Events at the Country Music Hall of Fame always have the feeling of family reunions, but this week’s felt even more so.
First of all, the exhibit preview was in honor of the widely beloved Martina McBride. Second of all, it was the first event staged at the venue since….well, you know.
“I could not be more excited to be here, or for you to be here, for the celebration of ‘Martina McBride: The Power of Her Voice,’” said Kyle Young in welcoming the crowd on Tuesday (July 27). “It’s been a long, long, long, long time since we have been able to gather together in this Rotunda.”
“I am beyond thrilled to have my own exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame,” said Martina. “I’m so touched and moved by it. Thank you guys for sharing this special, special moment with me.”
We gathered in the Hall of Fame’s sacred Rotunda, surrounded by the plaques of country music’s legends. From the get-go, the get- together felt immensely warm and friendly.
Steve Moore, Brian Mansfield, Susan Nadler, Tim Wipperman, Dwight Wiles, Hunter Kelly, Evelyn Shriver, Rod Essig, Stormie Warren, Paul Worley, Tracy Gershon & Steve Fishell, Shane Tarleton, Phyllis Stark, Schatzi Hageman, Marion Williams, Dann Huff, Harry Stinson, Beth Hooker and Angela Stefano were merrily working the room. Masks were required, and Beth and Angela wore colorful ones, embroidered with Mexicali flair.
Matt Leimkueler spotted Garth Brooks in the throng. The superstar was sans hat and sporting a dark beard. I think he was trying to blend in, but once Matt approached him for some quotes, other attendees began asking Garth for selfies. You’ll recall that John McBride once worked on concert production for the megastar and that his then-unknown wife tagged along on the tour selling t-shirts. Then when Martina got her recording contract, Garth hired her as his opening act.
In addition to Matt, I hung out with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Gretchen Peters and keyboardist extraordinaire Barry Walsh. How many can say they have written a signature song, as Gretchen did with “Independence Day?”
The museum’s staff was hosting the event with aplomb. Brenda Colladay, Michael Gray, Mike McCall (who curated the exhibit), Lisa Purcell, Peter Cooper, Aubrey Miller and Paul Kingsbury greeted folks with class.
After snacking on yummy sliders, desserts and other treats, we headed upstairs to the exhibit. The display’s first section is devoted to Martina’s Kansas girlhood and features toys, her high school yearbook and items related to her performances in her family’s country-music band, The Shiffters, The center section includes lots of gorgeous gowns – let’s face it, she’s one of country’s great beauties and has a figure that’s perfect for couture. Martina’s five CMA awards and four ACM awards are exhibited. There is also a “Vocal Advocate” section that highlights her efforts against domestic violence and support of other causes. This is highlighted by her Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award crystal column.
“This is surreal and overwhelming,” said the always humble star about her museum honor. “It is a dream come true.”
“She is a force of nature,” commented Kyle. “Our admiration for her has only grown.”
And as for the event, itself? “It’s about coming together as a community…..once more.”