By Sherrie Norris
On the heels of another successful festival bearing his name, the late great musician Merle Watson is receiving his place of honor in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
The Kannapolis-based organization announced on Thursday that Watson is among five individuals who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a red-carpet ceremony in October.
Watson’s daughter, Karen Watson Norris, her children, Channing and Sarah-Beth Norris, along with grandson, Andrew Cox, were in Kannapolis for the formal announcement this week.
They were welcomed by NC North Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary, Susi Hamilton, who announced the 2019 inductees in the absence of Gov. Roy Cooper, who was originally scheduled to attend the press conference.
In addition to Merle Watson, a two-time Grammy Award winning folk/bluegrass guitarist from Deep Gap, the inductees include:
- Elizabeth Cotten – Grammy Award winning blues and folk musician born in Carrboro.
- 9th Wonder – Hip-Hop producer, record executive, rapper, and lecturer born in Winston-Salem.
- Mitch Easter – producer, musician, and songwriter born in Winston-Salem.
- Big Daddy Kane – Grammy Award winning Hip-Hop recording artist and actor from Raleigh.
The official induction ceremony of the 2019 class, scheduled for October 17, will be open to the public and will include a pre-ceremony reception for VIP ticket holders, and will host live performances by NCMHOF inductees. Earlier inductees, Pastor Shirley Caesar and Kellie Pickler, will be featured guests for the event.
Tickets for the ceremony will go on sale later this spring.
According to NC Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Veronica Cordle, Thursday’s press conference was a unique way for the Hall of Fame to announce its 2019 inductees.
“We were honored to have Susi Hamilton here to assist us in letting everyone know who the new inductees will be. We are so excited about 2019 and hope the press conference and partnership with ‘Come Hear NC’ allows us to reach the public’s ear.”
On behalf of the Watson family, Karen Watson Norris told High Country Press on Thursday evening, “We are extremely pleased that my dad is being honored in this manner. It really means a lot to us, especially to know that even after all these years following his tragic death, that people still love his music — that it is still being heard and shared — and that it still has such deep meaning to so many people. We are very honored to be able to accept this award in his honor and memory. It would mean so much to him, also, to know that his contribution to music in North Carolina and beyond has not been forgotten.”
Due to scheduling difficulties, Norris said, other key family members unable to attend included her daughter, Chelsea Kilgore, her niece, Candis Watson Webb, and their families.Watson and her family are still in awe of having just completed another Merlefest, the 32nd annual “homecoming music celebration” held annually on the campus of Wilkes Community College in memory of her dad.
While Gov. Cooper was unable to attend Thursday’s press conference, Norris said she and her family were delighted that he did make an appearance at Merlefest on Sunday afternoon.
Merle Watson, whose life ended tragically in 1985, was the son of Doc and Rosalee Watson, both having passed away within months of each other in 2012.
Doc Watson will always be remembered as one of America’s most renowned and influential guitarists. Merle’s son, Richard, also making a name for himself in the music world, and often touring with his father and grandfather, passed away unexpectedly in 2015.
Norris, along with her children, grandchildren, and her aunt, Nancy, are left to carry on the family legacy, and are very proud to do so.
Coming a short while after Gov. Roy Cooper’s Nov, 2018 proclamation naming 2019 as the “Year of Music” in the state of North Carolina, the announcement also complements “Come Hear North Carolina.”
“Come Hear North Carolina,” is the new comprehensive campaign from the NC Arts Council and The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources celebrate the many musicians, songwriters studios, venues, instrument makers, labels, record stores, promoters, places, listeners and communities who create, support and sustain music in and across our great state.
According to the press release, “The NC Arts Council builds on our state’s long-standing love of the arts, leading the way to a more vibrant future.” Furthermore, it stated, “The Arts Council is an economic catalyst, fueling a thriving nonprofit creative sector that generates $2.12 billion in annual direct economic activity. The Arts Council also sustains diverse arts expression and traditions while investing in innovative approaches to art-making.
Additionally, the Arts Council has proven to be a champion for youth by cultivating tomorrow’s creative citizens through arts education, by hosting daily web-stories, artist interviews, special commissions, North Carolina musician stages at major festivals, educational programming and performances.
“The partnership with ‘Come Hear NC’ is bringing incredible attention to NC’s music especially through social media. Their support and focus on music throughout the state will really shine a big spotlight on NC’s talent.
Cordle added, “Through the partnership, our 2019 Induction Ceremony will be filmed by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for livestream to showcase our inductees’ live performances. This will show the magnitude of talent from our state.”
About the NC Music Hall of Fame
The NC Music Hall of Fame is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its museum, located in Kannapolis, is open to the public Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-12 noon and 1p.m. -4 p.m.
For more information about the Hall of Fame or to purchase tickets to the 2019 Induction Ceremony go to the NCMHOF website: NorthCarolinaMusicHallofFame.org
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