20th Annual Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Weekend

Written by Kay Hubbard.

A Legendary Panola County Tradition Honors Legendary Musicians

One of the busiest weekends on the Panola County calendar is coming up August 11-13. Chamber of Commerce President Tommie Ritter Smith and her staff work all year to prepare for the huge Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Weekend, a three-day extravaganza packed with activities surrounding the induction of new TCMHOF members. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event. It is also a year that the staff is experiencing an extra measure of stress regarding the location of the two main events. The new Performance Arts Center at Carthage High School was scheduled to be finished in time to host them, but the venue’s completion date is still uncertain. Fortunately, the community now has access to the Civic Center, where the events will be held if the new venue is unavailable.

The calendar of events is as follows:
Friday, August 11
8 a.m. - The Hall of Fame, gift shop, and Tex Ritter Museum will be open until 4 p.m. with free admission and tours.
3 p.m. - Annual Meeting. All are invited to meet people involved with the museum and hear a report of all that has gone on during the past year.
6 p.m. - Doors open at the Civic Center (or possibly the Performance Arts Center)
7 p.m. - John Ritter Tribute Showcase, with Linda Davis serving as emcee. The 30 finalists selected during Showcase Tryouts on June 24 will compete, each presenting a vocal selection of classic country music, for a $1,000 cash prize and the right to represent the TCMHOF at concerts and special events during the year. The judges will be celebrities in the field of country music, to be announced. The Showcase initially started as a way to feature local talent but is now attracting performers from all over. John Ritter’s name was added to the event shortly after his death to honor him and the deep commitment he and the Ritter family had to helping people get started in the country music business, as well as to recognize them for their involvement in everything regarding the museum and the Hall of Fame.

Saturday, August 12
8 a.m. - The Hall of Fame, gift shop, and Tex Ritter Museum will be open until 4 p.m. with free admission and tours.
9 a.m. - KGAS Tex Ritter Roundup competition.  The competition is for any singer who wants to present a classic country vocal selection.  Competitors need to call KGAS Radio in advance to register.
5 p.m. - Doors open at the Civic Center (or possibly the Performance Arts Center)
6 p.m. - 20th Annual Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Show, featuring 2017 TCMHOF inductees Kenny Rogers and Bobbie Lee Nelson, emcee Tracy Byrd, and a host of other country music celebrities.

Sunday,  August 13
9-11 a.m. - Gospel at the Hall, special guest artists to be announced, at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame

The 2017 inductees into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame are Kenny Rogers and Bobbie Lee Nelson. Kenny Rogers is the 50th inductee into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Kenny has enjoyed tremendous success throughout his 60-year career. His Grammy Award-winning performance of “Lucille” in 1977 propelled him to almost instant superstardom and was quickly followed with two other enormous hits, “The Gambler” and “Lady.” A sentence about this remarkable entertainer on his own website describes him perfectly: “The enduring superstar has endeared music lovers around the world with his amazing songs, distinctive voice, heartfelt performances, gift for storytelling, and universal appeal.” Kenny began his final world tour last year, “The Gambler’s Last Deal,” and Panola County’s own Linda Davis has been featured quite prominently throughout the show. In the Hall of Fame show, together they will recreate some of the memorable moments from his final tour.

Bobbie Lee Nelson is a well-known singer and pianist in country music and is the sister of 1998 TCOF inductee Willie Nelson. She has been a member of his band, Willie Nelson and Family, since 1973. That same year, she also joined Willie on piano for the recording of albums, “The Troublemaker,” “Shotgun Willie,” and “Phases and Stages.” In 2008 Bobbie released her own solo album, “Audiobiography” and seven years later in 2015 recorded the album “December Day” with Willie.

The TCMHOF also offers two other categories of awards presented at the TCMHOF Show. One is induction into the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and other the Pioneer Award. The Pioneer Award was begun in 2016 and will be given periodically to honor individuals who have given a large measure of support, assistance, and other significant contributions to the country music profession.

The 2017 Disc Jockey  Hall of Fame inductee is Tracy Pitcox. Born in Brady, Texas, he attended Angelo State University in San Angelo and has been employed by KNEL radio in Brady since 1986. He owns Heart of Strings Records and Heart of Texas Recording Studio and is president of the 1,000-member Heart of Texas Country Music Association and the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum. His radio show, “Hillbilly Hits,” is a favorite of traditional country music fans in his area.

The Pioneer Award recipient is Mo Jelaudarzadeh, owner of Mo’s Place in Katy, Texas. His establishment boasts a stage for promising country singers, as well as a dance floor, and was designed specifically to promote rising country music hopefuls. He says that his slogan, “See the stars of tomorrow at Mo’s Place Today,” is there for a reason—that he really believes in them and wants to give them the same chances he was given when he arrived in America with nothing but a suitcase and the ambition to achieve the American Dream.

Special guest performers for the 2017 show will be emcee Tracy Byrd (a 2015 TCMHOF inductee), T. G. Sheppard, Kelly Lang, Linda Davis, Dallas Wayne, voice impressionist and comedian Johnny Counterfit (who performed in the very first Hall of Fame show), last year’s Showcase winner Scott  Hampton, and the TCMHOF Band.

What an incredible, stellar weekend is promised in Panola County August 11-13, to celebrate country music, all these gifted performers, and our own great community and tourist attraction, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.