The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame is proceeding with its 2015 induction tonight despite an abrupt change of leadership.
The organization fired executive director Robert Lawson in February. He was later arrested for stealing from the Hall of Fame and other Rockcastle County organizations.
A statement released by Roy Martin, chairman of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors, said, “The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame has terminated Robert Lawson as its Executive Director as of February 9, 2015. As part of its ongoing oversight, the Board of Directors detected several questionable financial transactions. Thankfully, we believe that the problem was detected quickly, before any more significant damage was done.”
The statement also said the Hall of Fame shared its findings with the County Attorney and Kentucky State Police and is co-operating with their investigations.
Lawson’s firing, however, will not derail tonight’s induction ceremony. The event, held every other year, will welcome six new groups of artists and music professionals at Lexington Center, including local members of the pop group Backstreet Boys and country duo Montgomery Gentry. Several of the inductees will also perform at tonight’s ceremony
Here is a look at the 2015 class of inductees.
Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson: Cousins born and raised in Lexington, Littrell and Richardson remain the Kentucky connection in one of the most commercially successful pop vocal groups of the ‘90s, the Backstreet Boys. While Richardson was absent from the group between 2006 and 2012, the Backstreet Boys remain active with recording projects and international touring.
Montgomery Gentry: After working for years locally in the band of John Michael Montgomery and on their own, Eddie Montgomery (John Michael’s older brother) and Troy Gentry established their own Southern rock-leaning country music career at the close of the ‘90s. Since the release of the duo’s debut album, Tattoos & Scars, Montgomery Gentry has chalked up numerous No. 1 country hits, including My Town.
Clarence Spalding: During the early ‘80s, Spalding was one of the managerial voices behind one of the most popular music clubs in Lexington, Breeding’s. But what sends him to the Hall of Fame is what he has accomplished since then. Over the past three decades, he has become one of the most respected managers in the country music industry with a client list that includes Jason Aldean and Brooks & Dunn.
Doc Hopkins: A native of Harlan County, Hopkins was introduced to banjo and steel guitar at an early age before a fascination with traveling medicine show acts hit after his family relocated to Rockcastle County nearly a century ago. During the 1940s, he was a regular performer on Chicago’s WLS Barn Dance and was rediscovered by a new folk generation taken with traditional and old-time music in the ’60s. Hopkins died in 1988.
Larry Cordle: Born in Lawrence County, Cordle was the songwriter behind several country hits for fellow Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs (most notably Highway 40 Blues). But he has also penned tunes that wound up on records by Garth Brooks, George Strait, Loretta Lynn and others. Curiously, Cordle’s anthem of Nashville commercialization, Murder on Music Row, was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2000.
The Moonglows: A pre-eminent pop vocal force during the 1950s thanks to the now-classic hits Ten Commandments of Love and Sincerely, the Moonglows cut much of their music after establishing a home base in Cleveland. The Kentucky connection comes from founding members Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester, who began singing together in Louisville as a duo around 1949. Lester died in 1980, Fugua in 2010.
Pete Stamper: A veritable country music entrepreneur, the Dawson Springs-born Stamper joined Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee in the ‘50s, had a rockabilly hit (Cheva-Kiser-Old-Mo-Laca-Stud-War-Linco-Baker) in the ’60s and served as Dolly Parton’s road manager in the ‘70s. But he is best known regionally as a performer/comedian at Renfro Valley with an affiliation that began in 1950. Stamper is also a veteran broadcaster.
The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame’s 2015 Induction Ceremony will be held at 7 tonight at the Bluegrass Ballroom at Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine. Call: (877) 356-3263, (606) or got to kentuckymusicmuseum.com.