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Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Held in the early fall every two years, the induction ceremony for the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame is an evening of fun and entertainment with some of the biggest and best entertainment personalities from the state of Arkansas. Once inducted into the Hall of Fame, inductees have memorabilia from their career displayed in the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame museum, located in the Pine Bluff Convention Center.


  • Tess Harper (b. 1950) - Born and raised in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, Tess Harper attended Missouri State University in Springfield and began acting in theater production and appearances in theme parks, dinner theaters and children's theater. In 1982 she won the role of Robert Duvall's younger wife in the film "Tender Mercies," which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She appeared in the TV mini-series "Chiefs" (1983) and "Celebrity" (1984), as well as many made-for-TV movies. Also in 1983, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Chick Boyle in "Crimes of the Heart." She also had roles in "Ishtar" (1987), "Far North" (1988), "The Man in the Moon" (1991), "The Jackal" (1997) and "Loggerheads" (2005). She had a regular role in the CBS TV series "Christy" from 1994 to 1995. She shared a Screen Actors Guild Award in the Best Ensemble Cast category with her fellow cast members in 2007's Best Picture, "No Country for Old Men."
  • Ronnie Hawkins (b. 1935) - Born in Huntsville and raised in Fayetteville, his mother was a teacher and his father a barber. After graduating from high school, he studied physical education at the University of Arkansas, where he formed his first band, The Hawks. Hawkins owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville where some of rock music's earliest pioneers came to play, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty. Upon the recommendation of Conway Twitty in 1958, who thought Canada to be the promised land for a rock n' roll singer, Hawkins went to Hamilton, Ontario to play a club called The Grange and never left Canada. Over a period of time, the members of the The Hawks, except for Levon Helm, were replaced with Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. This was the line-up that was to later become known as The Band. In 1989, Hawkins was reunited with The Band at the concert marking the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and in 1992 he performed at the inaugural party for President Bill Clinton. He has been known over the years as "Mr. Dynamo," "Sir Ronnie," "Rompin' Ronnie" Hawkins or "The Hawk." He was a key player in the 1960s rock scene and for over 40 years has performed all over North America, recording more than 25 albums. His best-known hits are "Forty Days" and "Mary Lou."
  • Wayne Jackson (b. 1941) - Wayne Jackson grew up in West Memphis playing the guitar. He found his true passion at age 11 when his mother brought home a trumpet. When he was in the 12th grade his love for music took him across the Mississippi River to Memphis, where he became a legendary backup trumpeter in such groups as the Mar-Keys, and would go on to perform with a who's who of artists. He has played on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Sting, Elvis Presley, U2, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Otis Redding, The Doobie Brothers, Jimmy Buffet and Rod Stewart. Jackson was the co-founder, with Andrew Love of the legendary Memphis backing band, of The Memphis Horns. He has performed on 52 number one hits, 83 Gold & Platinum albums, 115 top-ten records and 15 Grammy award winners. Recently, he recorded the new James Bond theme song for "A Quantum of Solace" with Alicia Keys and Jack White.
  • Joe Nichols (b. 1976) - Rogers native, Joe Nichols, found his love for country music at a young age listening to his family pick on their guitars. He made his debut at age 20 with a self-titled album on the independent Intersound label. His 2002 single "The Impossible" gained him recognition and critical acclaim for his neotraditionalist country style. The single peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was followed by his No. 1 single "Brokenheartsville" from his platinum-certified second album, "Man With a Memory." His albums include "Revelation" (2004), which included the Top 10 hit "If Nobody Believed in You," "A Traditional Christmas," "III" (2005) gold-certified that produced his biggest hit to date the No. 1 single "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," "Real Things" (2007) which produced the Top 20 hits "Another Side of You" and "It Ain't No Crime."
  • The Wilburn Brothers - Doyle (1930-1982) and Teddy (1931-2003) Born in Hardy, Arkansas, these brothers were child performers in an act called The Wilburn Family. They were brought to the Grand Ole Opry by Roy Acuff in the 1940s. Due to child labor laws, the Wilburns were forced to leave the Grand Ole Opry after only six months, however, continued to travel and were regulars on the Louisiana Hayride from 1948-51. They had their first hit record in 1954 titled "Sparkling Brown Eyes." Other hits include "Go Away With Me" (1956), "Which One Is to Blame" (1959), "Trouble's Back in Town" (1962), "It's Another World" (1965), and "Hurt Her Once for Me" (1967). The Wilburn Brothers were Opry members from 1953 until Doyle's death in 1982 and Teddy continued with the Opry as a solo artist until his own death in 2003.
  • Sonny Boy Williams, III - (1908-1965) - Born Aleck Ford in Glendora, Mississippi, Sonny Boy Williams was a masterful songwriter and performer. He was one of the most influential blues performers of his generation and, along with Robert Lockwood, was one of the first electric blues acts in the Delta. In the late 1920s he began performing at jukes and parties, traveling throughout Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee working as a one man band with harmonicas, drums and the zoo thorn at dance halls, lumber camps, carnivals and ballparks. In the mid 1930s he was being called "Little Boy Blue" and worked at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. In late 1941, he adopted the "Sonny Boy Williams" name and along with Robert Jr. Lockwood began performing on KFFA in Helena and the "King Biscuit Time" radio program where he performed daily until his death. Some of his songs, "Don't Start Me Talking," "The Key," "Nine Below Zero," "Help Me" and many more can be found in any serious blues harmonica player's repertoire today.
