The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame is proud to announce its inductees for 2011.

The living inductees are Kathy Mattea, Connie Smith, Billy Cox and Butch Miles.
The deceased inductees are Diamond Teeth Mary, Jack Rollins and Tommy Thompson.

“The class of 2011 includes seven unique West Virginia musicians who have made lasting contributions to American music,” said Michael Lipton, Director of the WV Music Hall of Fame. “The fourth ‘class’ of inductees continues the Hall of Fame’s mission to recognize these outstanding artists. Once again, choosing just seven inductees was not an easy task for the voting committees.”

The ceremony honoring the seven inductees will take place October 15, 2011 at the Culture Center Theater. “As in the past, there be an interesting cast of presenters at next year’s event,” Lipton added. “We have a year to plan for this event and look for it to be the most exciting to date.”

For information about the inductees or the WVMHoF, please call the WVMHoF office: 304/342-4412; or email mlipton@gmail.com.

 
Diamond Teeth Mary McClain
Click on a photo for a larger version.
 

Deceased:

“Diamond Teeth” Mary McClain
Huntington (Cabell County)

Mary Smith McClain, known through her career as “Walking Mary” and later “Diamond Teeth Mary,” was a blues singer and entertainer. The sister of legendary singer Bessie Smith, she spent the 1920s and 1930s performing in a variety of medicine and minstrel shows. She toured with the USO and sang at the Apollo Theater, the Cotton Club, and at the White House, where her show-stopping charisma received standing ovations. She shared bills from Boston to Miami with her sister Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Nat King Cole, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Levon Helms mentions seeing her perform at a medicine show in the 1940s in his biography, and refers to her as “The Lady with the Million Dollar Smile” in The Band song “W.S. Walcott’s Medicine Show.” She continued to perform until her death at the age of 97, appearing at blues festivals with the likes of Derek Trucks, Robert Cray, and Jeff Healey.

   

Walter E. “Jack” Rollins, Keyser (Mineral)

Along with his writing partner Steve Nelson, Rollins wrote two of the most popular children’s songs of all time, “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “Frosty the Snowman.” Rollins also wrote “Smokey the Bear” for the public-service mascot Smokey Bear, and co-wrote many country songs including the No. 1 hit “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” for Hank Snow and “A Prison Without Walls,” a Top 10 hit for Eddy Arnold. His songs have been recorded by artists including Fred Astaire, Martina McBride, Dinah Washington, Henry Mancini, The Carpenters, Nat King Cole, Gene Autry, Rosemary Clooney, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Kenny G and ’08 WVMHoF inductee Frankie Yankovic.


Tommy Thompson

 

Tommy Thompson, St. Albans (Kanawha)

After a stint as a Coast Guard officer in New Orleans where he heard many of the great old time jazz players and was introduced to Cajun music, Thompson entered the graduate program in Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963. He divided his time between five-string banjo and academia. In 1966, he formed the Hollow Rock String Band which became a seminal force in the folk revival of that time. After Hollow Rock dissolved, Thompson continued to perform locally and at fiddlers’ conventions, including the prestigious gathering at Union Grove, NC, where he took first prize in the World Champion Old Time Banjo contest in 1971. That same year, he co-founded the original Red Clay Ramblers, which he anchored for 22 years during which the band toured North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa doing four U.S. State Department tours. In 1974, the Ramblers began its long involvement with American musical theatre, writing and performing a number of off-Broadway plays. The Ramblers’ music was also featured on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” in Sam Shepard’s film “Far North,” and on TV shows including “Northern Exposure” and “Ryan’s Hope.” Thompson also wrote and performed an acclaimed one-man show about American blackface minstrelsy, “The Last Song of John Proffit.” In 1995, the North Carolina Folklore Society honored Thompson with its coveted Brown-Hudson Folklore Award and the Orange County, NC, Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in his honor.

