Music greats get their due at Hall of Fame

May 27, 2009


By Emily Ford

Billy Scott’s bright red suit and rhinestone tie finally have a permanent home.

In Kannapolis, of all places.

Known for textiles, NASCAR and most recently scientific research, Kannapolis now is home to the N.C. Music Hall of Fame.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Scott, a beach music star and an original 1999 inductee into the Hall of Fame, which has never had a physical location. “Our dream has come true.”

Located in the old jail building on West A Street in downtown Kannapolis, the museum gives new meaning to “Jailhouse Rock.” Displays include Scott’s red outfit, Charlie Daniels’ cowboy hat and fiddle and dozens of gold and platinum records.

The museum will open to the public this summer. During a private preview Thursday night, Scott and others recounted how the Hall of Fame finally found a home in Kannapolis.

In 1993, Doug Croft casually made a list of everyone in the Encyclopedia of Rock ‘n’ Roll with ties to North Carolina. He was stunned by the result.

He decided that North Carolina needed a music hall of fame and asked his neighbor, Joe Carroll, to join the effort.

Neither man has ties to the music industry. Croft works for the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce, and Carroll is a banker.

They incorporated in 1994 and started collecting memorabilia and cataloguing stars. Five years later, they inducted seven members. Ronnie Milsap was inducted in 2002.

But without a facility, the group eventually went dormant.

Veteran North Carolina broadcaster Bill Kopald took over leadership for the group several years ago. By luck or by fate, he received a phone call two weeks later from country music mogul Mike Curb, who owns a motorsports museum in Kannapolis.

Wheels started turning.

“This has been a long journey,” said Curb, whose roster of recording artists includes The Judds, Tim McGraw, Hank Williams Jr. and Lyle Lovett.

Curb talked to his good friend David Murdock, billionaire owner of Dole Food Co. and founder of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. Murdock, who owns most of downtown Kannapolis, built Curb a new motorsports museum in 2007 when the Research Campus needed the land under his original facility.

They determined the museum would occupy the old jail building, and Curb spent months renovating it.

Curb’s longtime friend and music executive Eddie Ray serves as operations director for the museum and vice chairman for the board of directors.

“We’re real small now to start, but the potential is very great,” Ray said. “There are so many artists from North Carolina who have never been paid any kind of tribute or honor.

“We feel it’s time they were honored.”

The board has a list of hundreds of potential inductees and recently selected 16 new members who will be inducted in October, Ray said.

He declined to reveal the names but said arrangements are under way to bring several of them to Kannapolis for a ceremony.

The museum occupies the first floor of the small building. Offices and a conference room are upstairs, and Ray hopes college interns will start researching North Carolina music soon.

The old jail was in the basement.

For now, Curb’s extensive personal music memorabilia collection augments the museum’s displays.

“The only memorabilia we had was what we inherited from others,” Ray said.

He has launched an effort to procure additional pieces, and the museum should gather more memorabilia from the 16 new inductees.

Scientists and leaders from the nearby Research Campus mingled with music industry executives and performers Thursday night.

“This is one more piece of the quality of life aspect,” said Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina. “It’s one more thing that you can tout about Kannapolis.”

The music museum will have an educational component, as Curb has endowed the College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville.

“Mike and his wife Linda are true humanitarians,” Safrit said. “This has been a dream for a lot of people for a long time.”