This year’s SOURCE Hall of Fame Awards featured landmark anniversaries and the nostalgia they inspire.
Staged at the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum on Tuesday (Aug. 22), the sold-out event honored Amy Kurland, Martha Moore, Lula C. Naff, Judith Newby, Joyce M. Rice, Bonnie Sugarman and Susan Turner. This was the 15th anniversary of the SOURCE honors, the 35th anniversary of Kurland’s Bluebird Café and the 125th birthday of Naff’s Ryman Auditorium. Show host Jeannie Seely celebrates her 50th anniversary as an Opry member this fall.
While at First American, Rice made history in 1983 by opening the first bank satellite office catering to the music business. She became a pioneer female vice president there before moving to BMI in 1990. She was chosen for the inaugural Leadership Music class, helped form the Nashville NARAS chapter and was a founding board member of the W.O. Smith Community Music School.
Lisa Harless read the acceptance remarks — Joyce is recovering from a 2016 stroke: “There were no women executives when I started, and I am thankful to the men who mentored me….I was blessed to be in the music business at a very fun time. I’ve had a great career. I’m grateful to you all for being in my life.”
Kurland is the daughter of a Nashville session musician. She founded The Bluebird Café in 1982. The venue created the songwriter “in the round” format and has been featured in books, movies and television shows. It is now operated by Amy’s buddy, attendee Erika Wollam-Nichols, for the Nashville Songwriters Association.
“I wouldn’t be here at all if it were not for the songwriters, musicians and singers who have graced the Bluebird stage,” said Amy. On behalf of them, she thanked attendee Thom Schuyler and quoted his “16th Avenue.”
Next up was Martha Moore. She began in Nashville at WLAC radio in 1976, then transitioned to being a publicist at ABC, MCA and Mercury/PolyGram. She worked with such superstars as The Oak Ridge Boys, Bill Monroe, George Strait, Brenda Lee and Johnny Cash. She opened her own “so much MOORE” PR firm in 1988 working with Hank Cochran, The Browns, Fred Foster and others.
“She had a 15-year association with the legendary Hank Cochran – longer than mine!” wisecracked host Jeannie Seely, who was once married to the Hall of Fame tunesmith.
“It’s hard to believe I’m celebrating 29 years with my boutique PR company,” Martha reflected. “I have truly had a blessed life….so far. I have many years left.”
Sally Williams gave a fantastic speech on behalf of honoree Lula C. Naff (1875-1960). Lula booked the Ryman Auditorium beginning in 1904 and took over its management in 1914. She brought Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, The Marx Brothers, Sarah Bernhardt, Gene Autry, The Ziefeld Follies, Harry Houdini, Mae West and other legends of the stage to Nashville and famously opened the Ryman’s doors to the Opry in 1943.
Lula was known as “America’s first lady of theater management.” Sally noted that the venue never operated at a loss during Lula’s stewardship and that she accomplished so much in an era when women didn’t even have the right to vote.
“She was tough, determined, shrewd and capable,” said Sally. “We are inspired by Lula’s legacy. She was courageous and fearless. She was loyal and dedicated. I look out at the SOURCE wall display, and I see women who are courageous and fearless and loyal and dedicated.” She tearfully recalled the late Jo Walker-Meador as one of those women and as the person who provided a personal connection to the life of Lula.
Judith Newby moved to Nashville in 1975 with hubby Tom Newby to run Charley Pride’s management company. She graduated from there to booking Ronnie Milsap, T.G. Sheppard and Mel McDaniel. A 1982-86 stint at Top Billing meant booking Tom T. Hall, Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis, Waylon Jennings and Lorrie Morgan. She then started J.P. Newby Management and worked with Johnny Rodriguez, Duane Eddy, The Everly Brothers and others. She co-founded the webcasting platform TappedInto in 1996.
“What a ride!” she exclaimed. “It was fun. It was exhilarating. We worked hard, but we worked together. We got through a lot of things just with good humor. Thank you my dear friends. I hope you get to look back at the end and say, ‘I loved my job.’ I did.”
