Tom T. Hall was happy to give the hometown team anything they wanted, and they came home to Olive Hill with a collection of treasures.
“He took care of us,” said Lisa Conley, President of the Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce as she helped unload boxes of mementos reflecting Hall’s life as a hometown-boy-done-good.
Welcoming a couple of guests to check out the items hand-collected and delivered to Olive Hill Sunday morning after a visit to Hall’s Fox Hollow home, Conley holds one special object in reserve, with a smile and a stern, “Don’t that pictures of that!”
Even at a glance, the collection promises to be an incredible attraction inside the city’s historic railroad depot, which will soon re-open as a Visitor/Welcome Center sometime in April.
Photos spanning from a one-room schoolhouse on Tick Ridge to leaning up against a pole on Main Street with fellow musician Darvin Sturgill, his military service, and on up through his time with everyone from American presidents to sharing stages with the some of the world’s most renowned musicians, along with music-industry awards, important documents and even a small piece of the stage from the old Ryman Auditorium.
“(Hall’s assistant) Melissa contacted us and said ‘He wants you to come down and go through all of the memorabilia he has,'” Conley said, explaining the legendary singer/songwriter as well as author and poet had already given several of his things to other music history museums and so on, but wanted the more personal items to be packed up and sent to his hometown.
“He said it belonged in Olive Hill,” Conley said, noting the group of six Olive Hill Chamber members who made the trip to Hall’s home were given every single thing they asked for.
The photos alone are captivating, with Hall seen alongside President Jimmy Carter (a signed letter from Carter is also in the collection) as well as celebrities such as Dean Martin and Clint Eastwood, and legendary musicians including Waylon Jennings, Roy Clark, Chet Atkins and Charlie Pride among many others. While he nearly always played guitar when he performed, the Olive Hill collection even has a photo of Hall playing a saxophone on stage instead.
All of the items, including Conley’s cased-up mystery object, will be unveiled when Olive Hill’s new Welcome Center opens sometime in April.
Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON