You’d be surprised how many famous people are from Arkansas or have come to call it home. From renwoned musicians to well-known actors and directors, The Natural State has bred a lot of talent. You’ll recognize the famous Arkansans below from art gallery exhibitions, movies, television shows and your favorite albums. Get to know these Arkansas artists and entertainers below and plan a trip to check out their old stomping grounds or see their work in local galleries.
Julie Adams (b. 1926)
- Actress raised in Blytheville and attended high school and college in Little Rock who had a recurring role in the "Murder, She Wrote" television series. She also appeared in numerous movies, including "Bright Victory," "Bend in the River" and "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," "The Dalton Gang," "Red Hot and Blue," and "Tickle Me" with Elvis Presley. Her other famous leading men include Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Jeff Chandler, Tyrone Power and John Wayne. On television, she guest-starred in the only episode of Perry Mason where he lost a case. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Kris Allen (b. 1985)
- Kris Allen, raised in Jacksonville and makes his home in Conway, became a household name when he rose to the top of competing contestants on “American Idol” in 2009. In May of that year, Allen made it to the finals of the top-rated competition, and, after the viewing public cast nearly 100 million votes, he won the title of American Idol
. The artist’s self-titled debut album has sold over one million copies to date. Currently touring with the pop group, Maroon 5, and country artist Keith Urban. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Catherine Tharp Altvater (1907 - 1984)
- Watercolorist who was born in Little Rock. Her work hangs in numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art. She was the first woman to hold an office in the American Watercolor Society. Altvater painted in both watercolor and oils and, from 1947 through 1967, won more than fifty awards, including first prize in watercolors at the National Arts Club in New York for 1969. After retiring she returned to Scott where she lived for 10 years.
Gilbert Maxwell "Bronco Billy" Anderson (1880 -1971)
- Born in Little Rock, Max Aronson grew up in Pine Bluff before moving to New York to appear in the first western movie production, "The Great Train Robbery" in 1903. He changed his professional name before starring in over 400 "Bronco Billy" movies. Later, Anderson directed and produced movies in studios in Chicago and California. He is credited with developing many of the camera techniques that are still used today. He was awarded a special Oscar in 1958 for his contributions to the industry. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Luenell Baston (1959-)
- Luenell, born in Tollette, Arkansas, was raised in Northern California and is a comedian, actor and writer. She began her career by appearing regularly on "Soul Beat TV" on an Oakland, California cable station. Luenell has since been active in the film industry, including appearances in Borat, Think Like A Man, Hotel Transylvania and Taken 2. She can also be seen on television, with roles in The Middle, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and appearances on various stand-up comedy showcases.
Al Bell (b. 1940)
- Born in Brinkley as Alvertis Bell, he has been a disc jockey, a record producer and songwriter executive at Stax Records, the label that make Memphis a major name in pop music circles in the 1960s. From 1965-1976, he was involved in the careers of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T and the MGs, Johnnie Taylor, Sam and Dave, The Bar-Kays, The Emotions, The Dramatics, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Billy Eckstein, Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla. His career also includes time as the head of MoTown Records and the founding of Bellmark records.
Some of his songwriting hits include: “I’ll Take You There,” a #1 hit in 1972 for The Staple Singers; “Comfort Me” for Carla Thomas, “Hard to Handle” for Otis Redding plus songs for Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd and others. Currently lives in North Little Rock working in the digital music industry. www.albellpresents.com..Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Lisa Blount (1959-2010)
- Born in Fayetteville and raised in Jacksonville, Lisa Blount’s early career included films with Jack Nicholson (“Sam’s Song”) and Dennis Quaid (“9/30/55”). It was 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman” that blasted Blount into the spotlight. The role of Lynette Pomeroy earned her critical acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination. She has appeared in numerous television shows and films since the mid-80s, including “Moonlighting,” “Magnum P.I.,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Great Balls of Fire!” In the late 90s, Blount began producing films with her husband, actor Ray McKinnon. They received the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2001 for their film “The Accountant.” Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Frank Bonner (b. 1942)
- Actor and director who was born in Little Rock and raised in Malvern. He achieved fame as sales manager Herb Tarlek in the television series "WKRP in Cincinnati" which aired from 1978 to 1982. He also appeared in "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" (1991), "Just the Ten of Us" (1988) and "The Facts of Life Goes to Paris" (1982). He also had guest appearances on "Night Court" (1984) and "Newhart" (1982).
