The Bruce Grey Music Hall of Fame has found a new home at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 in Owen Sound.
Legion branch members voted unanimously earlier this month in favour of a proposal to locate the hall at the branch after its previous home – the legion in Hepworth — and its memorabilia were destroyed by fire in early 2022.
Sue Murdoch, a hall director, said Friday they have an agreement in place with the legion, are feeling comfortable with the new partnership at the new location and buoyed by the legion membership’s unanimous vote in favour of the relocation.
Murdoch said her late husband Bill – a founding member of the hall — would be extremely happy to see the recent vote in favour of the hall’s relocation to the city legion.
“Our family is really happy with how it has gone. My dad was president when they built that legion in the 60s and my mom was auxiliary president, so they spent a lot of time there,” Murdoch said. “I am a member there too, and I am really happy we are going to be there.”
Murdoch said founding member Arnie Clark has all the information about the hall inductees archived, and it is now a matter of retrieving it and preparing it for installation in the hall.
They have already had offers of artifacts, including a guitar from the family of hall member Alfie Fromager.
“It is just a matter of getting it ready and doing the work to restore all the stuff that Arnie has archived,” Murdoch said. “We will get going on the work that needs to be done and in the spring we will get stuff ready to be hung again, and then it will be time to do another induction.”
The hall is to be located on two walls of the North Atlantic Room at the north end of the legion.
Murdoch said they have a design for the cabinetry, display panels and lighting for the hall and have someone available to do the work. They raised almost $30,000 to re-establish the hall, thanks in large part to donations in memory of Bill, who died Aug. 16, 2022 at the age of 77. The former MPP, who is in the hall as a builder and manager of The Tombstones, continued to promote the hall even as his health declined.
The hall of fame was founded in 2015 by Clark and Murdoch to highlight the region’s rich musical history. They chose the Hepworth Shallow Lake Legion Branch 586 as the site for the hall because of its history as a popular local venue – both before and after the legion branch purchased it in the 1960s. Over the years the venue was host to acts including Mel Tillis, Leroy Van Dyke, Whispering Bill Anderson and many others.
An initial hall of fame event in 2015 included the induction of musical legends Alfie Fromager, Clare Adlam, Brian Pawley, Hughie Elder, Jim Patterson and Elmer and Wilma Beckett.
Each year inductions with memorabilia collected and donated commemorating those recognized and others who were part of that musical history. The inductions continued until 2019, but ceased when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.
Then on Jan. 21, 2022 disaster struck as the legion in Hepworth and all its contents – including the hall of fame – was destroyed by fire. Lost were numerous items, including posters, photographs, inductee history and highly cherished memorabilia like a practice guitar that belonged to Fromager and a fiddle donated by Harry Parker’s family. The hall’s losses alone were estimated in the range of $100,000.
When it was time to decide to rebuild, the Hepworth Shallow Lake legion membership voted to exclude the hall from their plans, deciding to focus on highlighting and honouring the veterans first and foremost in what is going to be a smaller venue.
The hall of fame has forged on, and in June, organizers held an annual induction celebration again, this time in the memorial auditorium at branch 6 in Owen Sound, with a sold-out crowd in attendance.
Inductees this year included late founding member Jim Merriam, notable country crooner Jim Beech, the legendary original Tombstones rock and blues band, master guitarist Lloyd Williamson, the popular original Rainbow Country Band and HOF founder and director Arnie Clark, an entertainment promoter, producer and musician.
Proceeds from this year’s induction event were donated back to the legion, and they have planned their next induction event there on June 23, 2024.
Branch 6 president Ed Yates said in a news release about the hall moving to the city that he is positive it will be a welcome addition to the legion.
“We had several discussions, all very positive, over the past few months with our executive and hall of fame directors,” said Yates.
He said the induction sellout was “an eye-opener.”
“We could see how much community support there was,” Yates said. “It really was impressive to see so many entertainment legends recognized. The whole event was quite amazing.”
The submission deadline for applications for induction consideration at the next event is May 1. Applications are available by contacting the BGMHF, PO Box 911-Stn. Main, Owen Sound, Ont., N4K 6H6.