Max Jackson, Edmonson Voice Entertainment:
Bill Richards, a 1986 graduate of Edmonson County High School, was recently named a finalist in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, an event which includes 51 categories in the visual arts division that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama, and creative writing.
Richards grew up in the Chalybeate community and came from a talented family. His grandparents were the late Wilbur and Melba Madison, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. It was an event he was able to attend.
Richards, now living in Grand Rapids, MI was recently featured on the cover of "The Artsgram," the official magazine of the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.
After graduating ECHS, he enrolled in the U.S. Army in 1989 where he was stationed at Fort Stewart, GA with the 24th ID(M) and deployed for Operation Desert Shield/Storm 1990-1991.
Bill's drawings only showcase a portion of his talent as he also enjoys playing several varieties of music. He credits his former high school art teacher, Mrs. Phyllis Miller for supporting his art during his four years at ECHS.
"Mrs. Miller has always been an inspiration to me and we keep in touch regularly on Facebook," he said."My entire family all reside pretty much in Edmonson County and were involved in music and that was enough to get me started there."
To contact Bill, send him an email by clicking here.
Edmonson County Arts Council Celebrates 30th Anniversary With Female Version Of "The Odd Couple," Reflects On Past
Darren Doyle, story
Scott Skaggs, photos
Edmonson County Arts Council President Ricky Skaggs said that while 30 years is a long time, its' gone by quickly, and it's hard to believe that's how long it's been since the formation of the local dinner theater organization.
"We started this when I was young, and now I'm not," Skaggs said. "But I still love to make people laugh for just a little while and forget the daily troubles."
And lots of laughs he's helped create as the non-profit organization has held countless productions over the years with humble beginnings at the Brownsville Community Center back in the 80's.
"We started with our first production way back when of "Our Town," where we had a professional Director that the Arts Council paid to do the play. I became President the next year where I and Craig Browning, Chairman of Board of Directors at the time, came up with the idea of the Green River Amphitheater, where we performed "The Death of Floyd Collins" by Tim Hatcher. We did that for 16 years along with dinner theaters that were made possible by Arlene Skaggs and Jewell Newkirk who served as our cooks, and these two women were gifts from God. We then were able to move to the high school were we could cook, serve, and do the play all in the same building."
Skaggs was pleased with the recent performance of the female version of "The Odd Couple," held at ECHS this past Saturday.
"We had two first time performers with Sandy Bledsoe and Jackie Alford, along with Anthony Simon who came back after several years to help out this time," said Skaggs. "Then we had our old timers, Katie and Cody Tennison, Angie Hughes, Sue Fitzpatrick and of course the biggest ham of all, me."
Skaggs also pointed out that while providing good family entertainment along with a great meal is a positive experience the council has enjoyed over the years, he's even more proud of those that they've been able to help along the way.
"We're able to help out students of Edmonson County with our annual scholarship that not only requires excellent grades, but high character, morals, and we factor in if the student or their family has been part of the Arts Council at any time."
He said the scholarship is something the council has always been honored to provide and it was awarded to ECHS Senior Caleb Skaggs during Saturday's performance. He received a $1000 scholarship.
"We have some of the greatest children right here in Edmonson County and with our scholarship, maybe they will go out in the world and let other people see how great they are."
He also noted the partnership between the council and the Chalybeate Homemakers, which allows them to raise money for Adopt-an-Angel program with Edmonson County Schools. The homemakers also have been able to make donations to the American Cancer Society.
"The Arts Council takes a ton of effort and hard work, but with all the great help we get and the support of my great family, it ends up looking easy," Skaggs said.
"God put us in a great county and it is a pleasure to show others just how great it is through our young men and women. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Max Jackson, story
Our editor makes a conscious effort to keep himself out of the news, although difficult sometimes in a small community like Edmonson County. And while it's true that no one really cares who edits or owns a news company, it's pretty out of the ordinary when a news editor can say he's performed on the world famous Grand Ol' Opry. It then becomes ridiculous when you realize his younger brother just experienced the same thing 22 years later.
Edmonson County native Dustin Doyle, a member of the award-winning southern gospel group "Ernie Haase and Signature Sound" marked another line off his bucket list as he performed on the Opry on October 15, 2016, becoming the second member of his family to do so, as his older brother, Darren did the same thing numerous times back in the 1990's.
"Not many families can sit at the dinner table and compare individual experiences on the Grand Ol' Opry," Dustin said, laughing. "We weren't trying to be funny or anything, but Darren was talking about hanging out with Charlie Pride and Grandpa Jones and I was talking about spending some time with Trace Adkins and Exile. Somebody at the table said, "this is a ridiculous conversation that I can't believe we're hearing."
Dustin is the son of Steve and Debbie Doyle of Chalybeate and is a 2003 graduate of Edmonson County High School. He's traveled around the globe touring with the top-rated quartet and he says the Opry experience ranks among the highest.
"I mean, it's the Grand Ol' Opry. Are you serious? How many people get to say they've performed there?" he asked, rhetorically.
He said he was excited about the opportunity from the moment the group discovered they'd been invited, however when he walked into the building, he began to experience a little bit of fright.
"You know, I just thought, man, I really shouldn't be here. I really shouldn't have this opportunity...is this real life?" He eventually began to settle down when he spoke with the night's host, Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs.
