NOTE: View Hall of Fame Slideshow below or click here.
BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Since it's founding in January 2005 by Michael Lipton and others, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame has been homeless. The founders preferred it that way. They were advised by other halls of fame to get their act together with inducting artists and fundraising before taking on the burdensome debt and organizational heavy lifting of throwing up a bricks-and-mortar structure.
Five years later, the Mountain State's music hall of fame is still homeless. But it now has a place to hang its records, CDs, jukebox and other memorabilia. The hall recently mounted its first permanent exhibit in the foyer of the Hulett C. Smith Theater inside Tamarack near Beckley, the first step in possibly establishing the arts and crafts center as its permanent home.
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In the slideshow above (which can also be viewed at the Gazette's multimedia library) Lipton talks about the many artists in the exhibit and the hall of fame's mission of seeking out noted performers with West Virginia connections in genres not often associated with the Mountain State, such as jazz, opera, rock, blues and classical. "Every couple of months we become aware of people to look for," Lipton says. Got someone to suggest? Visit the group's website, www.wvmusichalloffame.com. See the audio slideshow for more on the hall, song samples and view nearly 50 photos of the Tamarack exhibit.
Q: When did you first get the idea for a West Virginia Music Hall of Fame?
A: [I was visiting] the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, which is one of the granddaddies of them all. I was driving home and just had this fleeting thought: Why don't we have one of those here?
Q: The Hall of Fame has brought to light a range of West Virginia-connected artists from genres you might not connect with the state, like opera singer Eleanor Steber and jazz sax player Chu Berry, who played with Cab Calloway. You've come up with a lot of people maybe even you didn't know about.
A: Oh, lots of them. That's where the input from people across the state has been really great. Frank DeVol -- I was familiar with him from seeing his records. I had no idea he was born in West Virginia. He was born in Moundsville and he went on to score, like, 60 films, including "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte," "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" "Murder, Inc.," "Flight of the Phoenix." He also put out a lot of records and they were just called "Music by DeVol." He also played Happy Kyne, the band leader in the Martin Mull sitcom in the '70s "Fernwood Tonight."