Seven women joined the SOURCE Hall of Fame on Tuesday night (Aug. 27), and one of them sounded a manifesto for the organization.
“Here’s what you need to know to make it in music,” said honoree Beverly Keel. “Be your own best friend. Support other women. Speak your mind. Don’t worry about the nay-sayers. You’re not alone.
“Your ideas are good — that’s why men keep stealing them.” She saluted her Change the Conversation sisters, who are working to bring gender equality to music. And she reminded the attendees how far women have come.
“It’s just starting to get good,” Beverly concluded. It was a great, rabble-rousing speech that drew an enthusiastic response from the sold-out audience. It underscored the whole purpose of the SOURCE organization, which annually recognizes “the women behind the music.”
“That’s the best talk I’ve ever heard,” said co-host Jeannie Seely. “Brenda and I want copies,” she added, referring to her hosting partner, Brenda Lee.
Keel was recognized for her work as a publicist (UMG), journalist (The Tennessean, The Banner, People, etc.) and educator (MTSU). She was saluted on video by Jamey Johnson, who also attended in person.
“I begged not to go on after Beverly Keel, but here I am,” quipped honoree Erika Wollam-Nichols. She earned her place in the SOURCE Hall via her presidency of The Bluebird Café and stints with the Summer Lights arts festival, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the NSAI, an NPR series and Tin Pan South.
She recognized tunesmith Fred Knobloch in the crowd, adding, “There is an army of songwriters in this town that we could not live without. I live in constant gratitude and admiration for what they create.
“I also want to thank all of you – you have made me what I am today. I am shocked to be up here with all of these amazing women.” Erika was saluted on video by songwriter Lori McKenna.
Singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell gave video greetings to honoree Judi Turner. “There are 120 women on the wall of this institution who never would have received an award were it not for SOURCE, including me,” Judi said. “I am stunned and amazed that you would see fit to honor me.”
Judi is currently with Leadership Music. Her resume also includes work with the CMA, Network Ink and Turner & Co., as well as notable magazine-editing assignments.
Gene Watson did the video honors for Sarah Brosmer, whose career includes gigs at Ray Stevens Music, PolyGram, Compleat, Sony and Lytle Management.
“I really want to give a big thank-you to my family,” Sarah said. “My girls are living proof that you can survive on Hamburger Helper.” Referring to her promotion work overseas (for which she won a Jo Walker Meador CMA Award), she added, “I like to think I was promoting global peace through country music.” Sarah concluded, “Every day, it is still a great pleasure to go to work.”
Grace Reinbold is the rare SOURCE honoree who forged a career in rock, rather than country music. She managed several Nashville rock bands, including Royal Court of China. She also created What a Trip! This company manages vacation promotions for recording artists, film firms, radio stations and record labels.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Sam Moore did her video greeting. Grace told Brenda, “It’s really because of you that I fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s never left my soul.
“What an honor tonight is, to be in front of people who rock my world.”
“What can I say?” said honoree Gayle Hill. “Except I am so stunned and thrilled to be standing in front of such a distinguished group.” Gayle was dubbed “Jingle Belle” because of her work producing country artists such as Dottie West, Sonny James, Loretta Lynn and The Glaser Brothers as ad singers for Coke, GMC, Miller Beer, Kraft, Rubbermaid, Mellon Bank and Stouffer’s Pizza, among many others.
“I was not the smartest, but I was shrewd as heck, and I knew how to talk,” Gayle said of her success in selling Nashville to New York and Chicago ad agencies. “With the singers, the musicians, the engineers and the songwriters in Nashville, I couldn’t fail.” Video congratulations came from Ron Oates, who worked with her on many of those jingles.
SOURCE honoree Trisha Walker-Cunningham has booked more than 400 artists on overseas tours. Country Music Hall of Famer Jo Walker-Meador encouraged Trisha in all of her international-festival ventures.
“Nobody believed there was a market for country music overseas,” Trisha recalled. “It was a solitary mission to change all that. I worked for love, not money, that’s true.” Today, “I’m happy to see so many young artists touring Europe.” International superstar Ronan Keating sent video greetings from Ireland.
Brenda, Seely, Knobloch and Jamey weren’t the only music makers in attendance. Regina McCrary, Joe Stampley, Tommy Womack, Ray Baker, Smilin’ Jay McDowell, Dave Pomeroy, Steve Bogard, Benita Hill and actor/musician/model Rob Mayes also worked the room. Which was the lobby space of the Musicians Hall of Fame at Municipal Auditorium, decoratively transformed.
Stampley reports that he and Moe Bandy are doing reunion shows at casinos. Regina checks in with the news that The McCrary Sisters have signed with Rounder and are preparing a Christmas album. Womack is working on a rock project with Reinbold.
The room was full of fabulous females. Deb Barnes, Deborah Brauner, Debi Fleisher-Robin, Debbie Linn, Debbie Carroll, Debbie Moore, Carrie Moore, Martha Moore, Ronna Rubin, Barbara Baker, Sheree Spoltore, Susan Stewart, Suzanne Lee, Susan Meyers Woelkers, Cindy Mabe, Cindy Owen, Cindy Watts, Margie McGahey, Margie Hunt, Karen Clark, Karen Conrad, Becky Harris, Judy Harris, Preshius Harris, yadadda, yadadda, yadadda.
Supportive boys in attendance included Roger Nichols, Lou Spoltore, Bart Herbison, Dan Rogers, Don Cusic, Matt Davenport, Gene Ward, Sherrill Blackmon (who gallantly escorted honorees on and off the stage), Jimmy Wheeler, Jeff Gregg, Frank Mull, Bob Doyle, Joe Chambers, Sherod Robertson, David Conrad, Fletcher Foster, Charlie Monk and Charlie Robin.
But enough about the hairy-legged contingent. Let’s get back to citing women such as supreme schmoozers Bonnie Garner, Cathy Gurley, Pat Rolfe, Celia Froehlig, Marion Williams, Anita Hogin, Katie Gillon, Lauren Tingle, Lori Badgett, Amy Kurland, Linda Chambers, Areeda Schneider-Stampley (pause for breath),
Leslie Tomasina DiPiero, Patsy Bruce, Bonnie Sugarman, Pam Matthews, Lyndie Wenner, Renee White, Teresa George, Diane Pearson, Bev Moser, Vernell Hackett, Paula Szeigis, Alicia Jones, Jessica Nicholson, Laurie Hughes and a partridge in a pear tree.
Then there’s Kay Smith. Brenda and she have been friends since the 7th Grade at Maplewood Junior High. Kay faithfully corresponded with her pal as Brenda went singing around the world (to a reported 52 nations, before jet travel existed).
“She was my source of friendship,” said Brenda, “my source of home.” Kay conceived of the SOURCE awards, and the organization launched its annual banquet in 2003.
“Can you believe this is SOURCE’s 17th year?” asked Brenda. “We didn’t know if it would work or not. Boy, has this worked! We’re having a big party tonight.”
She and Seely sang “Happy Trails” to bid us adieu. By the way, the evergreen song was written by a woman, Dale Evans.