Gretha Boston (b. 1959)
- This Crossett native received a Tony Award for her role of Queenie in the 1994 revival of the Broadway musical "Showboat." The mezzo-soprano soloed on several songs in the musical. She made her debut at Carnegie Hall in May 1991. Boston is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame
Beth Brickell (b. 1937)
- Actress who played Dennis Weaver's wife in the 1966-68 television series "Gentle Ben". This award-winning film producer was born in Brinkley, raised in Camden and now lives near Paron in Saline County. Ms. Brickell also appeared in "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Dan August." The film, "Summers End," written, directed and produced by Beth Brickell won numerous awards. It is the story of a young girl in a small Arkansas town during the last days of summer in 1948. She enjoys the same things as boys including baseball, and playing marbles and pirates. She finds herself the focus of a family crisis when her mother insists it is time that she becomes "a girl." Her father who has always encouraged her individuality is caught in the middle. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
James Bridges (1936-1993)
- Oscar nominated filmmaker who directed such films as "The Appaloosa" (1966), "The Paper Chase" (1973), "The China Syndrome" (1979), "Urban Cowboy" (1980) and "Perfect" (1985). His movie "September 10, 1955" (1978) explored a college student's reaction to the death of James Dean and was filmed in Conway. Bridges was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and is a member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Elton Britt (1913-1972)
- Marshall was the home of the first country and western single record million-seller. Britt's single "There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" sold over a million copies in 1942 during WWII. President Franklin Roosevelt even invited Britt -- billed as "the World's Highest Yodeler"--to the White House in 1942 to perform the hit. He recorded over 56 albums for RCA, as well as appearing in several movies. By the time the charts came into existence in 1944, Britt had peaked. He did hit the Country Top Ten 11 times during the last half of the '40s, but never topped the charts.
Jim “Moose” Brown (b. 1973)
- Jim “Moose” Brown left Jonesboro in 1982 for Nashville, TN. He is an award-winning songwriter and a Grammy-nominated musician and producer. One of his most successful songs, “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” earned legendary singer/performer Jimmy Buffett his first-ever music award, as well as a Grammy for Brown as Best Country Song in 2003. He is an acclaimed studio musician, appearing in songs by Hank Williams, Jr.; Brad Paisley; Marty Stuart; Jamey Johnson; and Ricky Skaggs. He toured with Bob Seger as a member of the Silver Bullet Band, playing electric guitar and keyboards. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Jim Ed Brown & The Browns (b. 1931, 1934, 1937)
- Born in Sparkman, Jim Ed's hits include "I Heard From a Memory," "Regular on My Mind," and "Pop-a-Top." He originally performed with his sisters, Maxine and Bonnie, to form The Browns. Some of their hits include "Scarlet Ribbons," "The Old Lamplighter," and "The Three Bells." They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Jim Ed passed away in 2015.
Ed Bruce (b. 1939)
- Born William Edwin Bruce Jr. in Keiser, Arkansas on December 29, 1939, like so many other artists, this country music singer and song writer got his start as a rockabilly act for Memphis' famed Sun Records. He is best known for penning the song, "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Albert Edward Brumley (1905-1977)
- Born in Spiro, Oklahoma Albert E. Brumley moved to Hartford, Arkansas in 1926 where he studied with E. M. Bartlett at the Hartford Music Institute. He was one of the most beloved-and prolific-songwriters in Southern Gospel Music history. Among the 700 songs penned by Brumley are the gospel standards "I'll Fly Away," "Jesus, Hold My Hand," "Turn Your Radio On," "If We Never Meet Again," "I'd Rather Be An Old-Time Christian," and "I'll Meet You in the Morning." Brumley was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1977. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Sonny Burgess (1939-2017)
- A Newport native, Burgess is best known as one of the original rock and roll recording artists for Sun Records in Memphis, and as one of the pioneers of rock and roll. In the early-to-mid 1950s, he headed-up bands known by several names including the Rocky Road Ramblers, the Moonlighters and later The Pacers. While known as the Moonlighters (for the Silver Moon Club in Newport where they performed regularly), the group shared the circuit club stage with many up-and-coming performers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Conway Twitty. The Moonlighters opened for Presley performances four times. Sonny Burgess and The Pacers continued to record for Sun Records until 1959. Burgess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Europe in 1999. In 1998, the Smithsonian Institute made a video called "Rockin' on the River" that brought Burgess and the legendary Pacers together again. In 2002, they were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, TN. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Michael Burks (1957-2012)
- Born in Milwaukee, Burks grew up in Camden, and as an adult, made his home in North Little Rock. Known as “Iron Man” for his long sets, Burks was an award-winning blues guitarist. A popular performer at King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, he won the Living Blues Magazine’s Critics’ Award for Best Guitarist, and the Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence.
