Mac Wiseman to the Country Music HOF

Mac Wiseman in his official portrait by Tom Pinch for the National Endowment for the ArtsThe Country Music Association in Nashville has today announced their 2014 class to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. One of the recipients is the bluegrass legend, Mac Wiseman, who will be inducted this year along with Hank Cochran and Ronnie Milsap.

Mac saw great success in the early days of bluegrass, at a time when it wasn’t differentiated from country music. His work with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs is the stuff of legends, and he didn’t stop there, recording a string of hits on his own.

Here’s the brief tribute created for today’s announcement by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

As a popular bluegrass vocalist, Malcolm B. “Mac” Wiseman, “The Voice with a Heart,” is known for his Dot Records interpretations of songs including Shackles and Chains, Jimmy Brown the Newsboy, I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight, and Love Letters in the Sand. But he has filled many other roles in country music, including stints as a sideman with Flatt & Scruggs and with Bill Monroe, featured vocalist with Molly O’Day, country recording director for Dot (1955–59), and a founding member and first secretary of CMA (1958).

Wiseman was born in Crimora, Virginia, in 1925, and grew up in that state’s Shenandoah Valley. Early in his career he worked for a time at WSVA in Harrisonburg. Following his service with O’Day, Flatt & Scruggs, and Monroe, Wiseman began recording for Dot, Randy Wood’s new Gallatin, Tennessee, independent label, in 1951. Wiseman’s early work for Dot has endured as outstanding, personalized bluegrass music, including records such as Going Like Wildfire, I Saw Your Face in the Moon, and Waiting for the Boys. He was a featured performer on WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance radio show in Richmond, Virginia, from 1953 to 1956.

While continuing to record, he became a Dot producer, helping Wood run the label’s California office in the late 1950s. After 1965, Wiseman became a favorite on the bluegrass festival circuit, and hosted his own festival in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, from 1970 to 1983. He has recorded for various labels after Dot—Capitol, MGM, RCA, Churchill, CMH—including some well-received duets with Lester Flatt in the 1970s. Wiseman managed Wheeling, West Virginia’s WWVA Jamboree from 1966 to 1970. He has served on the board of Reunion of Professional Entertainers (ROPE), as well as serving as an officer of the Nashville chapter of the American Federation of Musicians. In 2007 he released an album of standard American songs recorded with singer-songwriter John Prine for Oh Boy Records. Known for his gentlemanly manner, Wiseman continues to influence younger musicians in his role as a bluegrass elder statesman.

Wiseman had been inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1993, the third class of honorees in the IBMA’s history.

We’ll have a more complete career overview of this deserving inductee next month, in time for his 89th birthday.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.