  • Ed Wilson (b. 1957) - Ed Wilson, born and reared in Rison, Arkansas, is president of Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting Company, which owns and operates 23 television stations and WGN radio in Chicago. He holds a bachelor's degree in Finance from the University of Arkansas and was an active member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon while in school. He began his broadcasting career as sales manager at KATV, Channel 7 in Little Rock, and served as president of NBC Enterprises from 2000 to 2004. Before NBC Enterprises, Wilson was president and CEO of CBS Enterprises and Eyemark Entertainment, overseeing syndication of shows such as "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Touched By An Angel" and "Martha Stewart Living" among others. In 1994 he founded MaXaM Entertainment in partnership with A.H. Belo Corp. The company was sold in January 1996 to CBS. He began with Fox broadcasting Company in 2004 as president of the Fox Television Network. He left Fox in February 2008 to join Tribune.


  • Beth Brickell (b. 1937) - Actress who played Dennis Weaver's wife in the 1966-68 television series "Gentle Ben". This award-winning film producer was born in Brinkley, raised in Pine Bluff and Camden, and now divides her time between Little Rock and Los Angeles, CA. Ms. Brickell also appeared in "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Dan August." The film, "Summers End," written, directed and produced by Brickell won numerous awards. It is the story of a young girl in a small Arkansas town during the last days of summer in 1948. She enjoys the same things as boys including baseball, and playing marbles and pirates. She finds herself the focus of a family crisis when her mother insists it is time that she becomes "a girl." Her father who has always encouraged her individuality is caught in the middle. 
  • Sonny Burgess (b. 1939) - Newport native, Burgess is best known as one of the original rock and roll recording artists for Sun Records in Memphis, and as one of the pioneers of rock and roll. In the early-to-mid 1950s, he headed-up bands known by several names including the Rocky Road Ramblers, the Moonlighters and later The Pacers. While known as the Moonlighters (for the Silver Moon Club in Newport where they performed regularly), the group shared the circuit club stage with many up-and-coming performers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Conway Twitty. The Moonlighters opened for Presley performances four times. Sonny Burgess and The Pacers continued to record for Sun Records until 1959. Burgess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Europe in 1999. In 1998, the Smithsonian Institute made a video called "Rockin' on the River" that brought Burgess and the Legendary Pacers together again. In 2002, they were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tennessee.
  • Gail Davis (1925-1997) - Born in Little Rock, Gail Davis was known to millions as television's Annie Oakley in the 1950s. The series ran on ABC from 1955 through 1958 and was seen in reruns well into the 1960s. It was the first western to star a woman. The show was created for Davis by "singing cowboy" Gene Autry, who she had previously appeared with in several westerns. After the series ended, Davis continued to make personal appearances with Autry. She also appeared in TV specials, including "Wide, Wide World: The Western," in 1958, a "Bob Hope Special" in 1959 and "The Andy Griffith Show: The Perfect Female," in 1961.
  • Gil Gerard (b. 1943) - Little Rock native Gil Gerard rocketed to fame as Buck Rogers in the NBC television series, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," from 1979 to 1981. He has also starred in numerous made-for-television movies and feature films. Gil headed to New York in the summer of 1969 where he trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Shortly thereafter, he won an audition for the movie "Love Story," which was followed by over 400 commercials for various national accounts, including Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Co., and Procter & Gamble. Gerard was also a member of the cast of the Emmy Award winning "The Doctors," daytime drama, playing the part of Dr. Alan Stewart for over three years. During this time, Hollywood called and he guest-starred in an episode of the television series "Baretta" and appeared in the role of Lee Grant's lover in the motion picture "Airport '77." After landing a guest starring role on "Little House on the Prairie," Michael Landon offered him the lead in a new series, "Stone." The show was never aired by NBC, but Gerard was offered the title role in the feature film and television show "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century."
  • Laurence Luckinbill (b. 1934) - Fort Smith is where actor Laurence Luckinbill was born. He studied acting at the University of Arkansas where he appeared in nine student productions. Luckinbill made his professional debut at the Carnegie Playhouse in New York as the Old Shepherd in "Oedipus Rex." His theatrical career includes roles in "Othello," "A Man for All Seasons," "Galileo" and "Death of a Salesman" among others. Luckinbill reprised his role of Hank in the critically acclaimed film version of "The Boys in the Band" in 1970. He went on to appear in "Such Good Friends," the made-for-television movie "Ike," "Cocktail" and "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier." Luckinbill is married to Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
  • Jack Mitchell (b. 1923) - Though not a native Arkansan, Mitchell now chooses to call Arkansas home. The self-taught drummer had his first professional gig when he was hired at age 17 by Harry Barry to be the featured boy drummer in an otherwise all-girl orchestra. His first introduction to The Natural State came during the 1940s when stationed at Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville. He continued his military and musical career when he was transferred to a base in Sebring, FL, then Smyrna, TN. After the war, Mitchell worked as an exporter for 30 years and continued to play in various bands. When not overseas, he worked with bands in Chicago and appeared with such entertainers as Eddie Fisher, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, The McGuire Sisters, Joey Bishop, Bob Newhart, Isaac Stern, Gregory Hines, Regis Philbin and Tony Bennett. Mitchell retired from business and moved to Bella Vista in 1988. He joined the Bella Vista Big Band, becoming leader in 1990. Under his tutelage, the band performed for both of former President Bill Clinton’s inaugural balls in 1993 and 1997 in Washington, DC. He continues to reside in Northwest Arkansas and leads several bands, ranging from small combos to his big band and the Praise gospel band.