Chester Arthur "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett (1910-1975)
- A native of Mississippi, Howlin' Wolf became an Arkansan in 1948 when he moved to West Memphis. There he formed a band that included harmonica players James Cotton and Junior Parker and guitarists Pat Hare, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, and Willie Johnson. He also earned a spot on radio station KWEM, playing blues and endorsing farm gear. According to his biography, Burnett has probably had more impact worldwide than the 19th-century American president after whom he was named. With a musical influence that extends from the rockabilly singers of the 1950s and the classic rock stars of the 1960s to the grunge groups of the 1990s, plus a legion of imitators to rival Elvis he was one of the greatest and most influential blues singers ever. Wolf was inducted into the Blues Foundations Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
Bob Burns (1890-1956)
- Born and originally named Robin Burn in Greenwood, Arkansas, Burns
was reared in Van Buren. At age 15, the crafty entertainer made a musical instrument called a "bazooka" and started a comical career that took him to New York nightclubs during the 1920s. After vaudeville declined in the early 1930s, Burns landed a spot on Bing Crosby's radio show on NBC. Soon the comedic musician had his own national radio show and was also landing roles in movies. As in WWI Burns worked in USO shows during WWII. He retired from show business in 1947 and spent his remaining years on a 500 acre farm in California. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006)
- A renowned opera conductor who was raised in Fayetteville. Considered a child prodigy in music and mathematics. She was giving violin recitals before age 10 and graduated from Fayetteville High School at the age of 14. She founded the Opera Company of Boston and brought it to national prominence, and in 1976 she became the first woman to conduct at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Glen Campbell (1936-2017)
- A native of Delight in Pike County, the famous pop/country singer and songwriter hosted his own TV variety shows, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" (1969) and "The Glen Campbell Music Show" (1982). His hit recordings include: "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Gentle on My Mind." He appeared in the movies "True Grit" (1969), "Any Which Way You Can" (1980), "Uphill All The Way" (1985), and "Family Prayers" (1993). After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Campbell performed his Farewll Tour in 2014. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Bill Carter (Unknown)
- A legend in the music business, Carter grew up in Rector. After serving in the Air Force, he graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and obtained a law degree from the University of Arkansas. He worked in politics for a while, then joined the Secret Service and served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. After leaving the Secret Service, he opened a law office in Little Rock. Carter was the attorney called when Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards needed legal help in Fordyce -- and when the Stones needed help getting back into the U.S. (after being busted for possession in Toronto) to perform their concert tours. His autobiography "Get Carter: Backstage in History from JFK’s Assassination to The Rolling Stones" details his colorful life. He is now an attorney and television producer in Tennessee. His latest Arkansas project is working with Arkansas State University to restore Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess and for his role with the annual Johnny Cash Music Festival held annually in Jonesboro. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Johnny Cash (1932-2003)
- This "Man in Black" was born to a Kingsland, Arkansas sharecropper on February 26, 1932. His first big hit was "Folsom Prison Blues" which rose to the Top Five in country singles in 1956. "I Walk the Line" became Cash's first No. 1 hit. In 1957, he made his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, and by 1958, he'd published 50 songs, sold more than six million records and moved to Columbia label. Some of his other well-known recordings include "A Boy Named Sue," "Orange Blossom Special," "Ring of Fire" and "Jackson," which he recorded with his wife June Carter Cash. He starred in "The Johnny Cash Show" (ABC, 1969-71) and "Johnny Cash and Friends" (CBS, 1976). He also appeared in the movie "Gunfight" (1970), the television miniseries "North and South" (1985) and made guest appearances on various television shows. His 11 Grammys include a Lifetime Achievement Award and the 1998 Grammy for Country Album of the Year for "Unchained." Cash was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992) and the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
