Ricky Skaggs, Paul Williams and Tom T. and Dixie Hall are the 2018 inductees to the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame.
They were inducted at the international awards show in Raleigh, NC on September 27, during the annual World of Bluegrass convention and festival. The Hall of Fame recognizes outstanding figures in bluegrass in recognition of their exceptional contributions to bluegrass music.
Kentucky native Ricky Skaggs has been a professional musician since his teens. He joined Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys at age 15, and later was a member of the Country Gentlemen, JD Crowe and the New South, and Boone Creek, helping define hard-driving progressive bluegrass.
After two years in Emmylou Harris’ band (1978 – 1980), Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980s, always including traditional bluegrass sounds in his music. Among the honors he received were induction into the Grand Ole Opry cast in 1982, recognition as the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 1985, and election into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
Returning to bluegrass in the mid-1990s fronting the band Kentucky Thunder, Skaggs has built an international following. He has been honored with thirteen IBMA Awards and is the recipient of fourteen Grammys, including five for Bluegrass Album of the Year. Skaggs’ unmistakable bluegrass stylings in his lead vocals and harmonies, his skill as a multi-instrumentalist and his genius as a producer and mentor have made him one of the most recognized and influential ambassadors for the bluegrass music world.
Paul Williams’ bluegrass legacy includes the composition of a large body of its best songs, and memorable recorded and live performances. The Virginia native was a member of The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, recording 14 sides for RCA Victor, including six of his own compositions, all of which would become standards. In 1957, Williams joined Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys, providing tenor vocals in the trio that also included Martin and J.D. Crowe. Paul Williams is credited with composing 28 of Jimmy Martin’s Decca recordings, including “Pretending I Don’t Care,” “Mr. Engineer,” “Prayer Bells of Heaven,” “Stepping Stones” “Leavin’ Town,” “Stormy Waters” and “My Walking Shoes.”
During his tenure in Martin’s band, Williams recorded 58 titles. He left full-time music in 1962, working various jobs for the next few decades. In 1995, he returned to the stage with Paul Williams & The Victory Trio, an all-gospel bluegrass group, and has recorded more than a half-dozen albums for Rebel Records. Several of these received Grammy nominations, and feature the splendid high lead/tenor voice and punchy, vigorous mandolin that is the signature style of Paul Williams, reprising the classic sounds of the `50s and ‘60s in which he played a prominent role.
When Tom T. Hall met his future wie and fellow songwriter Dixie in the mid-60s, he was well on his way to becoming a major country music star and she was working in record promotion. The Kentucky singer, who had played bass in bluegrass bands and worked as a DJ, signed with Mercury Records in 1967 the next year one of his songs, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” was number-one hit on pop and country charts for Jeannie C. Riley. Nicknamed “The Storyteller” by legendary film and country music star Tex Ritter, Hall was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978, and to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Iris “Dixie” Hall, a native of England’s West Midlands, developed a close friendship with Maybelle Carter soon after moving to the US, which fostered her love for folk and bluegrass music. Tom T. and Dixie Hall began collaborating in earnest as songwriters in 1999, writing songs recorded by many major country and bluegrass artists, as well as Tom T. Hall’s own records.
Prior to Dixie’s death in 2015, Dixie and Tom T. were tireless supporters of bluegrass, and were honored with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the IBMA in 2004 for their “songwriting contributions and support of bluegrass artists through Good Home Grown Music, Blue Circle Records and their recording studio at Fox Hollow in Franklin, Tennessee, and numerous promotional efforts in the bluegrass industry community.”