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Is the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame legit or a sham?

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Today it seems that the term outlaw music has been overstated. Modern day singers have been calling themselves outlaws, yet have not really established anything in regards to credibility to that term. Many bands feel the urge to use the infamous bleeding cowboy font to make them seem more "outlaw" when everyone is using it. The origin of the term defined the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, David Allan Coe, and many more. They paved a path on their own, going against the grain, be original, and innovate a new sound.

In the fall of 2013, it was announced that there will be a new Outlaw Music Hall of Fame. The initial class was announced during a separate benefit show for a young man, Troy Rector, to help pay for his medical expenses. At that benefit show, a lot of the advertised performers did not perform due several reasons related to contracts and no confirmation of actual dates to perform. Attendance was also very low. According to some accounts, no money was raised for Troy Rector. Was this due to poor planning or mismanagement? No one knows for sure.

Rather than make the event solely about Mr. Rector, the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame decided to take the opportunity to announce their inductee class. That class included The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Bobby Bare, Chris Gantry, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Johnny Paycheck, Jessi Colter, Sammi Smith, Steve Young, Billy Joe Shaver, and Hank Williams, Jr. A separate Guardian Award was announced with recipients including Dallas Moore, Wayne Mills, Hank Williams III, Jamey Johnson, and Whitey Morgan.

However, since the announcement of the inaugural class, the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame has been silence for the most part. Even though it has been announced that the ceremonies would take place in April 2014, there has been no word of when or where it will take place. Furthermore, none of the inductees have even acknowledged the Hall of Fame on their websites or social media pages. The last post on Facebook from the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame was November 23, 2013 with news of the passing of Wayne Mills.

President Gary Sargeant was featured on Fox News and even spoke at Wayne Mills funeral, promoting the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame. Since the death of Wayne Mills, board of director member and writer, Neil Hamilton, posted a rather dark blog on Wayne Mills that pictured a stark contrast of his true character. The blog, which has since been taken down, was filled with conspiracy theories and lies. The credibility of his writings would soon be questioned by music fans as he was proven wrong of several items he posted. Most importantly, he reported that he had spoke to those that were with Mills, only to later say in a second post that he never spoke to those he named. Why would someone throw those under the bus, so to speak, that he considered to be a friend of, including Mills?

According to the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame website, "the facility encompasses more than 5,000 square feet and under the direction of architect Thomas Bartoo will feature a state-of-the-art layout, including interactive displays. There will also be a studio to allow for live broadcasts to be streamed over the Internet." To date, no word has been made as to what the progress of the facility has been. There has been no information available as to when it will open and what particular items will be on display.

There is also the Outlaw Music Association that has a website set up asking musicians and fans to pay for a membership fee. Fan membership is $24.95 with benefits including, "10% discount on OMA member merchandise, one free t-shirt, and monthly newsletter with all breaking OMA member news. Also a chance to vote on Guardian Class Awardees starting in 2014 for the 2015 Class! Exclusive membership card and access to free music downloads. Early ticket sale access for all Hall of Fame events." Artist membership is $99.00 for, "Use of national booking data base established by participating members that will high light best venues and provide contact info for booking, promotion on website and through social media of artists and labels, access to legal library as provided by OMA free of charge, access to marketing consultation and education free of charge, ability to participate in HOF and OMA sponsored events, exposure to corporate sponsors, education of new technologies and their ability to maximize exposure, increased access to media, use of OMA website to sell merchandise, and ability to buy banner ads on OMA website at discounted rates." Most of the information that is being provided is also provided for free via social media and online searches.

The Outlaw Music Hall of Fame, Outlaws and Icons, and the Outlaw Music Association have claimed to be a non-profit in interviews and their websites. According to the IRS website, neither the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame, Outlaws and Icons, or the Outlaw Music Association are listed as being recognized as non-profit to be tax exempt. The Tennessee State Government's website has not recognized either as a non-profit or charitable organization. Guidestar.org website does not have any indication of any of the organizations as a non-profit. The Better Business Bureau of west Tennessee does not recognize any of the names as a business or non-profit charity.

Furthermore, fans are lead to confusion as to the multiple websites for the outlaw music. There is the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame at www.outlawmusichalloffame.com, Outlaw Music Association at www.outlawmusicassociation.com, and Outlaws and Icons at two websites at www.outlawsandlegends.net and www.outlawsandicons.net. Each website ask for donations.

Those that are behind the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame and Outlaw Music Association include, Gary Sargeant, Jeremy Tepper (Program Director for SiriusXM's Outlaw Country channel), Thomas Bartoo (designer with Method Architecture in Chattanooga, Tennessee), David Spangenburg (professor of entertainment law), Neil Hamilton (history professor and author of Outlaws Still At Large!), Brian DeBruler (CEO and president of Sol Records), Joe Swank (head of radio promotions and tour press at Bloodshot Records), and Sloane Stewart (the mayor of Lynchburg). In December 2013, Nicole Rose of Rose Venture Management was announced to the Board of Directors. However, her name no longer appears on the website, news items, or Facebook. Neil Hamilton and Terry Jennings are no longer on the board as well.

I requested an interview with Gary Sargeant, head of the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame and Outlaw Music Association. We confirmed a date and time for the interview. He has since then not responded to any phone calls, messages, or emails. With the lack of response from Sargeant, the failed benefit for Troy Rector, no news of when the Hall of Fame will actually open, lack of credibility of board members, lack of acknowledgement from those to be inducted or their families, and deceit of stating to be a non-profit when they are not, one cannot help but think if this is really more of a sham for music fans.

Don't miss the best original reporting about country music by visiting Jessica's Kentucky Country Music and National Country Music Examiner columns. Subscribe and you'll get first word when we publish.

Copyright Jessica Blankenship. Please do not reprint in part or in full on other sites without permission. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or www.kycountrymusic.com.

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