Young Singer Stepping Into the Spotlight

Charleston Daily Mail

Review of "Always Lift Him Up: A Tribute To Blind Alfred Reed"

Mojo

Mountain State's Musical Masters Captivate at Hall of Fame Ceremony

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Greatness Glorified - WV Music Hall of Fame Honors Its First Inductees

Charleston Gazette


"Wondrous Sounds Combining in Wondrous Ways"

Charleston Gazette

Report on the first 10 inductees chosen for the Music Hall of Fame

WV Public Broadcasting

Special on the recording of the Blind Alfred Reed tribute CD

WV Public Television

Unsung in his home state: Blind Alfred Reed tribute CD

Click here for a pdf of a Charleston Daily Mail article from December 21, 2006

City Joins Plan to Create West Virginia Music Hall of Fame
Mayor Offers Temporary Space at Former Junior High School

Charleston Daily Mail

Off on the Right Note

Charleston Daily Mail

City Council Wants State Music Hall of Fame

The Charleston Gazette

Click here for a pdf from Sing Out magazine

West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Celebrates State’s Most Talented Musicians

The Lincoln Standard

In his forties when discovered by Victor A&R man Ralph Peer in 1927, Alfred Reed was a fiddle-playing preacher eking out a meagre living writing hymns about daily life in West Virginia. From mining disasters to the decline of morality, he was an unusually enlightened early protest singer, as Ry Cooder recognised in his 1970 cover of How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live, which helped trigger modern interest in his work. Tim O’Brien, his sister Mollie, Kathy Mattea, Charlie McCoy, Little Jimmy Dickens and other fellow Virginians have lovingly constructed a colourful celebration of Reed’s extraordinary songs: the wonder of a new-fangled invention (Todd Burge’s The Telephone Girl), a censorious view of fashion (Ann Magnuson’s Why Do You Bob Your Hair, Girls?) and the equality of man (Bare Bones’ There’ll Be No Distinction There). Glorious.
Colin Irwin
 

MOUNTAIN STATE'S MUSICAL MASTERS CAPTIVATE AT HALL OF FAME CEREMONY

Publication: BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH
Byline: BILL ARCHER & BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH STAFF

CHARLESTON — In a span of two hours, more than a century of West Virginia musical excellence strolled across the stage of the state Cultural Center Friday, pausing briefly to accept the accolades of a grateful audience in the inaugural Induction Ceremony of the West
Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

"I have received many honors, but I will treasure this one most of all," Mercer County native Hazel Dickens said as she accepted the wood and metal trophy that represented the physical manifestation of an award that Dickens earned through years of recounting the story of her humble West Virginia origins again and again and again.

The Hall of Fame represented an eclectic group, ranging from the intensely cerebral compositions of classical composer George Crumb of Charleston to the more whimsical popular and country works of Billy Edd Wheeler and Little Jimmy Dickens. The two-hour presentation ceremony that was broadcast live by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, was filled with eyebrow-raising revelations about the music produced in the Mountain State and ear-pleasing offerings from some of the nation's best performers adding their polish to the musical gems that shine brightly in the West Virginia firmament.

All five living honorees — Little Jimmy Dickens of Bolt, Hazel Dickens of Montcalm, Wheeler of Whitesville, Crumb of Charleston and Bill Withers of Slab Fork attended the ceremony. Deceased recipients included Mercer and Summers county's own, Blind Alfred Reed, jazz sax innovator, Leon "Chu" Berry of Wheeling, Chuck Berry's piano man, Johnnie Johnson of Fairmont, dancing fiddle player Clark Kessinger of Clay County and sweet gospel songstress, Molly O'Day of Huntington.

The list of presenters were equally impressive and included music
folklorist and folk musician Mike Seeger, West Virginia mandolin player Tim O'Brien, well-known keyboard artist Bob Thompson, Grammy-winning singer/fiddle player Alison Krauss, Gov. Joe Manchin, Grammy Award-winning performer Kathy Mattea, "Goldenseal" editor John Lilly, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra Maestro Grant Cooper, vocalist Mollie O'Brien and star of stage, television and movies, Lou Myers.

