By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
The Sagebrush Round-Up, which houses the Country Music Hall of Fame of West Virginia, is hosting its second annual induction for West Virginians who have made significant contributions to the country music scene here in Marion County and across the state and country.
Bill Janoske, president of the hall of fame, said the Sagebrush Round-Up has planned to do these kinds of ceremonies since it reopened in Bunner Ridge back in the 1980s, but it took a little longer than expected to open the museum and get the nomination and induction process going.
The West Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame honors both performers and organizers, people who over the years have made a difference in country music, and this year is no exception. Seven individuals, four musicians and three non-musicians are being inducted out of more than 30 nominations.
William “Bill” Murray, for instance, has been performing with the Sagebrush Round-Up since you could count his age on two hands.
“The Sagebrush Round-Up started in Fairmont with WMMN, a radio show just like the Wheeling Jamboree or the Grand Ole Opry,” Janoske said. The museum has a picture of Murray, a singer and guitar player, at one of the earliest Round-Up shows.
He was only 8 or 9 years old, Janoske said.
When the Sagebrush Round-Up reopened in the 1980s after a couple decades of silence, Murray came back and continues to play shows several times a year, Janoske said.
“He’s been around since the beginning,” he said, and though Murray’s in his 90s, he does a good show.
The hall of fame is also honoring many pioneers in the West Virginia country music scene posthumously, such as J.C. Coe. Coe, a singer and drummer, fronted several bands over his long career.
Perhaps more importantly, Janoske said, he also made it possible for aspiring musicians to distribute their music.
“He had a machine that pressed records,” Janoske said. “He made records for lots of the area bands.”
With the comparative ease of burning and distributing a CD today, it’s easy to forget how much of a difference that made.
Also being honored are Darrell and Robert Carpenter, the latter of whom played steel guitar in the Round-Up Band for several years. The two men, who passed away in the last few years, played in and started a number of bands beginning in the 1940s.
On the administrative side, the hall of fame is inducting Edith Hayhurst, Jim Thornburg and Jack “Hard Rock” Bunner, all of whom were instrumental in bringing the Sagebrush Round-Up back. All three are deceased.
“(Hayhurst) has been president on the board; she’s been treasurer; she’s worked in the kitchen; she booked the bands. ... She’s done it all,” Janoske said.
Thornburg, also a founding member, spent “three or four weeks a year” just cleaning around and making the building and area as presentable as possible.
Bunner donated the land the Sagebrush Round-Up and West Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame is situated on.
“He was really pushing Bunner Ridge to be a hub for music and a place to go,” Janoske said, so he donated 30-plus acres as a home for the country music show.
A Maryland native, Janoske said Marion County has something special when it comes to fostering the development of country music.
“I can say that we have nothing like this (in Maryland),” he said. “You go over to Fairmont, there’s lots of musicians.”
The majority of inductees thus far have been tied to the Fairmont area, but Janoske said the hall of fame welcomes nominations from all over Marion County and the state as a whole. To be nominated, a person must be tied to West Virginia and have contributed to the musical heritage.
The hall of fame takes nominations all year round.
“We’d rather have them as soon as we can get them,” Janoske said, and nominations are saved from year to year, so even if someone isn’t inducted one year, they’re still in the running for the future.
The induction ceremony will begin Saturday at 6 p.m. Representatives for each inductee will be presented with a plaque, and Janoske said various government officials from the county commissioners on up to the state level have been invited to the event.
The weekly country music show will follow the ceremony.
Email Jonathan Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JWilliamsTWV.