TEXAS HALL OF FAME GRAND OPENING WEEKEND

by Steve Morewood

 

Over two days the small East Texas town of Carthage staged an event packed itinerary which culminated in the induction of six natives into the new Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.

The event kicked off with a reception on Friday, August 21st,1998 at the new Tex Ritter Museum where locals and celebrities gathered. The evening saw a Pickin Party at Esquire Theater, hosted by John Rex Reeves, Jim's nephew.

The theater is a throwback to the 1950s and was packed to the rafters. The house band wasn't up to the task of backing Jan Howard, who had to cut short Lonely Street. John Rex accompanied himself on guitar and held the show together, with local talent interspersed with the more professional acts.

Saturday August 22nd, 1998 began at 10 am with a dedication of an historical marker at the Jim Reeves Memorial and grave site. Just off Highway 79 outside Carthage, the setting has a serenity which can only be experienced at first hand. Jim's surviving family, including his two sisters and niece were on hand to honour Gentleman Jim.

John Rex Reeves performances one of his uncle’s songs. (Photo by Steve Morewood)

Jim Reeves’ two surviving sisters read the new dedication at his grave (Photo by Steve Morewood)

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A ribbon cutting ceremony followed at the Tex Ritter Museum and Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. The exhibits, housed on the second floor of the turn of the century building, are impressively displayed. They include memorabilia from other acts, suchs as Jim Reeves and Willie Nelson, as well as Tex Ritter.

The highlight of the weekend was the Awards Show on Saturday evening. Held at Carthage Junior High School, a reported 1100 people were in attendance. There was not an empty seat in the hall and many people were standing.

The event was ably compared by Ralph Emery who knows instinctively when to pass witty remarks and when to be serious. The entertainment included Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells and Johnny Counterfeit, the success of the evening. He does a briljant Johnny Cash impression and, for the occasion, had added Tex Ritter to his extensive repertoire. Imitations of presidents Clinton and Reagan generated whales of laughter.

 

Joe Allison holds the ribbon as Chet Stout is about to cut the ribbon. (Photo by Steve Morewood)

 

 

Impressive video montages were shown for the deceased inductees. The Reverend Doctor Bill White, Mary Reeves' nephew, performed He'll Have to Go and John Rex Reeves did a medley. Leon Rausch, of Texas Playboys fame, was on hand to sing a medley of Cindy Walker hits. On accepting her award Cindy's dry and affecting sense of humour was displayed. Revealing that Ralph Emery had told her 'You look good' she retorted, 'It wasn't easy', prompting hoots of laughter.

Jim’s sisters Virgie Thomas and Louie McNeese are about to accept Jim’s award. (Photo by Steve Morewood

 

 

 

The main function of the evening was to induct six natives into the new Texas Hall of Fame. The inductees were Gene Autry, Joe Aillson, Jim Reeves, Cindy Walker, Tex Ritter and Willie Nelson. Tributes were paid to each by the likes of BMI President Frances Preston (Joe Allison), Merle Kilgore (Wille Nelson) and Tex Ritter's two sons, who caused much amusement by trying to upstage each other.

 

Ralph Emery presents Cindy Walker with her award. (Photo by Steve Morewood)

 

Tribute was paid to Tommy Ritter Smith, the organizer of the weekend, who had battered on bravely despite a near fatal car accident and the loss of her mother. The event is to become an annual one, sustained by the galaxy of Country stars emanating from the Lone Star State. As Tex Ritter once remarked,’Texas is the mother of Tennessee'.

A new museum is to be built, which will help to put Carthage and Panola County, birthplace of Tex Ritter and Jim Reeves, on the map. My only criticism would be that there were too many inductees for their contributions to be fully reflected (four might be better). For anyone able to play videos in the American format, the show was recorded and a video is obtainable from the Carthage Chamber of Commerce.

Copyright: Country Music People, 1998.