The Cate Brothers (Ernie and Earl) (b. 1942)
- This singer-songwriter-musician duo consists of Fayetteville natives and twin brothers Earl and Ernie Cate. With Earl on guitar and Ernie on piano, the Cate Brothers became known for performing their iconic southern soul music throughout the South during the mid-1960s. The duo became associated with fellow Arkansan and member of The Band, Levon Helm, through fellow Fayetteville rock musician Ronnie Hawkins in the 1950s. Helm later introduced the Cates to Asylum Records in Los Angeles, which began their recording career. After releasing four albums and reaching a wide audience from their performance on “Austin City Limits” during the 1970s, the band took a hiatus before resuming recording, reviving their career in the mid-1990s. Members of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Carroll Cloar (1913–1993)
- Carroll Cloar was born on January 18, 1913, on a cotton farm approximately 10 miles north of Earle. He studied various genres of art with most of his paintings being casein tempera or acrylic—on large canvases, depicting images drawn from photographs and his own memories. His style has been described as both primitive and progressively modern. Cloar earned national acclaim as a realist and surrealist artist with the majority of his works based on his memories of growing up in the Arkansas Delta. His paintings are characterized by flattened figures in landscapes formed of decorative patterning. One of his paintings was chosen to be among six paintings by American artists commemorating President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
On April 10, 1993, Cloar died after a long battle with cancer. He was cremated and his ashes scattered across his old home place in Earle. Places where Cloar’s works can be viewed include the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Crittenden County Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Library of Congress, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Whitney Museum.
Willie Cobbs (b. 1932)
- Born in the small Monroe County of Smale; he began performing at the clubs of the Delta while still a teenager, including Brinkley's legendary White Swan. He wrote and recorded "You Don't Love me" in 1960, now a blues standard that has been covered by The Allman Brothers, Luther Allison, Stephen Stills, Ike and Tina Turner, Albert King and Booker T and the MGs. Member of the Blues Hall of Fame.
Floyd Cramer (1933-1997)
- Reared at Huttig (Union County), Cramer developed a unique "lonesome" piano style that launched him onto the Grand Ole Opry and several hit recordings during the 1960s. "Last Date" and "Alley Cat" were top piano solos for Cramer. He later expanded his range to include light jazz and pop music. Often mentioned alongside such fellow session men as guitarist Chet Atkins and saxophonist Boots Randolph, Cramer became the pianist to use in Nashville from 1955 on. Cramer’s influence extended to traditional country and rock and roll, too. His distinctive piano stylings could be heard on recordings by Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, and many others. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Gail Davis (1925-1997)
- Born in Little Rock on October 5, Gail Davis was known to millions as television's Annie Oakley in the 1950s. The series ran on ABC from 1955 through 1958 and was seen in reruns well into the 1960s. It was the first western to star a woman. The show was created for Davis by "singing cowboy" Gene Autry, who she had previously appeared with in several westerns. After the series ended Davis continued to make personal appearances with Autry. She also appeared in TV specials, including "Wide, Wide World: The Western," in 1958, a "Bob Hope Special" in 1959 and "The Andy Griffith Show: The Perfect Female," in 1961. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Daniel Davis (1945)
- Born in Gurdon and raised in Little Rock, Davis is best-known for his role as Niles on the CBS comedy, “The Nanny.” His first "professional" work came at the age of 11 when he became a member of the cast of a children's TV series broadcast from Little Rock - "Betty's Little Rascals." His formal acting training came from the Arkansas Arts Center, followed by work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and 6 years with the American Conservatory Theatre, among many others.
Davis has also starred in “The Hunt for Red October,” “K-9”, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Davis received an Obie Award in 2003 as part of the cast of Allan Bennett’s play, “Talking Heads.” Obie Awards honor the best of off-Broadway productions. Nominated for Broadway's 2000 Tony Award as Best Actor for "Wrong Mountain."
