Last night at the Grand Opening of the new Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, KY, a special set of inductions were made to the hall, posthumously, for a group of five legends in our industry. These were made for Vassar Clements, Mike Seeger, Jake Tullock, Allen Shelton, and Joe Val, and had been previously announced for the evening’s festivities.
The presentation included musical tributes to all these seminal artists, provided by a house band including Tim Stafford on guitar, Sierra Hull on mandolin, Mike Bub on bass, Alison Brown on banjo, Josh Swift on reso-guitar, and Stuart Duncan on fiddle. They were joined by several guest artists for specific numbers, like Bobby Osborne, Larry Stephenson, Rodney Dillard, Doyle Lawson, Paul Williams, Larry Sparks, Tim O’Brien, and Mike Scott.
Highlights included a banjo/bass duet with Alison Brown and Mike Bub recreating the iconic Little Darlin’ Pal O’ Mine, famously performed by Earl Scruggs and Jake Tullock with Flatt & Scruggs, Stuart Duncan playing Vassar Clements’ fiddle on Lonesome Fiddle Blues, and Larry Stephenson singing a Joe Val number in the upper reaches of his vocal range. Larry Sparks and Paul Williams also brought the house down when they sang.
Family members of several of the inductees were present to accept the honor on their behalf.
Then, when it seemed that the show was winding to a conclusion, Sonny Osborne took the podium. He told a few stories, as he is wont to do, and then announced that they had still one more special induction to go. Terry Woodward’s name was announced, and the Owensboro crowd and bluegrass luminaries in the hall erupted. This had been kept quiet until this moment as a surprise for Terry, who was caught completely unawares.
Woodward is a successful Owensboro businessman, and a huge bluegrass fan whose efforts were instrumental in the founding of not only the IBMA, but the Bluegrass Museum as well. His work in helping raise the funds necessary to build the new museum and hall of fame were widely known, and his generosity to both organizations had been crucial in their early days.
The five inductees already announced for last night were chosen through the IBMA’s regular process of multi-stage voting by a broad panel of electors, consisting of experienced members of the bluegrass world, both artists and industry people alike, but Woodward’s induction had been approved by the IBMA Board of Directors in a secret vote earlier this year.
Paul Schiminger, IBMA’s Executive Director was at the ceremony, and shared a few words about how this induction was approved, and why it was kept as a surprise.
“The Hall of Fame nominating committee had brought up Terry’s name previously, given Terry’s work as a founding force behind the establishment of not only IBMA, but also the museum. It was discussed last year, and then came up again this spring.
He was clearly deserving to be in the Hall already, and the IBMA Board approved the induction as an official resolution.
He was truly surprised by it, and wasn’t even sure why Sonny was there. He was literally speechless, and was deeply touched by the induction. We worked very hard to keep it close, and we did. He was completely surprised.”
Board members we spoke with today said that when the vote came up, there were some concerns about setting a precedent for this sort of unorthodox approval, as it had never happened in the past. No one wanted to water down the value of the Hall to either the current and future inductees, or to Woodward in this occasion.
But these concerns were addressed by assurances that this was a one-time occurrence, and noting that last night was the grand opening of a new theater at the Museum named for Terry Woodward, and since this was a special induction, it was agreed that this was the right time.
Congratulations to all six of the new inductees, and to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum for their successful grand opening. More special events are scheduled through this weekend in Owensboro.
A video recording was made of the entire ceremony, but no plans for a public release have been announced.