Photos: Alan Mayor
Every year, the SOURCE organization honors the women of Nashville’s music business.
This year’s awards banquet, held at the Noah Liff Opera Center (8/25) put the spotlight on Janice Wendell, Evelyn Shriver, the late Georgia Twitty Chellman, Barbara Orbison and Roberta Edging.
Kay Smith, who founded SOURCE with Judy Harris and Shelia Shipley-Biddy in 1991, welcomed the sold-out crowd of 250 and explained the SOURCE mission of being a networking, education, financial support and job-bank organization.
Kay announced that the SOURCE plaques will have a home in the new Musicians Hall of Fame, thanks to the generosity of Joe & Linda Chambers. When the Municipal Auditorium celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012, it will do so with a new name, The Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum at Municipal Auditorium. The hallways surrounding the auditorium will hold historical exhibits about the venue. The Museum and SOURCE exhibits will be located in the 68,000-square foot exhibit hall that is on the ground floor.
Jeannie Seely hosted the awards. Current SOURCE president Laurie Hughes gave out the plaques as each honoree took the stage.
“I’m amazed at not only our award winners, but all the women in this room,” said Seely. SOURCE membership is now approaching 200.
Roberta Edging was saluted first. The Nashville native ran Eddy Arnold’s business office for four decades. Jeannie described her as “a true family friend, even beyond the Country Music Hall of Famer’s death in 2008.” To the end, she typed Eddy’s correspondence on a manual typewriter and took dictation the old-fashioned way. And, as Jeannie noted, Roberta always referred to her boss as “Mr. Arnold.”
“Roberta kept him functional,” noted Charlie Monk. “It was a little hard to keep his office tidy. It looked like the set of Sanford & Son.”
“That office still looks exactly the same, by the way,” said Arnold’s grandson Shannon Pollard. “We’ve kept it that way….I have literally known her my entire life. I consider her to be a grandmother to me, in many ways.”
“I appreciate all the kind words,” Roberta responded. “I appreciate the almost 43 years I spent with a gentleman, Eddy Arnold.”
Honoree Millie Kirkham is also a Nashville native. She began her career as secretary to the late Jack Stapp at WSM. When he formed Tree Publishing, she went with him to Music Row. She next became one of the most in-demand session vocalists in the industry. Jeannie recalled Millie’s unforgettable soprano on such hits as Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” and George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Millie’s acceptance speech was a delight. Because of the demands of the recording studio, “I wasn’t home to cook dinner for my family,” she recalled. “Thank goodness, a company called Swanson’s came along. My daughter is living proof that you can survive on frozen TV dinners.
“This is the first award I have ever won. We had an earthquake and a hurricane on the East Coast, and Millie Kirkham finally got an award.” Hoots of laughter and applause greeted her as she left the stage.
Barbara Orbison was honored for managing Roy Orbison’s career, for establishing her successful Nashville music-publishing company in 1996 and for launching Pretty Woman perfume in 2009. She was unable to attend, but we all got samples of Pretty Woman when we left the banquet.
After a New York career as a publicist for Diana Ross, Cher, Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, the stars of TV’s Dallas and dozens more, Evelyn Shriver moved to Nashville in 1985. She has worked for Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson and many others. Named the SRO Publicist of the Year four times, Evelyn rose to become the first female president of a record label in Nashville (Asylum Records, 1998-2000). She now heads the George Jones imprint Bandit Records.
“I don’t feel like I have any claim to be here,” said Evelyn modestly. “I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from the women in this business.”
Top executive Janice Wendell was saluted for her leadership of the powerhouse Ericson Advertising firm. Retired since 1992, she is the wife of Country Music Hall of Fame WSM/Gaylord executive E.W. “Bud” Wendell. Jeannie Seely noted that, “Mr. Wendell was my boss for many years [at the Opry]. He was always wonderful to work with. I assumed it was because he received such wonderful training at home.”
Janice accepted, saying, “I hope all of you find something you love to do. Because it won’t feel like working if you do….Enjoy life. It’s short. Do something nice for somebody every day.”
The late Georgia Twitty Chellman (1935-1992) was recognized for her work in television (Gospel Jubilee), radio (Music City Hotline), hospitality (Veeson Travel) and food (Tennessee T-Cakes). She was also an award-winning photographer, helped to found Country Radio Seminar and raised six children.
Georgia had an outrageous sense of humor. Her widower, Chuck Chellman, accepted by saying, “Georgia was special. Good or bad, it was never boring….Whenever you go to a music function, she’s still with us today.”
The banquet hall was packed with powerful music-biz female personalities. Karen Conrad, Karen Oertley, Karen Sturgeon, K.T. Oslin, Katie Gillon, Kerry Hanson, Kira Florita, Susan Stewart, Susan Nadler, Suzanne Kessler, Becky Harris, Judy Harris, Judy Newby, Lori Badgett, Laurie Hughes, Caroline Davis, Cathy Gurley, Ree Guyer-Buchanan, Debbie Carroll, Nancy Shapiro, Tracy Gershon, Lyndie Wenner, Diane Pearson, Brandi Simms, Barbara Turner, Betsy Morley, Sarah Brosmer, Shatzi Hageman, Mary Miller, Margie Hunt, Gillie Crowder and Pat Rolfe schmoozed mightily.
Past winners attending included Frances Preston, Jo Walker-Meador, Pat McCoy, Liz Thiels, Celia Froehlig, Sandy Neese, Hope Powell, Ruth White, Carol Phillips and Hazel Smith.
And lest you think this was a ladies-only event, some of the notable gents in attendance included Paul Burch, Charlie McCoy, Bill Denny, Chuck Neese, Bob Saporiti, Fletcher Foster, Frank Mull, David Preston, Andrew Kitz, Gene Ward, John Lomax III, Jay Orr, Alan Mayor, Chris Dodson, Roger Shriver, Michael Campbell, Sherrill Blackmon, Gordon Stoker, Bud Wendell, Ron Cox, Don Cusic, Kyle Young and Troy Tomlinson.
Pianist Ronnie Brown serenaded each honoree with appropriately chosen selections (“Make the World Go Away” for Roberta, “Georgia on My Mind” for Georgia, etc.).
This was the ninth annual SOURCE banquet. This event is always noted for its excellent cuisine, and this year was no exception. We began with tossed green salad with pine nuts, blue-cheese crumbles and strawberries. The main course was melt-in-your-mouth roast beef with mushroom gravy, asparagus spears and the most scrumptious flakey scalloped potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Lighter-than-air raspberry and vanilla mousse with kiwi slices, blackberries and whipped cream finished us off.