 
Billy Cox
 

Living:

Billy Cox, Wheeling (Ohio)

Although Noel Redding is the better known of Jimi Hendrix’s two bassists, Billy Cox knew – and played with Hendrix – longer. As a member of the King Kasuals, the two traveled the fabled “Chitlin’ Circuit.” After Hendrix relocated to New York City – where he was discovered by ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler – and plans were made for him to put a band together in England, he asked Cox to go along. Cox declined and continued to back R&B acts passing through the area. When the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in mid-1969, Hendrix called Cox and they went on to play Woodstock (as “Gypsys, Suns, and Rainbows”) and record. Cox also played a series of legendary shows with Hendrix and the late Buddy Miles as the “Band of Gypsys.” After Hendrix’s death, Cox played for a time with the Charlie Daniels Band. Following that he continued to do sessions and club dates including some legendary performances of Hendrix tunes with Stevie Ray Vaughan. More recently, Cox reunited with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and guitarist Gary Serkin and performed a series of shows under the name “Gypsy Sun Experience.” Recognizing his contribution to rock music, the Cort Company released the Billy Cox “Freedom” model bass.


Kathy Mattea
 

Kathy Mattea, Cross Lanes (Kanawha)

In the mid- to late-’80s, Kathy Mattea was one of the most respected female country stars and a successful hit maker who brought elements of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and singer/songwriter intimacy to her music. In 1976, while attending WVU, Mattea joined the bluegrass band Pennsboro. Two years later, she dropped out of school and moved to Nashville. She landed a deal with Mercury Records in 1983 but it wasn’t until her third effort, 1986’s “Walk the Way the Wind Blows,” that she broke through critically and commercially. Her 1989 album, “Willow in the Wind,” became her first gold record on the strength of the No. 1 hits “Burnin’ Old Memories” and “Come From the Heart,” and the No. 2 “She Came From Fort Worth.” In addition, the album’s Top Ten “Where’ve You Been,” co-written by Mattea’s husband Jon Vezner and Don Henry, won a Grammy for “Best Female Country Vocal.” In the early ’90s, Mattea predated many of her peers when she made several trips to Scotland to study the links between country music and traditional Scottish folk. The 1993 gospel-oriented Christmas record “Good News” won a Grammy for “Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album.” In 2008, Mattea released a CD titled “Coal,” and took a controversial stand on mountaintop removal. Mattea remains one of WV’s most revered musicians.


Butch Miles
 

Charles J. “Butch” Miles, Hinton (Summers)

Technically, Butch Miles was born in Ironton, OH, while his mother was visiting relatives in Russell, KY, over the Fourth of July holidays. However, his mother quickly returned to Hinton where Butch was raised. A top-shelf jazz/big band drummer for decades, Miles’ resume includes playing with luminaries ranging from Count Basie (he was an integral part of the band for many years), Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dave Brubeck and Mel Torme to Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Zubin Mehta and Itzhak Perlman. Miles conducts jazz clinics at universities and high schools, continues to record and plays frequently at jazz festivals around the globe. Miles is both a skilled technician and a fiery player whose solos are nothing short of spectacular.


Connie Smith
 

Connie Smith, Born in Elkhart, IN,
grew up in Hinton (Summers)

A country singer and Grand Ole Opry member, Connie Smith may be best known for her 1964 hit “Once a Day” – written especially for her by country star Bill Anderson – which spent eight weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country music charts, the longest of any female country music artist in history. Often compared to Patsy Cline, she is still considered by many to be one of the best and most underrated vocalists in country history. Her string of hits continued until late 1968 with “Then and Only Then,” “If I Talk to Him,” “Ain’t Had No Lovin’,” and “The Hurtin’s All Over.” After working non-stop on the road, in films, and on The Lawrence Welk Show, Smith changed courses, devoting herself to family and religion. Subsequent hits included “You and Your Sweet Love,” “I Never Once Stopped Loving You,” “Just One Time,” “Just What I Am,” “If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone),” and “Love is the Look You’re Looking For.” She is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album to be released in 2011. The project, recorded at historic RCA Studio B, was produced by Smith’s husband Marty Stuart and is expected out in August 2011 to celebrate her 70th Birthday. Smith continues to perform with the Grand Ole Opry and remains a country icon.