Bonnie Sugarman has spent three decades at APA and is the co-head of the booking agency’s Nashville office. She was the NATD’s agent of the year in 1995 and 1996. She won the Hubert Long Award in 2005 and graduated from Leadership Music in 2010. She has been the agent for such legends as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, George Burns, Bob Hope, Kenny Rogers, Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Charlie Daniels, Danny Davis and Donna Fargo.
For her acceptance speech, Bonnie related a highly amusing anecdote that involved guiding Red Skelton through a gig in Kansas City that involved a 1 a.m. dinner with 25 circus clowns in full makeup.
Susan Turner joined Capitol Records in 1974 when it opened its Nashville office. In 1978-80 she was in promotion at RCA. She went to Disc Mastering in 1980, then became Kerry O’Neil’s assistant in 1985 and the office manager for Moress/Nanas/Peay Management in 1987. She joined the promo firm headed by attendee Bruce Shindler in 1991 and they became partners a year later. She next ran Turner & Associates as one of Nashville’s top indie promo firms for 14 years.
Susan and her company promoted 253 No. 1 hits for folks including Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw. In 2005-08 she promoted events in Florida.
“This has been an incredible evening,” she said. “I’m honored to be in the company of these amazing women. I got to be part of this business when it was raw and real and beautiful. We celebrated each others’ successes. You had to be there. And I am so glad I was.”
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still having fun. What’s not to like when you’re at a banquet table crowned with stupendous red roses dining with pals like MusicRow owner/publisher Sherod Robertson?
We enjoyed romaine salad with shaved parmesan and roasted tomatoes, then tender twin beef medallions on beds of whipped potatoes and asparagus. The finale was a tray of glass cups holding vanilla, chocolate and strawberry mousse (thank you, Gaylord). There were open bars (thank you, Chris Young). The staging, video and lighting were excellent (thank you, Matt Davenport Productions). And thank you, Platinum Partner Springer Mountain Farms.
Prior SOURCE honorees worked the room – Diane Cash, Alison Booth, Karen Conrad, Rose Drake, Peggy Motley, Pat Rolfe, Debi Fleischer-Robin, Areeda Schneider-Stampley, Sandy Neese, Mary Del Scobey, Paula Szeigis, Judy Harris, Joyce Jackson, Bonnie Garner, Bebe Evans, Kay Smith, Corky Wilson, Audrey Winters, Judy Wray and, of course, Sally Williams.
The eve’s most distinguished guest was Mayor Megan Barry. She drew a long and huge ovation as an outpouring of sympathy and support when introduced.
“Thank you so much for that,” she responded. “It really means something to me. If you learn a couple of things about women, we are strong. Boy, are we strong. So many of you have hugged me tonight, and that fills my heart up.”
She referenced the recent overdose death of her only child and added, “Don’t be afraid to reach out. The counterweight to grief is community. And I am eternally grateful to all of you tonight.
“The music industry needs more women. Because we have our own way of leading. Women in this room, you are changing the face of what people expect.” As is Megan Barry, amen.
Let’s hear it for the boys. Among the supportive male attendees were Rod Essig, Sherrill Blackman, Charlie Monk, Butch Baker, Eddie Fussell, Gene Ward, Chuck Neese, Ray Shelide, Don Cusic, Joe Stampley, John Dorris, Woody Bomar, Ted Wagner, Frank Mull, Rick Rockhill, John Lomax III and Bob Doyle.
New artist Carter Winter was accompanied by Becky Young Harris. Our circulating hosts with the most were the museum’s Joe & Linda Chambers.
While Ronnie Brown serenaded us with pop and country classics during the cocktail hour, the fabulons schmoozed – Beverly Keel, Ronna Rubin, Pam Matthews, Jason Morris & Jewel Coburn, Patsy Bruce, Renee White, Debbie Banks, Diane Pearson, Sylvia, Preshus Tomes Harris, Edie Emery, Joann Berry, Sherry Bond, Rita Allison, Stacy Schlitz, Tinti Moffatt, Cheri Cranford, Lori Badgett, Chris Dodson, Carol Ann Mobley, Whitney Daane, Sarah Brosmer, Laurie Hughes and Susan Myers Woelkers.
Video greetings came from Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire and Kelsea Ballerini. Guiding us through the whole experience were current SOURCE president Christy Walker-Watkins, plus event co-chairs Sheree Spoltore and Suzanne Lee.