Tom T. Hall and Michael Johnathon receive 2020 Kentucky Governor’s Awards

On the list of recipients for the 2020 Governor’s Awards in the Arts from Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, are two figures prominent in our music world. Country and bluegrass singer/songwriter Tom T. Hall, and Michael Johnathon, host of the popular Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour program, will both be presented with this award, in cooperation with The Kentucky Arts Council.

Tom T. Hall has been a beloved performer, recording artist, and songwriter since the 1960s. Since that time he’s written 12 #1 songs, including the smash hit Harper Valley P.T.A. for Jeannie C. Riley, and his own singles for I Love and Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine. His songs were always about he regular folks, and told stories about life outside the big cities that had come to dominate American life.

Hall also had the biggest hit on Fox On The Run, which he recorded with a full bluegrass arrangement. He and his wife, the late Dixie Hall, have written dozens of bluegrass songs and donated the royalties from them to the IBMA. Living a secluded life after losing his beloved Dixie, Tom T. is among the most revered songwriters in Nashville.

He receives the National Award from Governor Beshear, for those Kentucky born who make their mark on a widespread basis.

In response to the news of his being a recipient, Hall responded…

“There’s a lot of great artists in Kentucky, and having The Governor’s Award from the Arts Council is a special treat. I’m not sure every state has an arts council; but I’m not surprised as Kentucky is special, as you know.”

Also receiving a 2020 Award is Michael Johnathon, a folksinger and songwriter, who has grown his Woodsongs show into a nationally televised program in Lexington, from its early roots as a local radio show. Each week Jonathon welcomes guests from the bluegrass, folk, old time, and Americana scene to perform on Woodsongs, where he also interviews them about their music and career.

Michael was deeply moved by this award.

“Of all the honors and awards any artist can receive, it is the ones from the home community that mean the most. It is the acceptance and encouragement of friends and neighbors that are the fuel for any artist, especially now. Because so much of what I do is community and volunteer-run, the award helps validate the heart and spirit of so many that make artistic efforts become reality.”

A total of nine honors were announced for 2020:

  • Milner Award – Michael Johnathon, Fayette County
  • Artist Award – Silas House, Madison County
  • Business Award – Tidball’s, Warren County
  • Community Arts Award – Artists Collaborative Theatre, Pike County
  • Education Award – Paducah Symphony Orchestra, McCracken County
  • Folk Heritage Award – Shelly Zegart, Jefferson County
  • Government Award – City of Somerset, Pulaski County
  • Media Award – Al Día en América, Jefferson County
  • National Award – Tom T. Hall, native of Carter County

A personal presentation from the Governor will be arranged as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Congratulations to all the 2020 recipients.

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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.