Iris DeMent (b. 1961)
- DeMent was born near the town of Paragould. Her family moved from Arkansas to the Los Angeles area in 1964. While growing up, her musical influences were country and gospel music. In 1994, she continued the personal and introspective approach with her album “My Life.” It earned DeMent a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category. After an eight-year lay-off, she released a gospel album “Lifeline” in 2004.Her rendition of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was featured in the closing credits of the Coen brothers' film, “True Grit.”
Jimmy Driftwood (1907-1998)
- Noted folk singer and songwriter who was born on a farm near Mountain View. While serving as superintendent at Snowball, he wrote his big hit "The Battle of New Orleans." He is also known for another composition, "The Tennessee Stud." Today, Jimmy Driftwood's Barn in Mountain View is the setting for performances by the Rackensack Folklore Society. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Ronnie Dunn (b. 1953)
- El Dorado native who is a member of the award winning country music duo Brooks and Dunn. Their recording hits include: "Maria," "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Hard Working Man." Brooks and Dunn received the 1996 CMA Entertainers of the Year Award. Dunn began a solo career after the duo split in 2011. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Jerry Van Dyke (1931-2018)
- This comedian starred as Luther in the ABC hit television series "Coach" and also starred in the 60s television series "My Mother the Car." Jerry, who is the brother of actor Dick Van Dyke, at one time owned a home between Benton and Malvern. He restored an old movie theatre in downtown Benton which is now used by the local acting company "The Royal Players." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Melvin Endsley (1934-2004)
- A native of Drasco, Endsley was a prolific country music songwriter. His hits have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Marty Robins, Andy Williams, Paul McCartney and Ricky Skaggs. His most famous song, "Singing the Blues" was a major hit for both Guy Mitchell and Mary Robins, and is credited with making Robins a star. His other hits include "I Just Ain't Fool Enough," I Like Your Kind of Love," and "Why I'm Walking." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Barbara Fairchild (b. 1950)
- Fairchild began entertaining as a five-year-old, in a local talent show. Her family moved from Knobel, Arkansas, to St. Louis when she was 13. Two years later, she recorded her first song, “Brand New Bed of Roses.” After finishing high school, Fairchild moved to Nashville, TN. Within months, she was hired by MCA Records as a staff writer. In 1969, she signed with Columbia Records and released her first single for the label, “Love is a Gentle Thing.” Her biggest hit would come in 1972 with “Teddy Bear Song,” which became a number one country hit and crossed over to the pop charts. The song also garnered her a Grammy nomination. After several Top Ten country singles in the 1970s, Fairchild changed musical genres. A career singing gospel music began in 1989 when she joined the group Heirloom. She released her first solo gospel album in 1991. Fairchild continues to record gospel music and performs regularly at Barbara Fairchild’s Diner in Branson, MO. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Lefty Frizzell (1928-1975)
- William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell was born on March 31, 1928 in Corsicana, Texas. His family moved shortly after his birth to El Dorado, Arkansas where they remained until the early 1940s. He was an American country music singer and songwriter of the 1950s and a leading exponent of the "honky tonk" style of country music. His relaxed style of singing was a major influence on such later stars as Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. His song "Saginaw, Michigan," which was released in 1964, earned him a Grammy Award nomination. In 1972, Lefty Frizzell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982. He was also the first country star to have his name enshrined on Hollywood's "Walkway of the Stars. " His song "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time" earned him a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Gil Gerard (b. 1943)
- Little Rock native Gil Gerard rocketed to fame as Buck Rogers in the NBC television series, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," from 1979 to 1981. He has also starred in numerous made-for-television movies and feature films. Gil headed to New York in the summer of 1969 where he trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Shortly thereafter, he won an audition for the movie "Love Story," which was followed by over 400 commercials for various national accounts, including Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Co., and Procter & Gamble. Gerard was also a member of the cast of the Emmy Award winning "The Doctors," daytime drama, playing the part of Dr. Alan Stewart for over three years.