  • B. J. Sams (b. 1935) - Longtime Central Arkansas news anchor, Sams is one of the most recognizable faces in the state. B.J. has worked in broadcasting for more than 50 years, 32 of them in the Little Rock market. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Business and Administration degree. After graduation he entered the U.S. Army where he took basic training at Fort Hood, Texas with Elvis Presley. He began his broadcasting career in 1964 at KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana. He then came to Little Rock to work for KATV as anchor in 1966. In 1973, he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where he worked for nine years. Sams returned to Arkansas in 1982 to work for KTHV where he remains today. For the past 10 years, he has worked the top morning show in the state along with former co-host Robyn Richardson and Tom Brannon. He continues those duties with Brannon and Alyson Courtney. The Associated Press presented Sams their Broadcaster of the Year award in 2000. On his 50th anniversary in broadcasting, KTHV renamed the studio in his honor.
  • Sarah Tackett (b. 1958) - The owner and founder of The Agency, Inc., Sarah was born in 1958 in Conway. Her involvement with the entertainment industry began as a self-employed freelance make-up artist for film and video production. Recognizing a production void for a consolidated source of models and actors to efficiently cast projects, Tackett began to enlist local talent while looking for new faces to provide a well-rounded pool for client casting needs. The Agency, Incorporated was introduced to area production companies, advertising agencies, and photographers as Arkansas’ first full-service professional talent, modeling, and casting agency in 1984. She has since provided location casting for over 20 films throughout the south including over 350 principle roles and extras in excess of 20,000. She has worked for award-winning directors including Billy Bob Thornton ("Slingblade”), Mike Nichols ("Biloxi Blues"), and Ray McKinnon ("Chrystal"). 


  • Ed Bruce (b. 1939) - Born William Edwin Bruce Jr. in Keiser, Arkansas on December 29, 1939, like so many other artists, this country music singer and song writer got his start as a rockabilly act for Memphis' famed Sun Records. His label-mates included Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and Johnny Cash. He is best known for penning the song, "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." His acting career in both television and the movies, includes the CBS mini-series “The Chisolms," the NBC movie “The Return of Frank and Jesse James,” a co-starring role in “Bret Maverick” with James Garner, and the role of Sheriff Lloyd in the Steven Segal feature “Fire Down Below.”
  • Albert Edward Brumley (1905-1977) - Born in Spiro, Oklahoma, Albert E. Brumley moved to Hartford, Arkansas in 1926 where he studied with E. M. Bartlett at the Hartford Music Institute. He was one of the most beloved and prolific songwriters in Southern Gospel Music history. Among the 700 songs penned by Brumley are the gospel standards "I'll Fly Away," "Jesus, Hold My Hand," "Turn Your Radio On," "If We Never Meet Again," "I'd Rather Be An Old-Time Christian," and "I'll Meet You in the Morning." Brumley was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1977.
  • Lefty Frizzell (1928-1975) - William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell was born on March 31, 1928 in Corsicana, Texas. His family moved shortly after his birth to El Dorado, Arkansas where they remained until the early 1940s. He was an American country music singer and songwriter of the 1950s and a leading exponent of the "honky tonk" style of country music. His relaxed style of singing was a major influence on such later stars as Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. His song "Saginaw, Michigan," which was released in 1964, earned him a Grammy Award nomination. In 1972, Lefty Frizzell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982. He was also the first country star to have his name enshrined on Hollywood's "Walkway of the Stars." His song "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time" earned him a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
  • Lawrence Hamilton (b. 1954) - Born September 14, 1954, the career of Lawrence Hamilton has been paved with bold and creative achievements worldwide. A native of Foreman, Arkansas he attended the Foreman Public Schools and received a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He served as musical director for opera star Jessye Norman, performed at the White House, for Pope Paul II at the Vatican, and in concert with the legendary Lena Horne. At the Arkansas Repertory Theatre he appeared as Whining Boy in "The Piano Lesson," created Souvenir (an evening of song featuring the works of Randy Goodrum) and directed the 2006 production of "Crowns." An inductee into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, he currently serves as the Director of Choral Activities at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
  • Jim Porter (b. 1932) - Jim Porter was born in Little Rock in 1932. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1954 and entered the family businesses of warehousing, moving and storage, food and appliance distribution. But it was the music business that called Porter; not as a performer, but as an agent and manager and as a promoter of famous jazz artists. Porter presented such artists as Ray Charles, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner, Louis Armstrong, Ramsey Lewis, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Stan Kenton, Harry James, Four Freshmen, George Shearing, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Dave Brubeck, Buddy Rich, and Maynard Ferguson. Porter's long and outstanding career with promoting jazz in Arkansas is the reason he was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame.
