What Is Going On with the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame?

outlaw-music-hall-of-fameIn August of last year, plans were unveiled for a new Outlaw Music Hall of Fame to be located in Lynchburg, TN. A letter of intent had been signed on a 5,000 sq. ft. property in downtown Lynchburg, and numerous personalities from the independent and Outlaw music community were named as board members, with the intention of opening the Hall in the spring of 2014. Later in October at an event in Altamont, TN, the inagural inductees to the Hall were announced, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, David Allan Coe, and a slew of other country music greats.

However as time has gone on, questions have arose about what is happening with the Hall of Fame. The spring of 2014 came and passed, and no progress or dates for an opening or inaugural induction ceremony were announced. Then an examiner.com article was published questioning the intent and legitimacy of the Hall, but as Saving Country Music pointed out, the article included gross inaccuracies and incorrect information, including the assertion that the Hall did not have a not-for-profit status.

As Saving Country Music explained at the time, the Outlaw Hall of Fame has been delayed because the location it planned to occupy was caught in a legal battle with the original owners and the bank that carried the deed on the property. This has caused caused a significant delay in the opening of the Hall, but according to the Hall of Fame’s point man Gary Sargeant, the Outlaw Hall of Fame is not dead.

“Last summer we signed a letter of intent to occupy the Lynchburg location, and gave them a deposit on their offer,” Gary explains. “I accepted their offer. Well the bank turned around because so much money was owed on it and two other pieces of property by the previous owners that the bank put a quash on the deal. We were supposed to take possession November 1st of 2013. Well in January 2014 the bank foreclosed on the property. The property is available for sale, but I am not able to personally buy the property. We had it on a lease option, which would have allowed us to move into the property. After a year we could have purchased it, and we had the first three months free. The bank is willing to let it go at 50% of the assessed value, let alone the appraised value. They want it off the books. But we do not have the money to purchase it outright. So that’s kind of where the Hall of Fame is sitting.”

One of the more controversial portions of the Hall of Fame was an Outlaw Music Association that was intended to help artists network with each other for touring, etc. Sargeant, who was injured in a motorcycle accident in October of 2013 right before a Hall of Fame-sponsored festival, say he has turned the reigns over to someone else in that portion of the venture.

“I have handed day-to-day operational control for the Outlaw Music Association over to Robin Randall because the last benefit I did for tornado victims in March, I lost another $3,000. Instead of paying bills, I took care of my commitments for that benefit. And I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m broke. This has bankrupted me. I’m losing everything I own. I’ve got to go back to work.’ The doctors had finally cleared me to go back to work (from the motorcycle accident). So I’m back to work now in construction, and we’re in the regrouping stage.”

According to Sargeant, the bank foreclosure on the proposed Outlaw Hall of Fame building has been the biggest hitch in the plan.

“The brick and mortar physical location for the Hall of Fame is the key to everything. The focus got lost when we were waiting to see what the bank was going to do, and they foreclosed and we started focusing on the Outlaw Music Association. The attention needs to go back on the Hall of Fame. I’m trying to get back up on my feet financially. It’s not like we’ve given up, it’s just very very hard for one individual to try to do something, and I think people’s expectations were a little bit higher than our abilities. It’s not like it’s gone south or died. It’s just regrouping and trying to put a package together that is going to make it be successful. This is a major undertaking and it’s not going to get done with one fan. It’s about pulling everyone together and letting them know what the real expectations are. The bank foreclosing on the building and the inability to purchase it outright really hurt the Hall of Fame opening this year. We’re looking at other venues right now, alternate sites. We still have a lot of support.”

In March the Hall of Fame published a video (see below) in hopes to attract investors, sponsors, or a buyer for the building that the Outlaw Hall of Fame could then lease the building from.

“We tried to attract some investors. We are willing to have somebody else buy it and turn around and lease it to us. They’re going to buy a commercial property and already has a tenant, and they’re going to buy it for less of what half the assessed value is. It’s a beautiful investment for someone, but that doesn’t happen overnight.”

Another issue according to Sargeant has been the passing of country artist Wayne Mills, who was on the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame’s Outlaw Music Association.

“Wayne was a very big part of the Outlaw Music Association. People don’t realize that. He founded Alabama Line. Alabama Line is a group that promotes Alabama artists. All the Association is, is Alabama Line on a national basis, on a national scale. He was very integral. Wayne was so smart, and I miss that. Not just as a friend, I miss his council and everything he provided. We lost a lot when we lost him. And every time I wanted to say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. This is too much,’ then I would think, ‘It’s not about me, this is Wayne’s dream too, and it’s about the artists.'”

Because of the delays, people have had questions about if the Hall of Fame inaugural induction ceremony or a new round of inductees will happen this year.

“I have people tell me that we should do the induction ceremony anyway and use it as part of a fundraiser for the Hall itself, which might make sense. It’s an idea that’s being kicked around. We’re talking to sponsors. It would have to be that we do new inductees after this year’s induction. Everything is still pretty much as it’s supposed to be as far as a plan. Just without a physical building, it changes the execution.”

Gary Sargeant is willing to admit that mistakes have been made in the rollout of the Hall of Fame, and that in certain sectors of the Outlaw country and independent music world, he’s not highly regarded, and others are suspicious of the intentions of the Hall and the Outlaw Music Association.

“When you’re working on a volunteer effort, everyone’s time is limited. For something that should take two or three days, it sometimes takes two to three weeks. And it doesn’t take long for something to drag out three or four months. Then after three or four months, you have 10,000 people across the country that don’t know what is going on questioning what you’re doing. I’ve always been very quiet on Facebook and everything else. I hate Facebook. I don’t do that. I monitor it to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on. If people want to hate me or hate us, that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. But at least be educated, and know why we’re where we’re at.”

Setbacks aside, Gary insists the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame is not dead, just delayed.

“Quitting is something we’re not going to do. We might change some of our goals, but everyone can see that we’re still moving forward. I’m working hard. I’m trying to get the right people together. I will be the first to say that I’m inexperienced and I failed at certain things. There’s reasons I failed, from lack of experience to banks not honoring the letter of intent we signed. There’s different things that have happened, but if nothing else, we’ve raised the profile over the last year. The biggest thing is that we’re regrouping, and the focus is now on the Hall of Fame.”

An Outlaw Music Festival at the Wishbone Ranch in Bowling Green, KY October 9th thru 12th has been planned, and though Gary Sargeant says they are not associated with the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame, he still supports the event.

“I think it’s a great thing. I love it. I think it’s fantastic. This is not about the OMA or Gary Sargeant, this is about artists getting promoted, helping each other. It is being run by Moonshine Barbecue Sauce, which is one of the original vendors at our Altamont festival last year who enjoyed it, saw that it was a great thing. But he also saw—and rightly so—that he could do a better job than me. So I hope it’s wildly successful because it’s only benefiting the artists. And the Last Honky Tonk Music Series, same thing. It’s all about promoting and getting the music out there.”

Also a raffle for a motorcycle with the proceeds scheduled to go to the family of Wayne Mills that was being administrated through the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame is still happening, and all raffle tickets sold will still be honored. It has just changed hands to a different administrator. All the current raffle tickets are still accounted for, and a winner will be chosen once they hit the ticket threshold for the raffle.

The promotional video put together in March for the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame property: