Kerry Gilbert takes spotlight
By Tyler Hargett for the FCT
Nov. 1, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia kicked off a new rotating exhibit that will highlight a different Star Player of Alabama every three months. The first person to receive this honor was Russellville’s Kerry Gilbert, a well-known North Alabama artist.
Gilbert was selected as the first honoree about three months ago by Hall of Fame director Dixie Griffin and staff. According to Griffin, the idea for the exhibit is inspired by the great musical achievers in Alabama who, despite not necessarily being known internationally, are still worthy of recognition for their contributions to the state.
Many people in Franklin County know Gilbert for his generosity, kind spirit and loyalty to the community. Besides playing with the Kerry Gilbert Band every second Saturday for the past eight years at the Roxy Theater, he has also sung at nursing homes, helped out with events at the Hall of Fame and was even the recipient of the 2014 Franklin County Citizen of the Year Award. Lifelong friend and public relations helper Ann Epperson McDermitt spoke about the man behind the music.
“Kerry is one of the main people I would love for my children to get to know,” said McDermitt. “I have noticed that, when we go out to dinner, everyone in the room knows him. It’s not just because of his music but because he knows who had knee surgery last week and whose mother is sick. He’s always talking to people about what’s really on their hearts.”
The event began with Gilbert being interviewed by KIX 96 announcer Sherry St. John-Clark. He discussed his beginning in music through being raised in a musical family and attending church with his dad, whom he modeled his singing patterns after. His inspirations include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves, all of which he used to listen to on a stereo when he was younger.
“I remember my dad talking about how nice it would be to be in the Hall of Fame,” commented Gilbert. “Now, here I am in it.”
Gilbert also talked about his career timeline, from helping to form his first band, Mountain Breeze, in 1985 to releasing his first solo album “The Heart Remembers When” in 2010, as well as the benefit album several artists helped put together to support him in his battle with cancer. Besides music, Gilbert has also been a Civil War reenactor, a voice-over artist and actor in Civil War documentaries (which have aired on the History Channel), and continues to be the narrator for the Timmy Horton Outdoors fishing show, which currently airs on World Fishing Network.
Gilbert thanked God for the evening and all of the people who have prayed for him. After taking audience questions, he played two songs, ending the evening with unveiling the exhibit and placing the guitar he had played inside it. Gilbert signed autographs and talked with fans. Special guests included other members of the KGB and Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood.
“It’s surreal,” said Gilbert. “There’s a bunch of other people that could very well be here in my place. To have the privilege and opportunity to entertain people is what keeps me going. Seeing people leave (from my shows) a little happier than when they came means a lot.”