  • Collin Raye (b. 1960) - Birth name Floyd Elliott Wray, this country music singer was born in DeQueen. His hits include "Love Me, “In This Life,” “All I Can Be,” and "Little Rock." He has had a total of fifteen No. 1 singles, eight Top 5 singles, fifteen No. 1 videos, four CMT Top 100 Videos of All Times, appeared in seventeen television specials and numerous television programs. The Country Radio Broadcasters gave Raye its Humanitarian Award in 2001 to recognize his charity efforts, especially those pertaining to Special Olympics, Al-Anon, and Childhelp USA. His hometown of DeQueen has a celebration “CollinFest” every summer honoring this hometown hero who gives back to its citizens through charitable projects in the DeQueen and Sevier County area.
  • John Michael Talbot (b. 1954) - Former rock star in the late 1960s, with the group Mason Proffit, pioneered the Country Rock that became the mainstay of modern Country Music. Now a moving force in Christian music, Talbot leads the monastic-style Little Portion, a Roman Catholic community a few miles east of Eureka Springs. Catholic music's number one recording artist with sales of around four million records worldwide, Talbot's numerous awards include nine Dove award nominations, a Dove Award for the album "Light Eternal," and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) President's Merit Award for "Song of the Poor."
  • John Weston (1927-2005) - A Brinkley native, Weston was born on December 12, 1927. The singer/songwriter combined fine songwriting with a deep Delta Blues style. A self-taught harmonicaist and guitarist, John began performing in 1970 and by 1977 had built a local audience in Marianna where he was living. His lyrics, which grew from his personal experience, reflect the humor and irony of daily life. He became a popular festival performer in the Delta and all over the world. He performed solo for many years although he occasionally played with a band. In 1989, John won the Lucille Award (named after blues singer B.B. King’s infamous guitar) at the Handy Awards in Memphis. In 1995 he began performing as a duo with Little Rock slide guitarist Mark Simpson. His CD "Got To Deal With The Blues" contains several cuts featuring the two. On April 20, 1996, John Weston and Mark Simpson performed in Jonesboro at Hairy Larry’s. The performance was taped for broadcast on "Something Blue."
  • Elizabeth Williams (b. 1949) - A producer on Broadway and around the world since 1989, Williams received the Tony Award for Best Musical for her production of "Crazy for You" (1992) plus the Best Revival Tony for both "The Real Thing" (1999) and for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (2000). Together, with partner Anita Waxman, Waxman Williams Entertainment has garnered 71 Tony nominations and 16 Tony Awards, more than any female producing team in history. Ms. Williams' and Ms. Waxman's recent Broadway productions include "Bombay Dreams," "Gypsy," "Flower Drum Song," "Topdog/Underdog" and "Noises Off;" along with London West End productions of "By the Bog of Cats," "Ragtime" and "Hitchcock Blonde." In addition, her Four Corners Productions company is responsible for "Crazy for You," "Into the Woods," "the Secret Garden" and "Moon Over Buffalo." From 1984-1989, she served as vice president of Mutual Benefit Productions and Fifth Avenue Productions, which created art and theatre investment funds. The company also served as the American financiers for Cameron Mackintosh by syndicating theatrical partnerships and helping finance the West End, Broadway, Australian and U.S. national touring companies of "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Miss Saigon." Williams has served on the board of directors of the 52nd Street Project and is a past chair of the board of directors of the New York Theatre Workshop. 


  • Ronnie Dunn (b. 1953) - Born in El Dorado, Arkansas, Dunn is a member of the award-winning country music duo Brooks and Dunn. Their recording hits include: "Maria," "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Hard Working Man." Brooks and Dunn received the 1996 CMA Entertainers of the Year Award, and in 1995 and 1996 the Entertainers of the Year award from the Academy of Country Music; shared Duo of the Year honors from CMA for eight consecutive years, and from the ACM for seven consecutive years, and 15 top chart-topping tunes, with 26 songs placed in the Top Ten.
  • John Grisham (b. 1955) - Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, the family moved to Southaven, Mississippi in 1967 where John graduated from Southaven High School in 1973. As a child, he dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears. Grisham majored in accounting at Mississippi State University, received his degree in 1977, and graduated from Ole Miss Law School in 1981. He practiced both civil and criminal law in Southaven until 1990. Elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1983, he served from January 1984 until September 1990. In 1989, he published his first novel, A Time to Kill. The book received good reviews but sold only moderately well. Completed in 1988, The Firm proved to be his breakout hit. In 1990, before the novel was published, Paramount Pictures purchased the film rights. That same year, he resigned from the Mississippi House of Representatives and bought a farm near Oxford, Mississippi. Since then, Grisham has gone on to be recognized as one of the world’s best-selling novelists. Among his twenty-one publications are: A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Painted House (set in 1952 Arkansas), Skipping Christmas, The Summons and many more.
  • Barbara Hendricks (b. 1948) - Opera star born in Stephens, Hendricks received her musical training and Bachelor of Music at the Julliard School of Music in New York where she studied with mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel. She made her American and European operatic debuts in 1974 at the San Francisco Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival and went on to appear at all major opera houses throughout the world, including the Paris Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and La Scala. Since her 1974 New York Town Hall debut, Barbara Hendricks has been acclaimed as one of the leading and most active recitalists of her generation.
  • Walter Norris (b. 1931) - Little Rock native who began classical piano studies at the age of four and a half. Norris worked professionally (1944-1950) with Howard Williams's 19-piece band in Little Rock, and in 1949 he also worked with Bitsy Mullins. His trio had a nine month stay at the El Morocco in Las Vegas before moving on to Los Angeles where he worked in the quartets of Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Teddy Edwards, Zoot Sims, Buddy DeFranco, Herb Geller and Charlie Ventura. In addition to becoming a Steinway Artist in 1995, he was selected for the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame by the Jazz Heritage Foundation. In August 1998 he formed Sunburst Recordings, Inc.
  • Freeman Harrison Owens (1890-1979) - Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Freeman Owens served in World War I as a combat cameraman. He changed the movie making business forever when he perfected the process of putting sound on film, and later advanced cinematography technology when he designed and developed cameras and lenses used by Eastman-Kodak Company. Owens was 89 years old when he passed away in Pine Bluff.
  • Steve Stephens (b. 1932) - Stephens began his television career at the dawn of the rock-and-roll era, appearing on Little Rock television station Channel 11 in various shows. His dance party, "Steve's Show," was an instant success and helped launch the careers of such performers as Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, songwriter Melvin Endsley, Brenda Lee, Fabian, Tommy Sands and Carl Perkins.
  • William Grant Still (1895-1978) - This Little Rock native was a violinist and composer of ballets, symphonies, operas, and other musical works. He began his musical career with W.C. Handy at Memphis, and then later worked with Earl Carroll, Artie Shaw, and Paul Whiteman. His compositions were the first works by an African-American composer to be performed by major orchestras, earning him the title, "Dean of Afro-American Composers." Still would continue to add to his list of firsts, being the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra (the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl), the first African American to have an opera (Troubled Island) performed by a major opera company (1949), and the first to have an opera (A Bayou Legend) performed on national television (1981). He is still regarded as America's greatest African-American composer. 


  • Julie Adams (b. 1926) - Actress raised in Little Rock who had a recurring role in the "Murder, She Wrote" television series. She also appeared in several movies, including "Bright Victory," "Bend in the River," "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," "The Dalton Gang," "Red Hot and Blue" and “Tickle Me” with Elvis Presley. She co-starred opposite many of Hollywood’s leading men: James Stewart, Tyrone Power, Rock Hudson, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis, Dennis Hopper and John Wayne. Her stage credits include starring roles in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” “The Glass Managerie,” “Butterflies are Free,” “Auntie Mame” and “Driving Miss Daisy.” She received a Dramalogue Award in 1989 for her performance in “Long Days’ Journey into Night.”
  • James “Jim” Bridges (1936-1993) - Oscar nominated filmmaker who directed such films as "The Appaloosa" (1966), "The Paper Chase" (1973), "The China Syndrome" (1979), "Urban Cowboy" (1980) and "Perfect" (1985). His movie "September 10, 1955" (1978) explored a college student's reaction to the death of James Dean and was filmed in Conway. Bridges was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • Skeets McDonald (1915-1968) - Born on a farm in Greenway (near Rector), McDonald was a noted singer-songwriter. Best-known for his self-penned chart-topper "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," McDonald was a honky-tonk singer and songwriter whose work helped serve to bridge the gap between country and rock and roll.
  • Gilbert Maxwell "Bronco Billy" Anderson (1880-1971) - Born in Little Rock, Max Anderson grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas before moving to New York to appear in the first western movie production, "The Great Train Robbery" in 1903. He changed his professional name before starring in over 400 "Bronco Billy" movies. Later, Anderson directed and produced movies in studios in Chicago and California. He is credited with developing many of the camera techniques that are still used today. He was awarded a special Oscar in 1958 for his contributions to the industry.
  • William Warfield (1920-2002) - A native of West Helena, Warfield is a Grammy-award winning baritone. He is known for such career-making roles as Joe in the film "Showboat" where he sings the memorable "Ol' Man River," and in 1952 performed the role of Porgy in "Porgy and Bess" on Broadway. In 1974, Warfield joined the music faculty of the University of Illinois at Champagne, but continued to tour as much as possible.
  • K.T. Oslin (b. 1942) - Born in Crossett as Kay Toinette Oslin. In 1988, K.T. won a Grammy, an Academy of Country Music (ACM) award, and a Country Music Association (CMA) award for "80s Ladies." K.T. was the first female artist to win Songwriter of the Year. She also won the CMA's Female Vocalist of the Year beating out Reba McEntire, who had won it the previous four years. Later in 1988, K.T. released her second album "This Woman" which went platinum. She had another major hit off it entitled, "Hold Me." She won a Grammy and CMA award for that song also. "This Woman" won the ACM Album of the year. K.T. is currently writing songs and taking it easy at home in Nashville.
  • Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006) - A renowned opera conductor who was raised in Fayetteville. Considered a child prodigy in music and mathematics, she was giving violin recitals before age 10 and graduated from Fayetteville High School at the age of 14. She founded the Opera Company of Boston and brought it to national prominence, and in 1976 she became the first woman to conduct at New York's Metropolitan Opera.
  • Art Porter, Jr. (1961-1996) - Legendary saxophonist born and raised in Little Rock. Although Art is best known for his saxophone playing, he originally played the drums in his father's jazz trio at age 9. Growing up in the Porter household in Little Rock, he was exposed to the sounds of Coltrane, Bird, and Gene Ammons. After receiving his degree in music education, Art began his journey as a professional musician, playing with Jack McDuff, Pharaoh Sanders, Gene Chandler, and serving as musical director for the vocal R & B group, After 7.
