by Mark Wright
photos by Deb Hadley
The Wabash Valley Musicians Hall of Fame inducted 15 new members on Sunday, March 13, with a rousing party at the Terre Haute Zorah Shrine Temple. An estimated 400-500 people attended the event, which ran from noon to about 7:00 p.m.
Attendees were treated to a chicken and spaghetti dinner and an afternoon of music along with the induction ceremony. Brent Gordon McPike and Solly Burton opened the entertainment, after which the ceremony occurred. Each inductee was given an opportunity to perform, which resulted in various permutations of bands coming and going all afternoon, providing a fantastic variety of music and a wonderful display of the talent in the Wabash Valley. Many of those in attendance felt this was one of the best celebrations of music the Hall of Fame has organized.
This year’s inductees were Dave Amerman, Bill Bell, Robert Bennett, Jill Brewer, Myron Cheeks, Lester Cunningham, Brad Elder, Richard Faust, Gary Wayne Gaskins, David LeDune, Gary Ooley, Tracy Richardson, David Trench, Al Withrow, and Clyde Wright. These artists have contributed years and years of music and education to all of us and were well deserving of the honor.
To be eligible for the Wabash Valley Musicians Hall of Fame, one must be at least 50 years old and have performed for at least 25 years. Board members select a new class each year after going through dozens of applications. There are just over 300 members at this time.
The induction ceremony not only provides an opportunity to honor these outstanding individuals, but it provides local music lovers a chance to reconnect with old friends and reminisce. This author was able to get up on stage with Myron Cheeks, one of this year’s inductees, and perform as they last did 42 years ago, before Myron moved to Indianapolis. Many old friendships such as this were renewed this day. And these people know how to party.
One of the more poignant moments came with the induction of Al Withrow to this year’s class. Al passed away shortly after learning of his induction a few weeks ago. His plaque was awarded to his wife Libby, presented by three of his best friends and bandmates—Jeff Wisbey, Mike Trench, and David Trench—in a bittersweet moment in front of the crowd.
All in all, this year’s event was a huge success. Thanks everyone who came out, thanks to the Board of Directors for putting on such an outstanding show, thanks to sound guru Curt Hall for making everyone sound so wonderful, and thanks to all you newly- elected members for entertaining and educating us for so many years. Let’s do it again next year.