March 16, 2010

After 31 years in mothballs, Maine's country music history gets show timeHall of fame finally at home


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John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Wed., August 13, 2008. A pair of boots and a hat worn by Bob Elston who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the new temporary home of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Mechanic Falls.

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John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Wed., August 13, 2008. Russell Adams of South Portland has been inducted into the Maine Country Hall of Fame seen here inside the new temporary home of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in Mechanic Falls.

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Staff Writer

Bright red cowboy hats. Velvet skirts dripping with fringe. Glittery jackets matched with shiny, pointy-toed boots.

The trappings of Maine's country music history are nothing if not eye-catching. But they haven't been catching a lot of eyes lately.

That's because the collection of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame -- which includes performers' clothes, instruments, photos, records, sheet music and much more -- has been in storage for the entire 31 years the hall has existed as an organization.

Until this weekend.

On Sunday, for the first time, the hall of fame will have a place to display its attention-grabbing artifacts. The Maine Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will officially open at 11 a.m. in the lower level of the Silver Spur Club, a popular country music venue in Mechanic Falls.

The club is run by Diana Record, daughter of hall of fame member Elton Record. And Elton Record, whose career included recording with Conway Twitty's band in the 1970s, did much of the construction on the basement room that will house the museum.

The museum will house photos, bios and plaques for all of the 70 members, plus outfits, instruments and other memorabilia. About half of the members are still alive, and organizers say that on any given day, patrons will be able to see them perform and get a story or two about the golden days of country music in Maine.

''Our dream is that people would come in, see the museum, and there would be (Hall of Famer) Russ Adams sitting there, playing some music and signing autographs,'' said Lorri Wilson of Hebron, president of the Maine Country Music Association, which sponsored the creation of the hall of fame. ''We want to be able to share this with people, for people to know how much talent Maine has.''

Many of the hall of famers are known only in Maine, but some became famous beyond the state's borders. Most got started in the 1930s through the 1950s, when many country acts performed on Maine radio and television programs.

Some of the more widely known members are:

n Dick Curless, a Fort Fairfield native who shot to national success with 11 hits on the Billboard country music chart between 1965 and 1972, including ''A Tombstone Every Mile.'' He died in 1995.

n Yodeling Slim Clark, a longtime Maine resident who sang and yodeled authentic cowboy songs for more than 70 years, and was included in the Walkway of Stars at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. He died in 2000.

n Al Hawkes of Westbrook, who recorded dozens of country acts from Maine and elsewhere on his Event Records label in the 1950s and 1960s. A box set of his label's recordings was issued by Bear Family Records in 2004 as part of a series showcasing rockabilly music from the 1950s.

n Ken MacKenzie, who helped spread country music throughout Maine by performing with his wife, Simone, on his own radio and TV shows from the 1930s to the 1950s. He died in 1993.

To celebrate the opening of the hall of fame Sunday, there will be a ribbon cutting at noon and a performance by several hall members at 1 p.m. There is no formal admission charge, but donations are welcome, Wilson said.

The hall of fame is run by volunteers made up of musicians and fans. The facility in Mechanic Falls is hopefully temporary, since the association owns a piece of land in Greene, and members hope to build a permanent museum there someday.

''We just want everyone to be able to see all this,'' Diana Record said.

''That's what it's all about.''

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Wed., August 13, 2008. New temporary home of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Mechanic Falls.


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