R. Bryan, spoke about her father’s love of the area’s musicians and how much their friendship meant to him.
Terry and Cindy Baucom told the audience about the late L.W. Lambert, inducted as master musician and tradition bearer. They shared some of his contributions as a banjo player, including his influence on other musicians. Lambert’s daughter, Melissa accepted the award on his behalf. Other family members were in the audience. Lambert was originally from southeastern Wilkes County.
The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame house band, Virginialina, played two numbers associated with Lambert’s legacy. Virginialina performed throughout the night in honor of or with inductees. Virginialina consists of David Johnson, Eric Ellis, Scott Freeman and Scott Gentry, all local or area artists.
“Hank” Van Hoy introduced The Cockman Family, gospel music inductee. The Cockman Family performed two numbers. The father of the group, John Sr. said it’s hard to believe they’ve been performing for 35 years. The Cockman Family, consisting of four brothers, a sister and father, is from Sherrills Ford. Van Hoy is a member of the family that hosted a bluegrass and old-time festival in Union Grove for decades,
Kelly Epperson, owner and managing director of WPAQ radio station in Mount Airy, spoke of the late Benton Flippen, pioneer artist inductee. Epperson said the Surry County fiddler was in the band that christened the radio station’s regionally known Studio A in 1948; was the first to perform live on the radio station; and was the first to be heard internationally from WPAQ thanks to the internet.
Willard Gayheart was this year’s sideman and regional musician inductee. Scott Freeman, his son-in-law, told the audience about Gayheart’s first guitar purchase with $3 he earned starting fires in coal-burning stoves each morning in his Kentucky school and how his musical career grew when he moved to the Galax, Va., areas. Gayheart joined Virginalina for a couple of numbers.
Sugar Hill Records founder Barry Poss, also was inducted Saturday. Poss discovered traditional music upon moving to Durham in 1968. He gave up seeking a doctorate in sociology for the recording industry. The Sugar Hill catalog is known for its bluegrass, folk, mountain blues and country recordings. Virginialina, joined by Lawson and Terry Baucom, played in his honor.
The event ended with the annual Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame jam, led by Purlear’s David Johnson of Virginialina.
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