  • Pharaoh Sanders (b. 1940) - Pharaoh Sanders, originally Farrell Sanders, was born and raised in Little Rock. He became well-known in the local jazz scene in Oakland, California in the early 1960s. In the middle of the decade he moved to New York, where he worked with Sun Ra and other luminaries of the new jazz avant garde. He was asked by John Coltrane to join his group in 1965, and so became a part of Coltrane's most experimental unit. After Coltrane's death in 1967, he continued in musical collaboration with Coltrane's second wife, Alice. Sanders is known for a distinctive sound, including a split reed technique. While primarily playing the tenor sax, he has also recorded playing the soprano sax, flutes and percussion. His most well-known work is "The Creator Has a Master Plan."
  • Twila Paris (b. 1958) - Award-winning gospel singer, composer and author, Paris' roots go deep into Arkansas soil where her great grandparents served as ministers. She later lived in Fayetteville. She is known as today's "modern-day hymn writer" and has had 22 number one hits. Some of her hits include "Where I Stand," "A Heart That Knows You," "God is in Control," and "The Time is Now." 


  • The Browns (Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie) - Raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and originally starting out as a duo with Jim Ed and Maxine, the brother and sister act had a Top Ten song called "Looking Back to See" written by Maxine in one afternoon while she was at home. WhenBonnie joined the duo, this country singing trio had such top ranked hits as "Scarlet Ribbons," "The Old Lamplighter," and their signature song, "The Three Bells." In 1963, they received a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Vocal Group (album), but lost out to the Beatles. When Maxine and Bonnie retired from the group, Jim Ed went on to perform his that include "I Heard From a Memory," "Regular on My Mind," and "Pop-a-Top." Just a few years ago, Maxine wrote a book about the trio's experiences in the music world entitled Looking Back to or
  • Bob Burns (1890-1956) - Born and originally named Robin Burn in Greenwood, Arkansas, Burns was reared in Van Buren. At age 15, the crafty entertainer made a musical instrument called a "bazooka," originally made from two plumbing pipes and a funnel, and started a comical career that took him to New York nightclubs during the 1920s. After vaudeville declined in the early 1930s, Burns landed a spot on Bing Crosby's radio show on NBC. Soon the comedic musician had his own national radio show and was also landing roles in movies. As in WWI, Burns worked in USO shows during WWII. He retired from show business in 1947 and spent his remaining years on a 500-acre farm in California.
  • Floyd Cramer (1933-1997) - Reared at Huttig (Union County), Cramer developed a unique "lonesome" piano style that launched him onto the Grand Ole Opry and several hit recordings during the 1960s. "Last Date" and "Alley Cat" were top piano solos for Cramer. He later expanded his range to include light jazz and pop music. In 1974, after recording over 40 albums, he received Nashville's Metronome Award, granted annually to musicians who have contributed to the Nashville sound.
  • Melvin Endsley (1934-2004) - A native of Drasco, Endsley is a prolific country music songwriter. His hits have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Marty Robins, Andy Williams, Paul McCartney and Ricky Skaggs. His most famous song, "Singing the Blues" was a major hit for both Guy Mitchell and Mary Robins, and is credited with making Robins a star. His other hits include "I Just Ain't Fool Enough," I Like Your Kind of Love," and "Why I'm Walking."
  • Levon Helm (b. 1943) - This Marvell native was a drummer and vocalist in the Canadian group, The Band. Helm is best known for the hit song, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." He has also played supporting roles in films such as "Coal Miner's Daughter" (1980), "The Right Stuff" (1983), and "End of the Line." Helm was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2008 for his work with The Band, and winner of a 2008 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album "Dirt Farmer."
  • Louis Jordan (1908-1975) - Born at Brinkley, he studied music with his father and made his first professional appearance at Hot Springs Green Gables Club at age 15. During the 1930s, Jordan worked with well-known bands from Philadelphia to New York and toured with Ella Fitzgerald. He penned such favorites as "Choo Choo Boogie," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," and "Saturday Night Fish Fry." Jordan also appeared in several movies that featured his music and toured Europe and Asia during the 1960s. He died in Los Angeles and is buried in St. Louis.
  • Conway Twitty (1933-1993) - Known as the "High Priest of Country Music," this Country Music Hall of Famer was raised in Helena. He was born as Harold Jenkins and later chose his stage name from Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. He also considered "Bald Knob" as a stage name. Twitty's No. 1 hits include "Hello, Darling," "It's Only Make Believe" and "Tight Fitting Jeans." Like Elvis Presley, Twitty appeared in six "teen" movies and wrote the scores for three of them: "College Confidential," "Platinum High School," and "Sex Kittens Go to College" (all in 1960). His first big record to hit the charts was "It's Only Make Believe" in 1958 and he received the CMA Duo of the Year award with Lorette Lynn for four consecutive years.
  • Jerry Van Dyke (b. 1931) - This comedian starred as Luther in the ABC hit television series "Coach" and also starred in the 1960s television series "My Mother the Car." Jerry, who is the brother of actor Dick Van Dyke, at one time owned a home between Benton and Malvern. He restored an old movie theatre in downtown Benton which is now used by the local acting company "The Royal Players."