"I'd met Ricky before through my best friend Ben Helson (another EC graduate) when Ben played for him and he remembered me. He was really nice and I calmed down and was able to enjoy the moment."
Dustin also said it was amazing standing backstage watching the iconic group "Exile" perform their smash hit "Kiss You All Over," with Platinum selling artist Trace Adkins joining in. "Everybody in the place knew every word to the song and we were all singing along. Those guys were really nice and genuine and it was an incredible moment to see them perform that song."
He also said meeting Adkins was memorable, too. "I've never really been a Trace Adkins fan, but the guy was so nice and he's a giant! He stopped for a second and we grabbed a photo together. Guys like that don't have to do those kinds of things but he did and it was great."
Dustin recently appeared on Bill Gaither's final Homecoming video with Signature Sound, which will be available soon.
He currently lives in Mackenzie, TN with his wife Aubrey, his son Dawson, and daughter Lana.
Author Max Jackson is a native of Austin, TX and currently lives in Nashville, TN. He is a freelance entertainment reporter and is also a studio musician that works in Edmonson County and various areas of south central Kentucky.
Max Jackson, story
The Crossmen, a popular regional male gospel quartet, is closing the book on their successful career as they plan to perform their final two concerts this weekend.
The Morgantown group lost lead singer Boyce Flener to cancer in February, 2016. Flener served not only as lead singer but handled much of the arrangement, production, sound engineering, and emcee work for the group.
The Crossmen Quartet was founded in April of 1993 and has performed in 30 different states, Mexico, and the Bahamas. They appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN 20 different times and made multiple appearances at the National Quartet Convention.
They had a dozen top 80 charting songs, were nominated for New Artist of the Year in 1996, as well as a host of other awards over the years.
They are scheduled to perform at Cannon Hall at the Owensboro River Park Center Friday, August 26, 2016 at 7PM and at the Capitol Arts Theater in Bowling Green the following night, Saturday, August 27th, also at 7PM. Both events are free to the public.
"On behalf of Boyce, myself, and all the current and past member of the Crossmen Quartet, I would like to thank you for your support over the past 23 plus years," said Scott Flener, tenor singer and brother of Boyce. "After Boyce passed in February we were left with a decision of what to do with the group. After much prayer, we have decided to close the door on an amazing journey that the Crossmen have had."
Filling the lead spot for the final two concerts will be local resident and Edmonson Voice Editor Darren Doyle, a former member of the group.
"These guys have been my friends for over 20 years and I consider it a great honor to be able to do this with them," Doyle said. "They helped shape my entire career as a singer and musician. I was able to experience the Grand Ol' Opry with this group. Someone asked me how I was going to fill Boyce's shoes...I told them I couldn't, no one could. I'll just fill in the best I can to honor my friend and this amazing group of guys."
Scott added that these particular venues were the last two full concerts that Boyce was able to perform with the group a year ago.
"We appreciate your support and prayers and may God Bless all of you," he said.
Former EC Man Ben Helson Now Touring With Dierks Bentley, Recently Appears On Jimmy Fallon, TODAY Show
Darren Doyle, story
It should come as no surprise that the amazingly talented guitarist Ben Helson, a 2004 graduate of Edmonson County High School has moved up the ladder in the entertainment industry once again. Helson is currently touring with platinum country artist Dierks Bentley as lead guitarist and back up vocalist.
He appeared Thursday night on "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon," and also NBC's "The TODAY Show" the next morning.
Ben had been on tour with pop country artist "Maddie and Tae" and was told about the job opening with Dierks Bentley's band from Bentley's lead guitarist who was in the process of leaving. Ben said the band offered him an audition which he said was an amazing experience within itself.
"So a couple weeks after my audition, I'm in Italy with Maddie and Tay and I'm at my hotel," Helson said. "I don't have an international phone plan so I don't get any calls or texts unless I'm on wifi. After my phone connected to wi-fi, I got a voicemail from Dierks that he wanted me to call him. I thought that I'd either gotten the job, or he was being really nice by taking the time to call me to let me know he'd hired someone else."
Ben finally returned Bentley's call and got the news that he had been hired as the new lead guitarist. He joked about not remembering anything else about the rest of the conversation. "I think I blacked out."
He said the experience with Bentley has been all he imagined plus more. "He's just the coolest guy ever. He's surrounded himself with a great team and he goes above and beyond what it takes to make everyone happy. It's like we're all adopted into this big family."
Ben said the experience on The Tonight Show was something that was so high up on his bucket list, that it didn't seem real at the time. "I'm a huge (Jimmy) Fallon fan anyway, so when we played this show, of course it was awesome, but if felt like I was pretending like I was on the show and not actually on it. Jimmy talked to all of us before the show, and afterwards, he was saying stuff like, man, you guys are awesome, or dude, I loved that guitar riff, it was crazy! He was a great guy."
Ben said this is the type of gig that a traveling musician dreams about and he couldn't be happier. "The great thing about touring with a country artist is that you're not gone months at a time. It's still mostly weekends and we get to stay home during the week."
Dierks Bentley just released a brand new album, "Black." He currently holds the number 3 spot on Country Billboard's Top Forty with his hit single "Somewhere On a Beach" that hit number one just a few weeks ago.
Ben and his wife Danielle currently live the Nashville, TN area.