Bart Herbison and Erika Wollam Nichols were honored Monday night (Oct. 30) with the Bob Kingsley Living Legend Award at the Opry House, at a dinner to benefit the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund.
The event, which has been on hiatus since the pandemic, returned for a seventh time to celebrate the career of Bob Kingsley, and has raised more than $350,000 since the event’s inception. Songwriters participating in this year’s tribute included Jeffrey Steele, John Rich, Rivers Rutherford, Lee Miller, Steve Bogard, Tim Nichols, Lee Roy Parnell, Victoria Shaw, Tony Arata, Don Henry, Kathy Mattea, Jon Vezner and Rhett Akins.
Herbison is the Executive Director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). He worked as a reporter and spent 14 years in radio and as a correspondent for The Nashville Banner newspaper before joining the administration of former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter as Deputy Director of Communications in 1987. Herbison ventured to Music Row in 1997 following his political career. He has played a pivotal role in legislative efforts aimed at protecting intellectual property rights and ensuring fair compensation for songwriters in the digital age. He has helped shape key copyright legislation, including the adoption of the Music Modernization Act of 2018, the most important copyright law reform for songwriters in decades which created The Mechanical Licensing Collective.
Wollam Nichols serves as the Chief Operating Officer at the Bluebird Café and oversees all aspects of the venue’s on-site and off-site operations, along with marketing, sponsorship and brand development of The Bluebird Café name. She is also co-director of the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival and handles the performance program of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Prior to her role at Bluebird Cafe, Erika held several executive positions within the entertainment industry.
Previous Bob Kingsley Living Legend Award honorees included Kingsley himself in 2014, Joe Galante (2015), Jim Ed Norman (2016), Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase (2017), Clarence Spalding (2018) and Lon Helton (2019).
The Opry Trust Fund began in 1965 with a mission to help those in the country music industry by offering financial assistance during a time of extraordinary need, emergency or catastrophe. This includes individuals who are or have been employed full time in a facet of the country music industry (i.e. performer, songwriter, publisher, radio, session musician, etc.). The fund pays for items such as medical bills, living expenses, utilities, and rent or mortgage. The fund accepts referrals from individuals within the country community, including Opry members, as well as other charitable organizations such as MusiCares, ACM Lifting Lives and Music Health Alliance.
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