  • Mark Wright (b. 1957) - A Fayetteville native, he started his career by leaving a lucrative job singing jingles to take a $150-a-week songwriting gig. RCA made the 25-year-old Belmont graduate the then-youngest executive at a major label. That confidence saw Wright co-produce Clint Black's "Killin' Time," the 1989 record that spawned five number ones. Wright now has to his credit more than 26 million units in sales and over 40 number one singles that he's written, published or produced. As songwriter, he's had 12 BMI Awards - seven of them Million-Airs - including Mark Chesnutt's "Goin' Through The Big D," Oak Ridge Boys' "Lucky Moon," and "Today My World Slipped Away," cut by both George Strait and Vern Gosdin. His latest accomplishment is an Album of the Year Grammy for Lee Ann Womack's dazzling "I Hope You Dance," which has already earned him the 2000 CMA Single of the Year honors. 


  • Glen Campbell (b. 1936) - A native of Delight in Pike County, the famous pop/country singer and songwriter hosted his own TV variety shows, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" (1969) and "The Glen Campbell Music Show" (1982). His hit recordings include: "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Gentle on My Mind." He appeared in the movies "True Grit" (1969), "Any Which Way You Can" (1980), "Uphill All The Way" (1985), and "Family Prayers" (1993). Campbell, who in 1960 was a session musician playing on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley and counless others, now headlines concerts throughout North America and the British Isles.
  • Johnny Cash (1932-2003) - This "Man in Black" was born to a Kingsland, Arkansas sharecropper on February 26, 1932. His first big hit was "Folsom Prison Blues" which rose to the Top Five in country singles in 1956. "I Walk the Line" became Cash's first No. 1 hit. In 1957, he made his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, and by 1958, he'd published 50 songs, sold more than six million records and moved to Columbia label. Some of his other well-known recordings include "A Boy Named Sue," "Orange Blossom Special," "Ring of Fire" and "Jackson," which he recorded with his wife June Carter Cash. He starred in "The Johnny Cash Show" (ABC, 1969-71) and "Johnny Cash and Friends" (CBS, 1976). He also appeared in the movie "Gunfight" (1970), the television miniseries "North and South" (1985), and made guest appearances on various television shows. His 11 Grammys include a Lifetime Achievement Award and the 1998 Grammy for Country Album of the Year for "Unchained." Cash was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992).
  • Jimmy Driftwood (1907-1998) - Noted folk singer and songwriter who was born on a farm near Mountain View. While serving as superintendent at Snowball, he wrote his big hit "The Battle of New Orleans." He is also known for another composition, "The Tennessee Stud." Today, Jimmy Driftwood's Barn in Mountain View is the setting for performances by the Rackensack Folklore Society.
  • Randy Goodrum (b. 1947) - Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, this Grammy award winner is considered to be one of the best adult contemporary music songwriters and producers. Goodrum has penned hits in all areas of music-pop, rock, a/c, r&b and country. Some of his best-known hits include "You Needed Me" recorded by Anne Murray, "Foolish Heart," "Oh Sherrie," and "Bluer Than Blue." He has had songs recorded by such stars as Ray Charles, Phoebe Snow, Judy Collins, Helen Reddy, The Commodores, Kenny Rogers and Dottie West, Jefferson Starship, England Dan and John Ford Coley who made a hit of Goodrum’s “It’s Sad to Belong (to Someone Else) When the Right One Comes Along,” and Tricia Yearwood among others. He has produced for the likes of Michael Bolton, Chet Atkins, and Olivia Newton-John.
  • Al Green (b. 1946) - In the early 70s, 200 women sent soul sensation Al Green a signed petition begging him never to get married. That, in the proverbial nutshell, captures the amazing popularity of this sweet crooner from Forrest City - especially among women. "The phenomenon of women is love,” Green once said, trying to explain his female fans’ attraction to him. “Men are more into their careers, making money and achieving goals in their lives, but a woman will turn down a career to say, I love you, and really mean it.” Al Green’s secret weapon, then, was that he understood love. That and a lot of talent plus some lucky breaks led him from a sharecropper’s shack in the Delta to the top of the soul charts. Soon Green had audiences swooning with his own hits such as “Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together,” followed by “Call Me,” “I’m Still in Love With You,” and “You Ought to Be With Me.” In 1972, Green was named rock “n” roll star of the year by Rolling Stone. But even as he was seducing millions with his songs about secular love, Al Green was feeling a pull toward something else. “I ran from it,” he told Rolling Stone. Green eventually became an ordained minister and bought the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, assuming full-time duties as its pastor. Over time, he gave new meaning to the term “soul” music, blending his sweet R & B style with gospel. In the early 1980s, his “The Lord Will Make a Way” won his first Grammy but not his last. He still preaches every single Sunday. Today, Al Green understands a deeper kind of love.
  • Wayland Holyfield (b. 1942) - Holyfield is from Little Rock and has written 15 number one country songs for many Nashville recording artists, such as Ronnie Millsap, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, the Judds, Julio Iglesias, Don Williams and Waylon Jennings. "I am proudest of the song "Could I Have This Dance" because it is used in so many weddings (listed as one of the top 5 wedding songs). Touching people's lives is what songwriting is really about. I am proud to be able to say that I am a professional songwriter and that my music has had an impact in some small way on those who have heard it. What a wonderful legacy." Holyfield received the NSAI Presidential Award in 1979, has received 14 BMI performance awards, and also received 16 ASCAP performance awards. He wrote and recorded the song "Arkansas, You Run Deep in Me" for the Arkansas Sesquicentennial in 1986. He is quoted as saying “I live in Tennessee,” I work in Nashville, but Arkansas is always home and I wrote this song from my heart."
