Gene Williams, Loretta Lynn, Mike Snider and the late Dottie Rhodes were inducted Sept. 20 into the George D. Hay Music Hall of Fame, named for the man who created the Grand Ole Opry.
They join the ranks of past inductees such as Ferlin Husky, Jan Howard, George Jones, Skeeter Davis, Bill Carlisle, Kitty Wells, Bill Anderson, Jean Shepard, Jim Owen, Conway Twitty, Bill Monroe, Barbara Fairchild, Jeannie Seely, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, June Carter Cash, Charley Pride, Leroy Van Dyke, Jim Ed Brown, Hank Williams Sr., Brenda Lee and Ray Price.
Since 1998, the George D. Hay Music Hall of Fame and Foundation has been honoring the memory of George D. Hay, who credited a hoe down in the town as the inspiration for his creation of the Grand Ole Opry. Both the hall of fame and foundation have the support and encouragement of Hay’s daughter, Margaret Hay-Van Damm.
“The (George D. Hay Music) Hall of Fame induction, by foundation selection, is a means of recognizing rare individuals who have played an outstanding and enduring role in the world of country music. Your musical history and career set you apart as one such individual,” said Bob Ross, president and 2009 awards chair of the hall and the foundation. “Gene is a man who strives to keep alive the spirit of country music for all music fans.” Williams received a standing ovation from the crowd attending the induction ceremony.
Katie Lynn, Williams’ co-host, sang the tribute for Williams, backed by the Rhodes Show Band including Craig Morris, pianist and harmony singer with Ronnie McDowell, Pam Tillis and Donny and Marie Osmond and currently tours with Loretta Lynn.
Williams expressed his appreciation to his fans and reminisced about his country music career. He said “I am honored to be included with country icon Loretta Lynn, Dottie Rhodes, entertainer and wife of Hall of Fame member Dusty Rhodes, and Mike Snider, an extraordinarily talented musician in country music.” Williams thanked the late Slim Rhodes, brother-in-law of Dottie Rhodes, for encouraging him in 1963 to start on TV in Jonesboro, Ark. Slim Rhodes’ nieces and Dottie Rhodes’ two daughters, Donna Rhodes-Morris and Sandra Rhodes, attended and performed at the event.
The Gene Williams Country Music TV Show was featured in the June 2009 issue of Better Homes and Gardens as a nostalgia experience in a live television show. For the past eight years the show has been taped in Branson, Mo., live before a studio audience. Guests have included Mickey Gilley, who is his current announcer, the Oak Ridge Boys, Roy Clark, Johnny Lee, Barbara Fairchild, Sons of the Pioneers, Johnny Cash’s band The Tennessee Three, the Blackwood Brothers, Helen Cornelius, Leona Williams, Mary Lou Turner, Cal Smith, Stonewall Jackson, Norma Jean, Porter Wagoner, Jim Owen, Buck Trent, Wanda Jackson and many more.
Williams’ television career led to his making two movies, Country Music Jamboree and Sound of Country Music that starred more than 39 Grand Ole Opry stars. He has worked with such greats as Johnny Cash, the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, Charlie Walker, Del Reeves, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Minnie Pearl and Jack Greene.
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