Kentucky’s influence on American music is undeniable, and local musicians appear in just about every genre of music found today. A museum in Mount Vernon showcases some of these artists, past and present.
“Here at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, you’ll find Kentucky’s complete timeline of musical history,” says Director Avery Bradshaw. “We honor anybody from Loretta Lynn to the Backstreet Boys—two of them are from Kentucky.”
One of the Hall of Fame’s newest inductees is the band Exile, who recently celebrated 50 years of performing and recording music.
“They’re] one of the longest running groups in history, and they’ve made such a huge impact on Kentucky’s musical history as well as traveling around the world,” says Bradshaw. “Guys like that are the ones that keep the torch burning for Kentucky’s musical heritage.”
The commonwealth is associated most closely with bluegrass music and its influence on country music, and artists from those genres are well represented in the Hall of Fame.
“Another inductee that I would highly recommend who has really shaped Kentucky’s music is Dwight Yoakam,” says Jessica Bray, a Kentucky music journalist and historian. “He really made a name for himself in movies and music. He is one of those people who is proud of where he came from. He’s proud of his heritage.”
No Kentucky music story is complete without the state’s most famous coal miner’s daughter.
“Loretta Lynn. To me, she defines Kentucky music,” says Bray. “She is a pioneer, and I say that because she was presenting songs such as Rated X, The Peel, You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man, alongside Coal Miner’s Daughter. She took the stand. She put a voice, a name, a face, to Kentucky. Not only her, but her sister Crystal Gayle and that whole family is just phenomenal.”
Among the recent inductees is bluegrass musician Dale Ann Bradley.
“[Bradley] was the five-time International Bluegrass Music Association female vocalist of the year,” says Bradshaw. “She got her start right here at Renfro Valley and she loves this area. It’s just like home to her.”
The museum that houses the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame is nearly 20,000 square feet and has close to 100 exhibits, including rotating features on the more than 60 inductees.
“I think the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame Museum is probably one of Kentucky’s best assets,” says Bray. “It puts our music on display… There are people that come to the museum, they want to see one particular artist, but maybe they’ll learn about somebody else.”
“We have such a rich musical heritage here that a lot of people don’t realize,” says Bradshaw. “It is so interesting to see people learning about that, and they really love it.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2502, which originally aired on October 12, 2019. Watch the full episode.