Iowa…..”1976 was a big year for the National Traditional Country
Music Association,” says Bob Everhart, current president of the
organization. “That was the year of its founding, and it has been
running continuously ever since.   It conducts the upper Midwest’s most
successful festival of early American country, bluegrass, folk,
mountain, hillbilly, and western music. There’s lots of labels and
genres to describe ‘country’ music, but we are pretty much in the
time-frame before it became what it is today.  Thirty-eight years is a
long time to keep any kind of event going, and to see Mickey Gilley one
of the best known country music piano players ever, to become one with
America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, is indeed a recognition
of the importance of the roots of country music.  Mickey Gilley’s most
prestigious year was that same year the NTCMA was founded, 1976, when
the Academy of Country Music awarded him with Entertainer of the Year,
Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Song of the Year, Top Male
Vocalist of the Year, and Music City News proclaimed him the Most
Promising Male Artist of the Year.  1976, bicentennial year celebration
of the birth of America.  Amazing isn’t it, that in 2013, 38 years
later, this same man, Mickey Gilley, will be inducted into this kind of
Hall of Fame, that emanates from rural America.”
     Gilly joins a spectacular star-studded event, that
just in the past few years have inducted the likes of Bill Anderson, Jim
Ed Brown, Michael Martin Murphey, Lynn Anderson, Charlie McCoy, and the
legendary Patti Page.  “I couldn’t hardly believe it when Patti Page
told me she was coming out of retirement to join us in LeMars, Iowa, for
our annual old-time music festival,” Everhart said.  “She was such a
gracious lady, the one single artist that made the “Tennessee Waltz” an
international favorite.  She made the trip just fine, came on stage to a
staggering number of people, accepted their standing ovation of
appreciation for her contributions to the musical genre they love, and
sang some of her favorite songs.  She had to use a cane, but she
certainly blossomed as the entertainer she was her entire life.  That
was in 2010.  She passed away in 2011, our event was her last
performance.  It is so distressing that the largest Hall of Fame for
country music only inducts two or three people a year.  We try
to honor deserving individuals on many different levels.  International,
national, regional. state-wide, even locally.  There are so many
incredibly gifted artists in America today, many of them go un-noticed
simply because the entertainment world is so locked-up in corporate
control.  Locked-out might be a better term.”
     Everhart is a strong advocate of keeping America’s
‘roots’ music alive, and no longer refers to contemporary country music
as ‘country’ music.  “We have to place ourselves in a different genre
entirely,” Everhart said.  “We refer to our music as ‘rural’ music now. 
Mickey Gilley, unlike many country artists today, grew up in that same
‘rural’ atmosphere.  Natchez, Mississippi, produced not just Mickey
Gilley, but his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis who emerged as one of America’s
most popular rock n’ rollers, as well as cousin Jimmy Swaggert who
emerged as an evangelist. What’s amazing about these three gifted
cousins is they all played the piano.  All three developed their own
style, their own genre, their own musical personality on the piano. 
Certainly not the electric digitalized keyboards of today, but good
old-time upright pianos, whose tones and sounds have never been
adequately imitated by the electronic revolution.”
     Gilley will be inducted into America’s Old Time
Country Music Hall of Fame at the annual convention/festival that
Everhart still directs.  Dates are August 26 through September 1, the
full week before Labor Day in LeMars, Iowa.  “It’s amazing,” said
Everhart.  “We started this with just three stages and three days, now
we have ten stages and seven days, to accommodate the many pickers and
players that come.  There must be well over 600 entertainers, so we
start at 9am and go to midnight every day for seven days, and even then
we sometimes don’t have enough time for all of the participants to get
stage time.  We’re also very stringent about instruments, they must be
acoustic, meaning we can survive even if there isn’t any electricity.
We’ve had to relax the rules on a number of occasions, the bass-guitar
being a substitute for the upright acoustic bass simply because there
are not that many acoustic bass players around.  Add to that the
celebrities that attend, and it’s a formidable undertaking to say the
least.  Joining Mickey Gilley this year is: Joanne Cash (Johnny Cash’s
younger sister); Ed Bruce (composer of ‘Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow
Up To Be Cowboys”); Terry Smith (composer of ‘Far Side Banks of Jordan’
for Johnny & June Carter Cash); Michael Martin Murphey (probably
America’s best and most successful cowboy and western singer); LuLu
Roman (from HeeHaw); Kenny Seratt (the man who taught Merle Haggard how
to sing like Merle Haggard); and Dr. Harry Yates (founder of Cowboy
     Everhart likes to include ‘beginners’ in the
celebration.  “We’ve consistently been aware that any musician or
entertainer needs to ‘start’ somewhere.  Just picking up an instrument
doesn’t necessarily mean that person will become good at it.  Therefore
we have one of our stages devoted to workshops, giving free lessons and
instruction on nearly every musical instrument used in early country
music.  It’s the same with what we call ‘jamming.’  One of our most
popular jam spots is the “Patio Jam” that almost qualifies as a ‘stage’
area.  We even have ‘contests’ for those a little further advanced, and
then we have shows, all kinds of shows on no less than ten stages. 
Mickey Gilley is one of those gifted entertainers that has already seen
what the top looks like.  He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a
theater in Branson, induction into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame,
and he appeared in ‘Urban Cowboys.’  From where he came, and where he
went is absolutely incredible, and we welcome him with open arms as we
induct him into “America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.”
     The NTCMA also owns the Pioneer Music Museum where the
Hall of Fame is located.  According to Everhart, “We have been offered
considerable amounts of money to either sell or move this Hall of Fame
to a more touristy area, but we firmly believe that ‘country’ music
should stay in the ‘country’ and Iowa is one fine ‘country’ state.  Our
problem with the museum is that it’s getting so full of mementos and
memories of our great country music artists.  We need to expand but
we’re not quite at that point yet.” 
     The NTCMA has a website that also features the Hall of Fame as well as their many activities at www.ntcma.net

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