Noon Rotary Club members had the opportunity to see rare 1963 video footage of country music singer and McMinnville native Dottie West yesterday. Ben Hall, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s stewardship coordinator, showed the Rotarians a video of West’s first studio recording. West was recording the song “Touch Me” which was written by Willie Nelson and produced at RCA Studio B on Music Row by Chet Atkins. The Rotarians were mesmerized by West’s beautiful voice during the video.
In the mid-1960s, RCA’s Chet Atkins signed West to a record deal and produced her self-penned “Here Comes My Baby.” The song launched her career and earned her a Grammy for Best Country & Western Performance, Female. She was the first female country artist to win a Grammy.
West charted dozens of singles during her career which was cut short by a car accident in 1991.
Hall said, “Dottie West helped put Nashville Sound on the map. When Rock-n-Roll came on strong in 1956-57, the country music industry took a hit and Nashville looked for ways to recover. They took out the twang and added background singers and large string sections creating a sound similar to pop music of the 50’s, similar to Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Peggy Lee. The songs became more crooner oriented. That sound was known as the Nashville Sound, starting in 1958.”
“For the first time, country music was able to go Pop, go crossover to number one in Country and number one in Pop. It was no strange thing to begin to see a Patsy Cline record on the same shelf as a Frank Sinatra record. That was unheard of until about 1957 and ‘58. Dottie West had a lot to do with that. She was one of the major players in the Nashville Sound. She had a laid back style and she influenced so many female singers at that time.”
Hall himself is an accomplished guitarist who was the National and International Thumbstyle Guitar Champion, and won the Horizon Award from the National Thumbpicker’s Hall of Fame. Hall plays the thumb-pick style of guitar made famous be Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, among others.
Hall showed another video detailing the multi-million dollar expansion in progress at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Nashville landmark welcomes over 150,000 visitors annually.
The already impressive building will grow from 140,000 square feet to over 350,000 square feet. The historic building underwent a renovation recently after flood waters damaged parts of the facility. Now the fully-recovered landmark, which houses some of the most historical artifacts in music history, is planning a multi-million dollar expansion which will allow even more memorabilia, and ensure the museum will attract music lovers for generations to come. Hall said the original estimate to renovate the building was $75 million but the figure has now climbed to around $95 million.
Building improvements will include an 800 seat state-of-the-art theater, more museum space for over 2 million archived objects, event space and a view of Nashville from the top floor terrace.
Presently, the museum is showcasing a spotlight exhibit dedicated to the memory of McMinnville’s own entertainer, titled Dottie West: Country Sunshine. The exhibit incorporates costumes and relics spanning West’s four-decade career and will run through May 2, 2013.
Among artifacts on display at the museum are West’s elaborate show costumes, many of which were designed by Hollywood designer Bob Mackie. One such ensemble, a yellow costume featuring a silk top with bugle beading, rhinestones, sequins and beaded daisy motifs; matching belt; satin pants; and embellished Pasquale Di Fabrizio boots, was one West wore when she performed for President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 1977.
The exhibit also includes a number of career and personal photos, album covers and industry awards.
Hall said the Hall of Fame and museum will be closed from Jan. 22 until Feb. 6 due to renovation.
More information about Dottie west can be found in the book, Born a country girl: The Life and Legacy of Dottie West”, written by Monty Wanamaker. The book can be purchased at Southern Museum and Galleries, located at 210 East Main Street or by calling 507-8102.