Arkansas Hall of Fame heads to new facility

PINE BLUFF--The Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame relocated to the Pine Bluff Convention Center on Oct. 2, creating an attraction that can be visited by the public and motorcoach tours.

Although admission will be free, attraction officials would like advance notice from motorcoach tours, especially if they require an escort, Pam Jones, assistant director of the Pine Bluff Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. The CVB will be operating the attraction, she said.

"We're very excited about the Hall of Fame," observed Richard Davies, director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism in Little Rock. "It will not only be good for Pine Bluff, it will be good for Arkansas as well."

"You'd be surprised," Davies added, "how many accomplished entertainers there are from Arkansas." Inducted on Oct. 2 were Louis Jordan (the rhythm and blues legend), Jerry Van Dyke, Levon Helm, Conway Twitty, Floyd Cramer, The Browns (Jim Ed, Bonnie and Maxine), Bob Burns, Mark Wright and Melvin Endsley.

The hall's exhibits initially will chronicle the careers of some 50 entertainers and include their memorabilia. One of the largest exhibits will be a 1977 Ford Thunderbird convertible belonging to Jim Ed Brown.

Visitors, who are expected to take up to 45 minutes to tour the exhibits, are welcomed by an animatronic Johnny Cash, the country music star and a Hall of Fame member. The exhibits added Oct. 2 constitute the first of three installation phases that will eventually occupy 9,100 square feet in the convention center.

From among the 1998 inductees, Gov. Mike Huckabee selected the late Brinkley, Ark.- native Louis Jordan to receive the Governor's Award. The extent of Jordan's influence on post-World War II American music earlier had earned him induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

Others honored include:

  • Jerry Van Dyke earned four consecutive Emmy nominations for best supporting actor on the long-running ABC comedy series "Coach." He also appeared in such movies as "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and "McClintock!" Van Dyke, who lives near Malvern, Ark., operates a soda shop, movie theater and other family businesses in downtown Benton, Ark.
  • Levon Helm, a Phillips County, Ark., native, is best known as the drummer and mandolin player in the rock group The Band.
  • The late Conway Twitty, a West Helena, Ark., native named Harold Jenkins at birth, recorded 41 major country music songs. Reared in Huttig, Ark., the late Floyd Cramer became a premier country music pianist remembered for his hit instrumental "The Last Date" and for helping create "the Nashville sound." When their hit "The Three Bells" topped the country, pop, and rock and roll music charts, the Browns, formerly of the Sparkman, Ark., area, became one of the first "crossover" music phenomenons. After the trio disbanded in 1967, Jim Ed Brown pursued a successful solo career.
  • The late Bob Burns of Van Buren, Ark., was on nationwide radio during the 1930s and '40s with his yarns about his Arkansas kinfolk and pals. He also invented a homemade musical instrument called the bazooka.
  • Mark Wright, formerly of Fayetteville, Ark., is senior vice president of Decca Records and has written and/or produced 39 top country music singles.
  • Among the more than 400 songs written by Melvin Endsley of Drasco, Ark., is "I Never Felt More Like Singing the Blues," which Endsley first performed on radio station KCON in Conway, Ark.

    Previous Hall of Fame inductees include Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Driftwood, Al Green, Randy Goodrum, Wayland Holyfield, Alan Ladd, Tracy Lawrence, Lum 'n Abner (Chester Lauck and Norris Goff), Patsy Montana, Art Porter Sr., Dick Powell, Charlie Rich, Mary Steenburgen, Harry Thomason and Billy Bob Thornton.

    The state legislature created the Hall of Fame in 1985, and in 1997 placed selection of a permanent site in the hands of the state Department of Parks and Tourism. In November, 1997, the Pine Bluff Convention Center was selected.
    Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame information: Pam Jones
    Phone: (870) 536-7600 or (800) 536-7660, Ext. 2146.

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