Bluegrass Legend Bill Grant Inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame

by STACY HUTTO

Choctaw tribal member and Bluegrass legend Bill Grant (right) holds up his trophy after being inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 25. Grant has been an influence to many musicians during his lifetime. After seeing a bluegrass festival put on by Bill Monroe, Grant brought the first one to Hugo. The Hugo festival was the first bluegrass festival west of the Mississippi. Former Kiamichi Mountain Boys band mate and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Board Member Virgil Bonham (center) along with Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Jim Blair (left) inducted Grant into the Music Hall of Fame.

Fans of bluegrass music filled the Bill Grant Civic Center in Hugo for Bill Grant Presents Bluegrass on the Kiamichi Trace on Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25. The two-day festival officially started at noon both days and ended at 10 p.m., but bluegrass filled the air hours before the festival started.

Bluegrass legend and Choctaw tribal member Bill Grant performed the second day of the festival with his band and his stepdaughter Amy Patrick. After his set, Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Jim Blair took the stage and introduced Board Member and Bill Grant’s former Kiamichi Mountain Boys band mate, Virgil Bonham.

Bonham spoke about his dad coming home from a bluegrass festival in Hugo in 1969 and saying they had to go back next year because it was an awesome event. The following year Bonham slept under a station wagon and they stayed the night.

While Bonham’s dad and uncle were playing they met Grant. After the festival the three men got together and formed the Kiamichi Mountain Boys and Bonham said at 11-years-old he cut his first record with Bill Grant.

“Virgil was about this tall (hip height) and standing on a box playing a big bass,” Grant told the audience.

Bonham wove a tale about the first record they cut. With hot links cooking they ate good food and did some picking. They wrote a few tunes. Emmylou Harris recorded one of them, “Roses in the Snow,” and it became a country hit. Another song from that session, “Stairway to Heaven,” continues to be performed by Grant to this day.

For Bonham, the day was an honor because Grant gave a 10-year-old boy a chance to play on a stage and write songs, which Bonham continues to do as part of the Bonham Review and Hankerin’ 4 Hank, a Hank Williams tribute band.

He credits Grant with being a musical influence. He said Grant was his influence to play the mandolin. Until he met Grant he thought he’d play the bass fiddle, but to this day he continues to play the mandolin.

Grant has influenced many musicians besides Bonham. Among those who credit Grant’s influence are Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley and many more.

Bonham mentioned that as a member of Choctaw Nation, Grant has done wonders for the tribe and the recognition Grant brings back to the tribe is nothing but positive.

After speaking about Grant, Bonham said, “Bill, it is my honor to be the one to hand you this trophy, and I would like to induct you into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.”

Grant, a soft-spoken, humble man, accepted the award from Bonham.

“You sure know how to make a country boy proud. I can’t hardly express words to say what is in my heart,” Grant said.

He talked about being in Muskogee while the Music Hall of Fame was being built and someone telling him he might be in there one day. “I said I doubt it, but it’d be nice and it is nice,” Grant said.

Before exiting the stage Grant said, “Thank you very much. God bless you and thank you one more time.”

In addition to being inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Grant has been inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame, awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award for his contribution to bluegrass as a promoter, songwriter and performer, and the Oklahoma Arts Council created a special recognition award for Grant’s support of the arts in Oklahoma.