By IKE ADAMS
If you are over 60 and have been a lifelong fan of country music, you need to put a visit to The Kentucky Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on your bucket list.
And if you’re like me, living with the knowledge that your bucket is more precariously positioned to tip over than most other folks, may I suggest that you do it between now and Labor Day of this year so that you’ll have one great memory to dwell upon until that old bucket completely loses balance.
If you’re an under-60 fan, unworried about your bucket, you should make the visit because I can almost guarantee you’ll learn a bunch of interesting stuff about homegrown Kentucky entertainers that you didn’t previously know. In fact, the younger you are, the more you’ll learn unless you’ve devoted the greater portion of your life to studying the history of country music.
Even though the museum is located within spitting distance (if you can spit 100 feet) from the big Renfro Valley entertainment and shopping complex, you would be sorely mistaken to assume that it is simply a shrine to the late John Lair, the creator and founder of The Renfro Valley Barn Dance that had an incredibly popular international radio broadcast from the early 1930s until well into the 1950s.
Unfortunately, like so many other popular radio shows of the mid-20th century such as The Green Hornet, Amos and Andy, Uncle Remus, The Shadow, Lone Ranger, etc., The Barn Dance was unable to sustainably make the transition to television and gradually lost its radio programming as big national advertisers switched their dollars from radio to television.
While there are numerous photographs and recordings of The Barn Dance heydays at the museum, they do not overshadow or upstage dozens of other displays. Bits and pieces of information about performing artists native to Kentucky are far too numerous to mention in this column. Suffice to say that big names like Bill Monroe, The Osborne Brothers, Red Foley, Loretta Lynn, Naomi Judd, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley are among the more prominent displays but ample tribute is devoted to well over a hundred other performers.
For example, Loretta snapped a photograph of me having a stare down with a cardboard cutout of Billy Ray Cyrus that a lot of people thought was the real Billy Ray. The pic had over 140 Facebook likes at last count and that’s a record, by a large margin, for my Facebook page. The photo caption said that Billy Ray had offered a hundred bucks for the old beat up Western hat I was wearing and I turned him down. Little brother Steve promptly commented that I’d probably delivered the fatal blow to Billy Ray’s “Achy Breaky Heart,” a song that literally makes me cringe.
Admission to the hall of fame/museum varies by age group and special prices for groups. The highest admission is less than $9 and I believe it’s $7.50 for seniors. As of this writing its website, kentuckymusicmuseum.com, has been hacked by an Internet crook and I get directed to a scammer trying to sell something else. Hopefully it’ll be fixed by the time this column hits your paper. If not, you can email email@example.com and someone will answer any questions you may have.
And when you get there make sure you cross the road to the Renfro Valley Shops a few dozen steps from the museum and hit the Gristmill General Store for a couple scoops of their blueberry cheesecake ice cream which was easily the best new taste sensation I experienced in 2016 when we were there for the Rhonda Vincent concert last November. In fact, I highly recommend spending a day in the museum and taking in a music show that evening. The sound quality at “The Big Barn” auditorium is as good or better than most places we’ve experienced in Kentucky or, for that matter, any place in the country. Visit the website, renfrovalley.com, for a schedule of some 20 or so headliner acts coming up throughout the year including Bobby Bare, Pam Tillis with Lorrie Morgan, Exile, Wynonna Judd, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs and at least a dozen other big name acts coming soon.
Check the website for their regular, ongoing shows and ticket prices.