The total experience was enough to prompt host, Charleston native Ann Magnuson, to let out an enormous yell at one point coming out of a brief broadcast signature break in the PBS broadcast. After the show, Magnuson, 51, of Charleston, one of the stars of "Panic Room," and an accomplished actress in her own right with screen credits going back more than a quarter century, appeared almost star struck when she asked anyone to use her camera and take a picture of her with Withers.

The entire production was smooth and polished, owing to the exacting standard of detail applied by Michael Lipton, executive producer of the television production, but more importantly, the driving force behind the creation of the state Music Hall of Fame. Lipton, well known statewide as the guitar player with the popular Carpenter Ants, has a passion for preserving the state's musical heritage. In the public reception following the production, Lipton was swamped with congratulatory hugs and handshakes. Lipton, Don Dixon, Tim O'Brien, Robert Shafer, Ammed Solomon and Bob Thompson formed the stage band for the production.

The ceremony itself was filled with show-stopping performances including Tim O'Brien's performance of the Little Jimmy Dickens classic, "I'm Little but I'm Loud." Of Course, Little Jimmy stole the moment by stating that he is, "So short that every time I pull my socks up, I blindfold myself." Alison Krauss' heartfelt introduction of Hazel Dickens, and then Dickens' performance of her own composition, "West Virginia, My Home," with Ms. Dickens' pure mountain leads fleshed out by Tim and Mollie O'Brien's harmonies tugged at the audience's heart strings and brought the crowd to its feet in appreciation.

Seventy-four year old Billy Edd Wheeler kicked up his heels and danced with Kathy Mattea, after she introduced him. "To me, this is heaven," Wheeler said and paused. "Or at least as close as I'll ever get to it."

George Crumb's piano performance of a song he composed for his wife, sung by his daughter, one-time Tony Award nominee, Ann Crumb, a well-known figure in the Broadway musicals.

Myers, who has been a character actor figure in movies like "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," and on TV with "A Different World" and "The Cosby Show," drew on his Cabin Creek roots in his introduction of Slab Fork native Bill Withers. After Withers' gave his acceptance speech that included his childhood recollections of how the music of the mountains wasn't bounded by the segregation he lived in his native Slab Fork. "You can go to other places, but you can't leave West Virginia," he said.

Presenters and honorees joined together on stage to sing Withers' masterpiece, "Lean on Me." Mattea took the opening lead and sang the first verse, Ann Crumb sang a powerful lead on the second chorus and Tim O'Brien sang the last verse before Mattea brought it home and the group of presenters and honorees.

As the Cultural Center crowd packed the great hall for the reception, Withers lingered near the stage and was the last of the honorees to leave the stage area. He spoke with friends, honored the requests of autograph seekers and graciously — if not humbly — greeted people who only wanted to shake his hand. He politely signed programs, books and even the cover of one of his early 78 rpm albums. "I can't believe you've kept this," he said to the young man who asked Withers to autograph the tattered album cover. He seemed surprised when the young man responded that it was something he treasured. "What the Hall of Fame committee has done here this evening has been a wonderful thing," Withers said. "It means so much to me." He said he was glad to be honored in the first class of inductees.

Rod Watkins is chair of the Hall board of directors and Josh Barrett is vice chair. Other board members include Ricklin Brown, Todd Burge, Pam Curry, Tim George, John Lilly, Lipton, Tim O'Brien, Andy Ridenour, Frank Venezia, Tony Shepherd, Norm Steenstra, Michelle Wolford, Craig Ellis and Becky Bolt who serves as secretary.

Manchin got the opportunity to present the award to Frances Johnson, the widow of fellow Marion County native Johnnie Johnson. "I'm so proud of the state of West Virginia," Manchin said. As he exited through the reception, Manchin paused to speak with several of the people who lingered as if spellbound by the event they witnessed that evening. Manchin started his week out at the Veterans Day Parade in Welch on Monday, took a mid-week trip to Washington, D.C., to honor West Virginia senior statesman, U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., for his 90th birthday and closing a busy week at the Hall of Fame ceremony.