  • Alan Ladd (1913-1964) - Born in Hot Springs and raised in California, he worked a variety of jobs before landing bit parts in films and theatrical productions. His big break came when he was cast as the psychotic paid killer, Philip Raven, in "This Gun for Hire" (1942). With a career consisting primarily of westerns and adventure films, he is perhaps best known as the mysterious stranger in "Shane" (1954). He appeared in 150 films.
  • Chester Lauck (1902-1980) - Creator, along with Norris Goff, of the radio comedy team of "Lum and Abner." He was born in Alleene but grew up with Goff in Mena. Their cracker barrel humor was popular in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s in both radio and the movies. Lauck played the character, Lum. The Lum 'N' Abner convention is held each June in Mena, Arkansas.
  • Norris Goff (1906-1978) - This Cove native created, along with Chester Lauck, the enormously popular 1940s radio show "Lum 'n Abner" and subsequent movies. The setting for the program was mythical Pine Ridge, Arkansas, and its Jot-em-Down general store. Working in his father's store while growing up made his role as grocer "Abner Peabody" a natural.
  • Tracy Lawrence (b. 1968) - Born in Atlanta, Texas, this country music artist spent his early years in Foreman. His hits include "Alibis," "Sticks and Stones," "If the Good Die Young," and "Outlaws, Rebels and Rogues" from the movie "Maverick." In 2007 he released his first studio collection in three years featuring the hit singles "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," and "Til I Was A Daddy Too." He was named Billboard's Top New Male Vocalist in 1992, the Academy of County Music's Top New Male Vocalist in 1993, and has received many other awards over the last several years.
  • Patsy Montana (Rubye Blevins) (1914-1996) - This Hot Springs native who grew up in Hope was known as the "Queen of Country Western Music." She was one of the first country singers to successfully cultivate a cowgirl image. Her 1935 recording "I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," which included a virtuoso yodeling piece, was the first big hit by a female country singer, making her the first female country singer to have a single sell more than one million copies. She wrote over 200 songs during her career. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, shortly following her death.
  • Art Porter, Sr. (1934-1993) - Legendary jazz pianist born in Little Rock, Porter, the Arkansas jazz statesman, never officially worked as a touring musician; choosing instead to perform, teach, contribute to his church as well as to other charitable causes in his hometown and state. There were two exceptions: In 1977 at FESTAC 77 (the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture) and at jazz festivals in Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands during a 1991 European Tour with his son, saxophonist Art Porter, Jr. Porter has appeared on stage with Pharaoh Sanders, Steve Allen, O.C. Smith, James Leary, Al Hibbler and many others.
  • Dick Powell (1904-1963) - Actor, director and producer was born in Mountain View. A former band vocalist and emcee, he played the male lead in a number of musicals in the 1930s, often opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. He then made a successful transition from the boyish crooner to more serious roles as the hardboiled detective in thrillers of the 1940s. In the early 1950s, he became president of the successful Four Star television production company. Movies included: "42nd Street," (1933) "A Midsummer Night's Dream," (1935) "Murder My Sweet" (1944) and "The Bad and Beautiful" (1952). His television series include "Four Star Playhouse" (1952), "The Dick Powell Zane Gray Theatre" (1961), "The Rifleman," and "Wanted, Dead or Alive."
  • Charlie Rich (1932-1995) - Born in the Colt community between Wynne and Forrest City, Arkansas, Rich got his start at Sun Records in Memphis and penned many songs for other artists before recording his first hit "Behind Closed Doors" in 1973. Other hits like "The Most Beautiful Girl" followed and Rich was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1974. In 1978, he appeared in the Clint Eastwood film "Every Which Way But Loose." His nickname was "the Silver Fox."
  • Mary Steenburgen (b. 1953) - This Academy Award-winning actress from North Little Rock was discovered by Jack Nicholson. She has starred in "Ragtime" (1981), Woody Allen's "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (1982), "Parenthood" (1989), "Back to the Future III" (1990), "The Butcher's Wife" (1991) and many other movies. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "Melvin and Howard" in 1981. She produced and starred in "The End of the Line" (1987), a movie filmed in Arkansas. Steenburgen also starred, along with her husband, actor Ted Danson, in the television miniseries "Gulliver's Travels" (1996) and the television series "Ink" (1997). She last appeared in the television show "Joan of Arcadia."
  • Harry Thomason (b. 1955) - Born and riased in Hampton, Arkansas, this former Little Rock high school speech teacher and football coach who is now one of the hottest producers in Hollywood. His hits include "The Fall Guy," "The Blue & The Gray" mini-series (1983), "Designing Women," "Evening Shade," and "Hearts A'Fire." He has been nominated for numerous awards including an Emmy, Director's Guild Award, and a People's Choice Award - among many others.
  • Billy Bob Thornton (b. 1955) - A native of Hot Springs, Thornton was featured on the television series "Hearts A'Fire." He directed and starred in "Slingblade" a movie he filmed in Benton. He received two Oscar nominations for the film, one for Best Actor and one for Best Screenplay, which he won. He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1999 for "A Simple Plan." Thornton has since gone on to star in "Monster's Ball" (2001), as Davy Crockett in "The Alamo" (2004), "Bad Santa" (2003), and "Astronaut Farmer" (2007). 

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