During this time, Hollywood called and he guest-starred in an episode of the television series "Baretta" and appeared in the role of Lee Grant's lover in the motion picture "Airport '77." After landing a guest starring role on "Little House on the Prairie," Michael Landon offered him the lead in a new series, "Stone." The show was never aired by NBC, but Gerard was offered the title role in the feature film and television show "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Norris Goff (1906-1978)
- This Cove native created, along with Chester Lauck, the enormously popular 1940s radio show "Lum 'n Abner" and subsequent movies. The setting for the program was mythical Pine Ridge, Arkansas, and its Jot-em-Down general store. Working in his father's store while growing up made his role as grocer "Abner Peabody" a natural. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Randy Goodrum (b. 1947)
- Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, this Grammy award winner is considered to be one of the best adult contemporary music songwriters and producers. Goodrum has penned hits in all areas of music-pop, rock, a/c, r&b and country. Some of his best-known hits include "You Needed Me," "Foolish Heart," "Oh Sherrie," and "Bluer Than Blue." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Elizabeth Gracen (b. 1961)
- Born Elizabeth Grace Ward in Ozark, Arkansas, Gracen spent her childhood growing up in Booneville and later Russellville. While a junior at Arkansas Tech University she won the title of Miss Arkansas 1981. The following year she was crowned Miss America 1982 and later enrolled in acting classes and relocated to California. Her film credits include Three For The Road with Charlie Sheen, Marked for Death with Steven Seagal, Pass The Ammo with Tim Curry and her most well-known acting role as the Immortal Amanda in Highlander: The Series and Highlander: The Raven. Photo by Elizabeth Gracen.
Al Green (b. 1946)
- This gospel and soul singer is an eight-time Grammy Award winner. A native of Jacknash (Lee County), he’s been referred to as “the quintessential soul man.” The Right Reverend recorded nine best-selling gospel albums. He returned to the secular world in 1987 with “Everything is Gonna Be Alright.” In 1988, he recorded a duet with Annie Lennox, “Put a Little Love in My Heart,” which was featured on the “Scrooge” movie soundtrack. His other hits include “Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together,” “Look What You Have Done For Me,” “I’m Still in Love with You,” and “You Ought to be with Me.” Reverend Green preaches every Sunday morning. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
and the national Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
George Hamilton (b. 1939)
- Blytheville-raised actor has appeared in numerous films and television shows, plus penned his memoir, “Don’t Mind if I Do,”
which describes growing up in Blytheville. Though born in Memphis, Hamilton feels closer to Blytheville, where he spent much of his childhood. "It's where I will be buried, and it's where I come from," he said in an interview. "I buried my mother there, my brother there, my grandfather, my grandmother -- it's the very earth where I'm going to be."
Hamilton is well-known for his tan, which he describes as “cinnamon brown,” and his self-deprecating wit. Some of his motion picture appearances include portraying Hank Williams in the low-budget biopic "Your "Love at First Bite" (1979), and “Zorro, the Gay Blade” (1981). He has also appeared in commercials and television’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He produced “My One and Only,” staring Renee Zellweger, in 2009.
Lawrence Hamilton (1954-2014)
- Born September 14, 1954, the career of Lawrence Hamilton has been paved with bold and creative achievements worldwide. A native of Foreman, Arkansas, he attended the Foreman Public Schools and received a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He served as musical director for opera star Jessye Norman, performed at the White House, for Pope Paul II at the Vatican, and in concert with the legendary Lena Horne. At the Arkansas Repertory Theatre he appeared as Whining Boy in "The Piano Lesson," created Souvenir (an evening of song featuring the works of Randy Goodrum) and directed the 2006 production of "Crowns." An inductee into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame
and the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Tess Harper (b. 1950)
- Born in Mammoth Spring; attended Missouri State University in Springfield. She began acting in theater production and appearances in theme parks, dinner theaters and children's theater. Her first feature film was “Tender Mercies,” where she played Robert Duvall's younger wife. She earned a Golden Globe nomination for her part. She appeared in the TV mini-series “Chiefs” (1983) and “Celebrity” (1984), as well as many made for TV movies. In 1983 she appeared in Meryl’s Streep’s hit movie “Silkwood” and in 1986 she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work as Chick Boyle in “Crimes of the Heart.” She also had roles in “Ishtar” (1987), “Far North” (1988), “The Man in the Moon” (1991), “The Jackal” (1997) and “Loggerheads” (2005). Harper had a regular role in the CBS TV series “Christy” from 1994 to 1995. She shared a Screen Actors Guild Award (in the Best Ensemble Cast category) with her fellow cast members in 2007’s Best Picture, “No Country for Old Men.” Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Dale Hawkins (1936-2010)
- Legendary rockabilly performer, began his career as part of The Hawkins Family, which toured throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma during the 30s and 40s. His father, Skipper, was one of the original Sons of the Pioneers who gained fame for performing with Roy Rogers. Hawkins classic recording, Suzy Q
, rocketed him to fame in the 1960s. He was the third entertainer to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand
and the first white performer at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and the Regal in Chicago. He continued his career into the 1980s and 1990s, writing, recording and entertaining. Hawkins is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Though born in Louisiana, Hawkins called Arkansas home for years. He is buried in St. Paul, Arkansas.