"It was a perfect start and a perfect end to the week," Manchin said.

 

 
GREATNESS GLORIFIED
MUSIC HALL OF FAME HONORS ITS FIRST INDUCTEES

Publication: CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Byline: ERIC EYRE

Nobody played the piano quite like Johnnie Johnson. Johnson learned to play by ear as a young boy growing up in Fairmont. The neighbors would rustle him awake at night and sneak him out of his house to an after-hours joint where he'd perform. There was drinking and dancing and a whole lot of piano music.

"His was a blues that touched you to the core of your soul," said Johnson's daughter, Connie Johnson Whiting. "He and his music were inseparable."

On Friday night, Johnson, who died two years ago, was one of 10 artists inducted into the first class of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. More than 420 people attended the ceremony at the state Cultural Center in Charleston. Singer/actress Ann Magnuson, a Charleston native, hosted the event.

Living inductees were: composer George Crumb; country singer Little Jimmy Dickens; songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler; folk artist Hazel Dickens; and R&B singer Bill Withers.

The other five inductees, all deceased, were: Johnson; saxophonist Leon "Chu" Berry; old-time fiddler Clark Kessinger; pioneering singer Molly O'Day and singer/songwriter Blind Alfred Reed.

The evening featured musical performances by Kathy Mattea, George and Ann Crumb, Tim and Mollie O'Brien, and the Nichols family.

All of the artists inducted into the music hall were either from West Virginia or have strong ties to the state.

Friday night's oldest inductee was Little Jimmy Dickens, a country music legend who will celebrate his 87th birthday in December. Dickens, who now lives south of Nashville, grew up in Bolt, Raleigh County. He said a hall of fame for West Virginia musicians was long overdue.

"There's so much talent that comes out of the state," Dickens said in an interview with the Gazette. "A lot of good musicians."

The 4-foot 11-inch singer/comedian, a regular at the Grand Ole Opry since 1949, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. Dickens said he still performs four shows a week in Nashville, and continues to tour around the United States.

"I just like what I do," Dickens said. "I'll keep doing it until I can't do it anymore."

During his career, Dickens has traveled the world. At every stop, he mentions something about West Virginia, he said.

"These are my people," said Dickens, who returns twice a year to West Virginia to visit a sister in Raleigh County. "I love West Virginia, and I love the people here tonight."

Johnnie Johnson also was a proud West Virginian, said his daughter, Johnson Whiting. Johnson was one of the state's first African-Americans to join the Marines during World War II. After the war, Johnson moved to St. Louis and put together a jazz and blues group. Less than a year later, one of the band members had a stroke and couldn't play, so Johnson invited a young man named Chuck Berry to join.

Berry eventually left and became a solo act, but would later perform the song "Johnny B. Goode," which was tribute to Johnson, his daughter said. Most of Johnson's recognition came after the release of the documentary "Hail Hail! Rock 'n' Roll" in 1987.

After working as a bus driver, Johnson returned to music and performed with a star-studded list of musicians, including Eric Clapton, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and his band, Ratdog. In 2001, Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. "He was so humble," she said. "He was undaunted by his celebrity. People loved him as much as his music."

If her father were still alive, Johnson Whiting has no doubt what he would have said after accepting his award. It's the phrase he always used when something or someone pleased him.

"He would have said, 'That'll work,'" Johnson Whiting said. "That'll work."

 
UNEARTHING MUSICAL GEMS
W.VA. MUSIC HALL OF FAME RECOGNIZES PEOPLE WHO HAVE SHAPED THE STATE'S SOUNDSCAPE

Publication: CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Byline: PHIL PERRY

For Michael Lipton, rediscovering the musical treasures of West Virginia has become more than a hobby; it’s become a career.

In 2004, after Lipton and his partners sold the Graffiti Entertainment guide, he wanted to devote his energies to another project. The idea was all around him all the time, but on his way home from a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame, something clicked in Lipton’s head.

“I just thought, ‘Why can’t we have a hall of fame in West Virginia?’”
To explore the possibility, Lipton attained a small travel grant to visit the music halls of fame in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. He met with directors and curators, sought their advice about what they did to finance their halls of fame and how they sustained them. He wanted to avoid whatever mistakes each made along the way.

After he returned, he decided to set up traveling exhibits for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. He liked the idea of an exhibit called “Music of the Coalfields.” He thought coal companies might contribute financial support for the exhibit.

“I couldn’t even get a callback,” Lipton said.

A friend suggested he contact Cecil Roberts, the president of the UMWA, about donating to the hall of fame. Lipton knew Roberts through working with him during the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 2004 Reinvest in America Tour. Roberts was one of the speakers. Lipton’s band, The Carpenter Ants, performed.

“Cecil really came through for us,” Lipton said. “He gave us our initial start-up cash. Coincidentally, the money was matched by the National Coal Heritage Authority. That allowed us to do two ‘Music of the Coalfields’ exhibits, which really got us off and running.”

Raising funds is one of chief concerns with developing and nurturing the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Lipton is handling most of the grant writing. He’s proud to have personally brought in more than $120,000 in grant money.

The hall of fame has worked to keep up the momentum, bringing out new displays every few months. The latest, funded by the West Virginia Humanities Council is called “The Art of West Virginia Music.” It opens today at the Cultural Center.

A fanatical collector, Lipton long has been interested in a wide variety of subjects, but primarily music. His home is packed with memorabilia, knick-knacks and unusual finds from yard sales. His work with the hall of fame has allowed him to pursue his passion for the eccentricities of music.

“The fun part for me is collecting,” he said. “I started out on Ebay, picking up records of West Virginia artists. Once the word got out, donations started pouring in.”

The donations revealed performers who were completely new to Lipton.

“I discovered artists like Frankie Masters, a band leader who hailed from St. Mary’s. He recorded on the Vogue Picture disc label.”

West Virginia artists have been generous with their contributions to the hall of fame. There are boxes and boxes of material waiting to be sorted, but already they’ve discovered treasures. Among the jewels in the exhibit at the Cultural Center, there’s a harmonica signed by Grammy winner Charlie McCoy and the prized fiddle of Senator Robert C. Byrd.

“I thought he probably had a closet full of fiddles, and we might get one,” Lipton said. “When he sent us his baby, I was floored.”

Memorabilia is something people can see, but the hall of fame also wants to preserve the music. A CD tribute to 1920s West Virginia recording artist Blind Alfred Reed has been released. It features the songs of Reed performed by contemporary West Virginia performers, including Kathy Mattea, Little Jimmy Dickens and Johnny Staats with Robert Shafer.

The collection of music and memorabilia grows, but Lipton said he’s not in a terrible rush to acquire a permanent location for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

“The advice I’ve received from nearly everyone is to hold off on a building until the time is right,” he said. “It’s simply an anchor that can pull you down initially.”

The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov.16 in the Cultural Center Theater in Charleston.

It will be a star-studded evening, featuring some of the most famous names to hail from the Mountain State. The first round of inductees include Bill Withers, George Crumb, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hazel Dickens and Billy Edd Wheeler. Presenters include Alison Krauss, Kathy Mattea, Lou Meyers, Mike Seeger and Gov. Joe Manchin. Hosts for the ceremony will be actress Ann Magnuson and director Morgan Spurlock.

General admission tickets are $35 and are available by calling (800) 594-TIXX, at Taylor Books or by visiting the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Web site. For more information about the hall of fame, call 342-4412 or visit www.wvmusichalloffame.com.

 

Click one of the links below for a preview of an upcoming WV Public Television special on the recording of the Blind Alfred Reed tribute CD.

Quicktime movie (6.5 MB)

WMV movie -- Windows Media Player (9.4 MB)

Click here to hear the West Virginia Public Broadcasting report on the first 10 inductees chosen for the Music Hall of Fame.

