Twenty years ago, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors to recognize those Kentuckians—performers, songwriters, publishers, promoters, managers, broadcasters, comedians and other professionals—who have made a significant contribution to the music industry. On the National Register of Historic Places, the Mt. Vernon museum is served by Jackson Energy Cooperative.
The first inductees, the class of 2002, included such musical luminaries as Queen of Country Music Loretta Lynn, Father of Bluegrass Music Bill Monroe, “girl singer” Rosemary Clooney, Tom T. Hall, The Everly Brothers and Merle Travis. The former riding stables that house the museum’s visitor center and gift shop once belonged to another 2002 inductee: John Lair (July 1, 1894–Nov. 12, 1985), songwriter, harmonica player, founder of Renfro Valley and creator of the 1930s radio program, Renfro Valley Barn Dance.
From Grandpa Jones in that inaugural year to Billy Ray Cyrus in 2018 (the year of its last induction ceremony) 60 Kentuckians have been so honored.
“Due to COVID-19, the Hall of Fame has not been able to have another induction ceremony since,” says Emily Bullock, director at the Mt. Vernon-Rockcastle County Tourist Commission. “But we hope to have one in 2022.”
The museum houses displays relating to Hall of Fame inductees, like the beaded fuchsia gown worn by 2008 inductee Crystal Gayle—a fan favorite and “the first thing to catch the eye when you walk into the main gallery,” according to Arts and Entertainment Manager Jeremy Edwards. It also features a timeline of Kentucky music history that reaches back to the 1800s.
Among its most prized collection pieces are Merle Travis’ guitar; Eddie Montgomery jackets created by celebrity couturier Manuel; Sam Bush’s custom Gibson mandolin; an oil painting of Bill Monroe titled, Father of Bluegrass Musicand painted by Carole Weaver; Loretta Lynn’s dress and guitar; Steve Wariner’s guitar; and clothes worn by Keith Whitley on the Opry.
Three museum must-sees include Christian musician Jason Crabb’s custom shirt, worn on the cover of his debut record and, on display for a limited time, Paul Martin’s custom jacket and Wynonna’s outfit.
One exhibit features multiple Kentucky Living Best in Kentucky award recipient JD Shelburne, considered one of music’s busiest and fastest-rising national stars.
Shelburne says Kentucky played a huge role in who he is today and has helped propel him to reach his goals and dreams as an artist.
“I am extremely honored to have an exhibit at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame to celebrate the success of my music career,” says Shelburne, whose most recent album is titled Straight From Kentucky.
“Growing up on my family farm in Taylorsville, my parents instilled in me hard work, dedication and love for my hometown early on,” he adds. “I played my first concert in Taylorsville back in 2003, and it’s hard to believe I now have my own exhibit. I have so much pride for this great state, and I am grateful for their support at the Hall.”
See the full list of Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductees.
Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum
2590 Richmond Street, Mt. Vernon, KY
Open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. seven days a week; closed some holidays
Facebook: Kentucky Music Hall of Fame for updates.