By D. J. MORROW INGRAM
D.J. MORROW INGRAM for GTR Newspapers
It was a star-studded music-filled night in Muskogee last month when The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. inducted Oklahomans Toby Keith, Billy Parker, Tommy Allsup and the Cain’s Ballroom into its 2005 Class at the Civic Auditorium. Making a surprise appearance at the awards ceremony and concert was Carrie Underwood, “American Idol” winner and Oklahoma native, who accepted her Rising Star award.
Saying it was good to be home, Underwood said to the crowd of more than 3,500 fans, “I am so proud to to be receiving this in front of all you wonderful people.”
At the induction ceremony held separately from the concert, Keith was inducted by both Barry Switzer, the famed University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys coach, and Harold Shedd, the man who signed Keith to Mercury Records. Switzer commented how much he grew to love Keith’s 1993 hit song, “Shoulda Been a Cowboy,” because when it was played during Dallas games it meant his team had done something very good.
“I am an Oklahoman who will always be proud to be an Oklahoman,” Keith said during his acceptance speech. “All my life I’ve had a mailbox in Oklahoma and I always will.”
Veteran radio personality Parker was inducted by Tulsa World writer and past Hall of Fame inductee John Wooley who said that listening to Parker on the radio feels like you’re sitting there having a cup of coffee with him.
Parker, a long time disc jockey on Tulsa country radio station KVOO was almost speechless upon receiving his award—something highly unprecedented. But he recovered and spent his time thanking many people, praising others and reminincing about days on the road as the front man for the Texas Troubadour.
Classic country singer Red Stegall inducted Allsup, a Claremore native.
“There is not a western swing album in the past 35 years that you don’t hear Tommy Allsup’s guitar on it,” he said. Allsup’s skill on the guitar attracted the attention of Buddy Holly in 1958. It was he who won “or lost” the coin toss with Richie Valens in 1959 in that ill-fated airplane trip one winter night that killed Holly and his band. Paul McCartney calls him one of the finest guitar players in the world.
Former Cain’s owner Larry Schaeffer inducted Cain’s Ballroom, one of the most well known music venues in the nation. Inductee Allsup remembered watching Bob Wills perform there. Accepting the award was current owner, Dr. Jim Rodgers, a Tulsa neurosurgeon, and he pledged to keep Cain’s the same hallowed place it has always been but make it bigger, better and safer.
Parker opened the concert that followed the ceremony and proved why he remains a major force in country music, singing several of his memorable songs such as “(Who’s Gonna Sing) That Last Country Song” and “Lord, If I Make It To Heaven (Can I Bring My Own Angel Along).”
Allsup followed and focused on his years with Holly assisted by a Holly impersonator to perform the legend’s classic tunes including “Peggy Sue.”
Keith took the stage and played such hits as “Beer For My Horses” and “I Love This Bar.” He ended his set with the patriotic “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” written in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. During the song, a soldier attending the concert was moved to walk to the front of auditorium and stand at attention. Another member of the audience produced a small flag and gave it to the soldier who held it high bringing the audience to its feet and drawing a standing ovation.
The concert concluded with Underwood and the other inductees (except Keith who had to leave due to a family emergency) singing the gospel song, “I’ll Fly Away” assisted by the members of the Northeastern State Downtown Country.
The concert was held at the vaunted Muskogee Civic Center where Merle Haggard and Eddie Burris wrote “Okie from Muskogee” in 1969. The 60’s era Civic Center is inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame in 1993.
The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc is a nonprofit organization established in 1996 to promote and preserve Oklahoma Music. For information, visit www.oklahomamusichalloffame.com or call (918) 687-0800.