MUSKOGEE — Wearing a short, silvery dress and a wide smile befitting Cinderella, Kristin Chenoweth stooped to sign an oversized guitar with the message “I'm just an OKLAHOMA GIRL!”
So far this year, the Emmy- and Tony-winning actress/vocalist has sung for Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama and the Queen Elizabeth II of England. She added another highlight Thursday night when she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
“All those other things are amazing. I'd be a liar if I didn't say singing for the queen and Oprah and presidents and all that is amazing. But when you come back home and you sing for your family and you sing for people who said, ‘You done good,' that's where the loyalty and the love is,” Chenoweth said.
“This is who I am. This is who I am, and I can't forget it.”
The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame ushered in its 15th class during Thursday's Annual Induction Ceremony and Concert. Along with Chenoweth, the class of 2011 includes basketball great and popular jazz bassist, the late Wayman Tisdale; Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Nokie Edwards and the late Bob Bogle, both members of surf-rock pioneers The Ventures; and Gene Triplett, longtime entertainment editor of The Oklahoman.
The class of 2011 also features the late guitarist/keyboard player Jesse Ed Davis, who performed with Leon Russell, George Harrison and John Lennon; the late composer, lyricist and performer Ralph Blane, who was twice nominated for the best original song Oscar; and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Rising Star Award recipient Cheevers Toppah, a Kiowa/Navajo singer and Grammy nominee.
“This is a great place if you're gonna write about music and entertainment. This is the place to be. (As you can see) from the fantastic panel up here, Oklahoma is just a really rich breeding ground for great talent ... something in the water. Or the dirt, I don't know,” said Triplett, who has been at The Oklahoman for 30 years and spent the last decade as entertainment editor, at the news conference before the ceremony.
“It's the dirt,” Chenoweth said with a laugh.
Judging from the class of 2011, the Oklahoma dirt provides a fertile breeding ground for musical diversity.
Kelly Davis, Davis' widow, said that friends laughed and asked “Do they surf in Oklahoma?” when they heard that The Ventures were part of the same hall of fame class as her husband.
“I'm from California, and we met in California ... but he was a proud Oklahoman, and this is a tremendous honor,” Davis said.
Along with Toppah, Davis, who was full-blooded Kiowa Comanche, and Edwards, who is Cherokee, represent Oklahoma's American Indian roots.
Edwards, 76, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 as a member of The Ventures.
“This is my third hall of fame I'm in, but I'm very happy to be inducted into the hall of fame here in my home state,” Edwards said, adding he was sorry that his bandmate and fellow inductee Bogle, who died in 2009, was not there to be honored with him.
Regina Tisdale, Tisdale's widow, accepted the honor for her husband, who died in 2009 at the age of 44 after a long battle with bone cancer.
“Although he was an athlete, if you asked him what his first love was, he'd tell you music. So he'd be all smiles if he was here and he'd be honored to be among these musicians,” she said.
The hall of fame also posthumously inducted Blane, a prolific composer who co-wrote the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and the Oscar-nominated standard “The Trolley Song” for the 1944 movie musical “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
“I'm probably the luckiest one here because my most famous mentor, Ralph Blane, and my most famous former student, Kristin Chenoweth, are both going to be inducted into the hall of fame tonight,” said Billie Sue Thompson, who accepted on his behalf.
As a teacher at Broken Arrow High School, she cast Chenoweth in the title role of “Cinderella” and always knew the tiny blonde with the huge voice would be a superstar.
“Singing has been the greatest love of my life, and it is definitely an extension of my soul and something that God saw fit to give me. I can't balance my checkbook and I'm not a very good driver, but I do enjoy singing,” Chenoweth said.
More on NewsOK
Look for Brandy McDonnell's review, along with photos and video, of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame 2011 Induction Ceremony and Concert on NewsOK.