CITY JOINS PLAN TO CREATE WEST VIRGINIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME
MAYOR OFFERS TEMPORARY SPACE AT FORMER JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL

Publication: CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL
Published: 07/19/2005

The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame is getting a boost in the capital city.

Charleston officials on Monday embraced the idea of the hall of fame, offering organizers temporary space for planning efforts.

Major Danny Jones offered to temporarily house the group on the third floor of the former Roosevelt Junior High School for free until coordinators can find a larger facility.

Project founder Michael Lipton said he will consider that possibility. He and other coordinators of the project told the City Council’s Finance Committee they are searching for a permanent place in Charleston’s East End, hopefully around Appalachian Power Park.

The nonprofit project is designed to document and recognize state musical artists who have made lasting contributions to the music industry from West Virginia. The hall will include all genres of music, from country and classical to jazz and rock. Project coordinators also plan to create a catalog and archive of West Virginia artists’ recordings.

West Virginia is one of the few states that does not have a state music hall of fame, said Larry Groce, a coordinator with the project and host of the national radio/television show “Mountain Stage.” Other states attract thousands of visitors to their halls each year, he said.

“The name of a musical hall of fame is instant recognition,” Groce said. “So there is real potential to draw people.”

Plus, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will make a great addition to the state’s Cultural Center and the city's Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, Groce said. “Kids could come down here for one day and it could be one heck of a show,” he said.

The project also is searching for West Virginia music memorabilia to feature in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame’s facility when it’s completed. Coordinators hope to open the doors of the Charleston hall by 2007.

The project currently is just a traveling exhibit that features archival photos of state musicians and performances. The exhibit’s listening station also lets folks hear the music. Recently featured in the Clay Center, the exhibit soon will make its way to Charleston’s Yeager Airport and then travel around Southern West Virginia.

 
OFF ON THE RIGHT NOTE

Publication: CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL
Published: 08/02/2005
Page: 1D
Headline: OFF ON THE RIGHT NOTE
Byline: DREW SMITH

West Virginia’s musical history is a rich and storied one, but the state lacks a place to show it off. That’s why it’s the goal of West Virginia Hall of Fame organizers to get it ...

One of Chuck Berry’s most well-known songs, “Johnny B. Goode,” was inspired by his pianist and chief collaborator, a Fairmont native named Johnny Johnson.

Johnson, already a member of the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, now is at the top of another list.

Charleston musician Michael Lipton is making it his mission to inform West Virginians of the state’s rich music background by establishing a West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Johnson surely will be part of it.

Lipton has spent years collecting archived photographs, recordings and memorabilia of West Virginia musicians. He has traveled to Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama to see their music halls of fame.

Now the project has received a boost from the city and private donors.

Mayor Danny Jones offered to temporarily house the exhibit on the third floor of the former Roosevelt Junior High School for free until coordinators can find a larger facility.

Lipton said the project also received a generous donation from the United Mine Workers of America and the National Coal Heritage Area Authority to fund the first and second exhibits. He said he already has plans for future funding.

“There are a lot of grants out there and we’ve already applied for some of them,” Lipton said.

“And we’re planning on private funding because the exhibits are fun and visible and everyone likes music,” added Lipton, a longtime member of The Carpenter Ants and the Mountain Stage house band.

In its current form as a traveling exhibit with photos and a listening station, the hall of fame recently was featured at the Clay Center and is scheduled to make an appearance at Yeager Airport.

The exhibit is entitled “Music of the Coalfields” and it focuses on labor songs and ethnic music that tell the story of West Virginia coal miners.

“We Done Quit” by Sam Johnson and “Black Lung Blues” by George Tucker are just a few of the bluegrass tunes represented in the display.

Lipton said the long-term plan for the hall of fame is to have a physical location with permanent exhibits and showcases.

But research into other facilities has shown Lipton the finances and funding for the project should be lined up before he obtains a permanent facility.

Other museum organizers gave him advice on acquiring, cataloging and managing memorabilia - the lifeblood of the project.

“And they told me the one cardinal rule of state halls of fame: it must be located near an interstate,” he said.

Lipton said that’s why he and other coordinators want to find a home somewhere in Charleston’s East End.

“It just seems logical. We’d be close to the Capitol, the Cultural Center and the Clay Center,” Lipton said.

Other states attract thousands of visitors to their hall each year and Lipton is confident West Virginia will have the same success.

“This is a perfect kind of attraction and a proven entity all over the country,” he said.

Lipton said he wants the hall of fame to showcase the wide variety of music the Mountain State has produced.

However, no one can be inducted into the hall until a nominating board is assembled. Lipton said the board will include 20 to 40 people who are knowledgeable about all types of music.

“We’re also going to talk to national artists like (Cross Lanes native) Kathy Mattea who would add an important voice to the board,” he said.

Lipton said he hopes to begin inductions by Spring 2006.

Larry Groce, a coordinator of the project and host of Mountain Stage, said the potential for success is large.

“Halls of fame are immensely popular wherever they are,” he said. “I don’t know why West Virginia would be any different.”

“I'd like to see a nice, accessible museum housed in a convenient location that would draw not only individual tourists, but busloads of schoolchildren and tourists,” he said.

Future plans for the hall of fame include an exhibit dedicated to what Lipton calls the “little- known '’60s and ’70s rock scene in the Kanawha Valley.”

The project is designed to document and recognize state musical artists who have made lasting contributions to the music industry from West Virginia.

Lipton said it will include all genres of music, from country and classical to jazz and rock. Project coordinators also plan to create a catalog and archive of West Virginia artists’ recordings.

 

CITY COUNCIL WANTS STATE MUSIC HALL OF FAME

Publication: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Published: 07/19/2005
Page: 5D
Headline: CITY COUNCIL WANTS STATE MUSIC HALL OF FAME
Byline: CHRISTINE SIMMONS
csimmons@wvgazette.com

City officials on Monday embraced the idea of a West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in Charleston, offering organizers temporary space from which to work during planning efforts.

Major Danny Jones offered to temporarily house the group on the third floor of the former Roosevelt Junior High School for free until coordinators can find a larger facility.

Project founder Michael Lipton said he will consider that possibility. He and other coordinators of the project told the City Council’s Finance Committee they are searching for a permanent place in Charleston’s East End, hopefully around Appalachian Power Park.

The nonprofit project is designed to document and recognize state musical artists who have made lasting contributions to the music industry from West Virginia. The hall will include all genres of music, from country and classical to jazz and rock. Project coordinators also plan to create a catalog and archive of West Virginia artists’ recordings.

West Virginia is one of the few states that does not have a state music hall of fame, said Larry Groce, a coordinator with the project and host of the national radio/television show “Mountain Stage.” Other states attract thousands of visitors to their halls each year, he said.

“The name of a musical hall of fame is instant recognition,” Groce said. “So there is real potential to draw people.”

Plus, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will make a great addition to the state’s Cultural Center and the city’s Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, Groce said. “Kids could come down here for one day and it could be one heck of a show,” he said.

The project also is searching for West Virginia music memorabilia to feature in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame’s facility when it’s completed. Coordinators hope to open the doors of the Charleston hall by 2007.

The project currently is just a traveling exhibit that features archival photos of state musicians and performances. The exhibit’s listening station also lets folks hear the music. Recently featured in the Clay Center, the exhibit soon will make its way to Charleston’s Yeager Airport and then travel around Southern West Virginia.

 

From The Lincoln Standard

WEST VIRGINIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME CELEBRATES STATE’S MOST TALENTED MUSICIANS

Carolyn Harmon
Features Editor

HAMLIN -- It often takes a foreigner to discover a kingdom’s treasures, a transplant that finds value in what locals view as ordinary. Michael Lipton, a New York native, has painstakingly unearthed some of the most talented people in the world right here in West Virginia.

Lipton, a 30 year resident of the state, is the director of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was founded in February, 2005. It is mostly grant-funded but some private funds have been donated.

Early in the development of the project, Lipton set up meetings with some counties to gain insight into what those communities would like to see develop through the Hall of Fame. Two of the meetings were held in Lincoln County -- in Hamlin and Big Ugly. A list of about 20 musicians from the county was given to Lipton for possible induction. Some of those were Ed Haley, Brandon Bentley, Jerry Johnson, and Lefty Duncan, said Lipton. These musicians still need to be nominated formally.

The first round of inductions into the Hall of Fame will be this fall. Lipton said the Hall will accept only six in the initial round -- three living and three deceased. Anyone wishing to make a nomination can do so on the Hall of Fame’s web site.

Lipton said the inductees either have to have been born in West Virginia and made an impact on music, or not born in West Virginia and made a significant musical impact in West Virginia.

Like Blind Alfred Reed of Floyd, Virginia, who lived his whole life in Mercer County, and according to Lipton wrote and recorded 20 songs of social commentary in the late 1920s, which is unique for “hillbilly” musicians.

Ralph Peer of Missouri, founder of the Southern Music Publishing Company in 1928, and who coined the term hillbilly music, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame web site, was on a trip in West Virginia to turn up musicians and discovered Reed and on the same trip discovered the Carter Family, Lipton said.

Lipton, no stranger to the music industry - is himself a musician, singer, writer, producer and reviewer. He has written for both national and local publications, and said the idea for the Hall of Fame came to him in late-2004 while driving through Nashville.

“There are other halls of fame in other states and I started thinking there should be one in West Virginia,” said Lipton. “Music is an important part of this state’s culture and plays such an important role within the families and communities. That's what's different about this project.”

Another aspect that makes this project so different, according to Lipton, is that it includes other genres of music besides old time and bluegrass.

“There are well-known opera singers and jazz musicians who were born here,” said Lipton.

The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame currently is working on its most important project so far, according to Lipton, a CD funded by the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.

The CD is a tribute to Reed on which many West Virginia artists recorded his songs. Some contributors are Connie Smith and her husband Marty Stuart, Kathy Mattea, Tim O’Brian -- who just won a Grammy, Charlie McCoy and others, along with some local musicians.

Lipton said the benefit of recording national talent on the CD is that it will get national attention. The Hall of Fame is talking to a national label who is now interested in distributing it, according to Lipton, with the proceeds going back into the Hall of Fame.

“I think this is the first time a group of this caliber of West Virginia musicians has been assembled on one CD for a project,” said Lipton, “It is indicative of the kind of support we’ve been getting.”

Two traveling exhibits have been representing the Hall of Fame, and were showcased among other places at the Lincoln County Heritage Fest last September. A third is in the works, a framed exhibit called ‘The Art of West Virginia Music’ funded by the West Virginia Humanities Council, displaying CD’s, photographs, posters, albums, and other collectibles. Lipton, a collector himself, has an eye for finding the perfect memorabilia to enrich this collection.

Some items in the Hall of Fame collection are a Spike Jones 78 rpm recording of “I Want to go back to West Virginia,” a signed Little Jimmie Dickens song folio, rare Hasil Adkins 45s and a Kathy Mattea t-shirt from the 80s. Sen. Robert Byrd even donated his fiddle, Lipton said.

The Hall of Fame has 10 board members so far. It will eventually have a permanent location representing the entire state, but parts of it will still travel, according to Lipton.

He said the plan was to start getting grants, mobilizing the exhibit to gain public awareness, and then to ask for donations from people and organizations to start a building fund. According to Lipton, the response has been really amazing.

“Music plays such a huge part in everyone lives in one way or another,” said Lipton. “I think people in West Virginia always are looking for a way to validate their home.”

To donate memorabilia (it must have something to do with West Virginia and be related to music), or to induct someone into the Hall of Fame, or to have the exhibit travel somewhere specific, call Michael Lipton at 342-4412 or visit the hall of fame’s web-site at wvmusichalloffame.com.