CHARLESTON — The number of music acts in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame (WVMHoF) will grow by five in 2020.
The WVMHOF announced Tuesday at its store at the Charleston Town Center the inductees for the 2020 class, including Ethel Caffie-Austin, Honey & Sonny Davis (The Davis Twins), Larry Groce, Mayf Nutter, and The Hammons Family. 2020 will be the 8th class inducted, bringing the total number of members in the WVMHoF to 57.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Groce said on being in the 2020 class. “I love West Virginia and I made my life in music. I have been for 47 years now and there is something about this state that really drew me and kept me here. I raised my family here. To be part of a hall of fame that has anything to do with West Virginia is a big deal for me.”
Groce was born in Dallas, Texas in 1948 but moved to Phillipi in 1972 when he was an NEA-sponsored musician-in-residence for Barbour, Tucker, and Randolph counties. He is the co-founder of the NPR show “Mountain Stage” and has been the director of FestivALL in Charleston.
Honey & Sonny Davis were also in attendance on Tuesday. The New Lexington, Ohio natives, born in 1926, are a popular brother-sister twin duo that started their career at age 12. The Davis Twins traveled all over West Virginia and made lasting impacts on the airwaves in Wheeling, Fairmont, St. Albans, Charleston, Logan and more.
Groce performed one of his own tunes during the induction announcement. He then paired with WVMHoF director Michael Lipton to play made popular by The Davis Twins.
Lipton said that it is important to have a Hall of Fame such as this one.
“We really want to let young West Virginians know in particular that all of the great musicians that have had these lifelong careers that have really influenced music all over the country and in some cases the world,” he said.
Mercer County native Ethel Caffie-Austin was in attendance on Tuesday for the announcement as she is widely known as being the “First Lady of Gospel Music.”
Caffie-Austin is a scholar who has put on many projects and performances of gospel music and American folk music to places who need to hear it the most.
Mayf Nutter, a singer, songwriter, actor, and everything in between was born in Jane Lew, West Virginia in 1941.
He is a national celebrity, guitarist for Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Member, Del Shannon, and front man for The New Christy Minstrels.
Nutter was the youngest member of the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame and is a star in Wheeling as part of “Jamboree in the Hills.”
The Hammons Family from Pocahontas County will be inducted in 2020 as the group consisted of seven members.
The members have since passed away since coming to West Virginia during the Civil War.
Known as some of the finest musicians in the mountains, the group is known for an ancient style that has been lost today.
Lipton said all the members or future members of the WVMHoF have all had a lasting impact on the state.
“There are some people who were born in West Virginia and left fairly early on,” he said. “Many of them have maintained close contact with West Virginia. They all consider themselves West Virginians.
“Then there are people like Bob Thompson who was an inductee, he was not born here but he spent his entire life playing in West Virginia.”
WVMHoF Board Chair Josh Barrett and Lipton made the announcement of the 2020 class which will be officially inducted April 4, 2020, in the Culture Center Theater in the State Capitol Complex. The event will be broadcast live throughout the state on WV Public Broadcasting.
Currently in the WVMHoF include R&B legend Bill Withers, old-time fiddler Clark Kessinger, opera star Eleanor Steber, country music songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler, jazz saxophonist Chu Berry, classical composer George Crumb, and Broadway and television performer Peter Marshall.
Groce is looking forward to that date as he said the WVMHoF, a non-profit corporation, is a great thing and can inspire youth in the state.
“It recognizes all the diverse musicians, styles of music who have made an impact both in this state, in the country and internationally,” he said. “It also shows kids growing up here that they can do the same thing. The people in here are just like you. They grew up here and they went on to do great things.”
By Jake Flatley