Ronnie Hawkins (b. 1935)
- Born January 10 in Huntsville; a pioneering rock and roll musician and cousin to fellow rockabilly pioneer Dale Hawkins. Known as "Rompin' Ronnie" Hawkins or "The Hawk," he was a key player in the 1960s rock scene and for the next 40 years, performed all over North America, recording more than 25 albums. His best-known hits are "Forty Days" and "Mary Lou," both major hits for him in 1959. At the age of 9, his family moved to nearby Fayetteville. After graduating from high school, he studied at the University of Arkansas where he formed his first band, The Hawks, touring throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Hawkins also owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville where some of rock music's earliest pioneers came to play, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty. Hawkins moved to Canada in 1959 and made Peterborough, Ontario his permanent home. Gradually the members of the Hawks, except for Levon Helm, were replaced with Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. This was the line-up that was to later become The Band. In 1975 Bob Dylan cast Hawkins as “Bob Dylan” in the movie, “Renaldo and Clara.” The following year he was a featured performer at The Band's Thanksgiving Day farewell concert, which was documented in the 1978 Martin Scorsese film “The Last Waltz.” Playing with The Band, Hawkins helped tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989 and performed at President Bill Clinton's 1992 inaugural party. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Lee Hays (1914-1981)
- Best known for singing bass with the folk music group The Weavers, Lee Hays was born in Little Rock and lived in several communities across the state as he was growing up. While continuing his education near Mena at Commonwealth College, Hays transformed hymns and black spirituals into songs about unions and the hardships southern sharecroppers endured. His classmates raised enough money for him to travel to New York City to further his music career. He met Pete Seeger in New York, and Hays and Seeger became lifelong friends and collaborators – singing with other notable musicians including Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Burl Ives. In 1948 Seeger, Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman formed The Weavers, recording for Decca Records and Vanguard. The Weavers are known for bringing folk music into mainstream American music, with hits including “On Top of Old Smoky,” “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” and “Goodnight Irene.”
Levon Helm (1940-2012)
- This Turkey Scratch native was a drummer, vocalist and original member of the legendary group, The Band, best-known for The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
. He also played supporting roles in films such as Coal Miner's Daughter
(1980), The Right Stuff
(1983), and End of the Line.
Awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2008 for his work with The Band. Winner of a 2008 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album -- "Dirt Farmer." Named by Rolling Stone
magazine as one of the "100 greatest singers of all time" in 2003. Member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with fellow members of The Band. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Barbara Hendricks (b. 1948)
- Opera star born in Stephens, she received her musical training and Bachelor of Music at the Juilliard School of Music in New York where she studied with mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel. She made her American and European operatic debuts in 1974 at the San Francisco Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival and went on to appear at all major opera houses throughout the world, including the Paris Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and La Scala. Sine her 1974 New York Town Hall debut, Barbara Hendricks has been acclaimed as one of the leading and most active recitalists of her generation. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Al Hibbler (1915-2001)
- Born August 16, in Little Rock, Al was a very popular baritone singer in the 40s and 50s. He rose to fame with the Duke Ellington band. His deep tone, distinctive phrasing and inflections were readily identifiable. Blind since birth, Hibbler studied voice at the Conservatory for the Blind in Little Rock. He sang with local bands in Arkansas and Texas and in 1942 hooked up with Jay McShann's band. His principal period of development was with Ellington from 1943 to 1951. One of the most important singers Ellington ever showcased, Hibbler appeared on a range of Ellington standards including "Do Nothing' Til You Hear From Me," "Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," "Don't Be So Mean to My Baby" and "I'm Just A Lucky So-And-So." Hibbler left Ellington for a career as a single artist and in 1955 recorded the hit "Unchained Melody." His other hits include "After the Lights Go Down Low," "He" and "Eleventh Hour Melody."
