Showcasing the Arts
2020 Governor's Awards in the Arts award

The 2020 Governor's Awards in the Arts are made by Hopkinsville artist Willie Rascoe from reclaimed cherry wood.


2020 Governor’s Awards in the Arts:

National Award

Tom T. Hall

Carter County native

When he was 8 years old, Olive Hill native and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Tom T. Hall received a gift that would help guide him toward the path of musical success – a guitar. Lessons learned from local musician Clayton Delaney, coupled with Tom’s love of writing poetry, led naturally into songwriting, a craft at which Tom has demonstrated unswerving ability.

He wrote his first tune, “Haven’t I Been Good to You” at age 9. As a teenager, he performed with a group, The Kentucky Travelers, at local schools and on the radio on Morehead. After joining the U.S. Army in 1957, he played on Armed Forces Radio while stationed in Germany.

Tom has written 12 No. 1 hit songs, including international hit “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” and 26 that reached the Billboard Top 10. In 1996, his song “Little Bitty” from his album “Sopchoppy” (released that same year) reached No. 1 when Alan Jackson covered it on his album “Everything I Love.”

"There's a lot of great artists in Kentucky and having the Governor's Award in the Arts from the Kentucky Arts Council is a special treat,” Tom said after learning he’d received the honor. “I'm not sure that every state has an arts council, but I am not surprised, as Kentucky is special as you well know.”

Tom was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

What does this distinction mean to you?

No award is as important as an award from your own people with whom you grew up.

When I was a kid we were poor. We had horses, cows, chickens and a three acre garden. We didn’t know we were poor until we read about it in the Saturday Evening Post.

What are your fondest memories of being a young musician performing in Kentucky?

My first seven years as a musician in Kentucky I had to borrow a guitar to learn to play one. I was 9 or 10 years old when my brother bought me one from Ohio for Christmas.

What lessons did you learn in Kentucky that you believe have contributed to your success in the music industry?

HeMy father used to drive me around town in Olive Hill, Kentucky, where I was born, and show me all of the losers and tell me their sad stories. I was many years older before I realized my father had no heroes and if I wanted to be a winner, he’d leave it up to me.

When all is said and done, I have realized that my favorite entertainer in my life was Greta Garbo. She said, “I want to be alone.” I enjoy being alone.


Page last updated: December 11, 2020
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