Wayland Holyfield (b. 1942)
- Holyfield is from Little Rock and has written songs for many Nashville recording artists, such as Don Williams and Waylon Jennings.His first number one hit was "Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer." Holyfield" You're My Best Friend," recorded by Don Williams, was also a number one song. He wrote the song "Arkansas, You Run Deep in Me" in honor of the state's sesquicentennial in 1986. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Arthur Lee Hunnicutt (1911–1979)
- One of the most popular character actors in Hollywood, both television and motion pictures. Hunnicutt was born February 17 in Gravelly (Yell County). He attended what was, at the time, Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway (now the University of Central Arkansas), before dropping out due to the Depression. His movie career began in 1942, appearing in such films as Lust for Gold (1949), Broken Arrow (1950), Stars in My Crown (1950)
and The Red Badge of Courage (1961)
. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Uncle Zeb in 1952's The Big Sky
. Other roles included that of Davy Crockett in The Last Command (1955),
an elderly Butch Cassidy in Cat Ballou (1965)
and as John Wayne's sidekick in El Dorado (1966)
. Television roles include The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits
and Perry Mason
. He passed away on September 26, 1979 and is buried in Coop Prairie Cemetery in Scott County.
Wayne Jackson (b. 1941)
- Grew up in West Memphis before his life took him across the Mississippi River to Memphis, where he became a legendary backup trumpeter in such groups as the Mar-Keys. Jackson would go on to perform with a "who's who" of artists from around the world on over 300 gold and platinum records. He has played on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Sting, Tanya Tucker, Elvis Presley, U2, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Otis Redding, Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, The Doobie Brothers, Marty Robbins, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Buffett, and Robert Cray and was a founder of the legendary Memphis backing band, The Memphis Horns. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Buddy Jewell (b. 1961)
- Raised mainly in Osceola, his father was a friend of country music legend Johnny Cash who lived at Dyess not far from Osceola. In 1991, he won a talent contest sponsored by super group Alabama and opened for the group alongside Mark Chesnutt and Ricky Van Shelton. The following year, he competed on TV's Star Search, winning male vocalist on several episodes. His success on the show encouraged him to try his luck in Nashville. Jewell was the big winner on Nashville Star cable TV series in 2002, securing a record deal with Columbia, where Clint Black produced his first album. Member Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
- Composer from Texarkana who is noted for his ragtime music. Billed as the "King of Ragtime," he wrote "The Entertainer" in 1902 which was later revived in the score of "the Sting" (1973). One of his first pieces, "Maple Leaf Rag," because the genre's first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag composition. He was posthumously awarded an Pulitzer Prize in 1976,
Louis Jordan (1908-1975)
- Born at Brinkley, he studied music with his father and made his first professional appearance at Hot Springs Green Gables Club at age 15. During the 1930s Jordan worked with well-known bands from Philadelphia to New York and toured with Ella Fitzgerald. He was known as "The King of the Jukebox." He penned such favorites as "Choo Choo Boogie," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," and "Saturday Night Fish Fry." Jordan also appeared in several movies that featured his music and toured Europe and Asia during the 1960s. He died in Los Angeles and is buried in St. Louis. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Albert King (1923-1992)
- Born Albert Nelson on April 25, in Indianola, Mississippi, King is nicknamed "The Velvet Bulldozer." One of 13 children, King grew up picking cotton on plantations in Forrest City where the family moved in 1931, and performed near Osceola with a group called the Groove Boys. His first introduction to music was singing in church and listening to his father, Will Nelson, play guitar. Another early influence came from the family's records where he spent hours trying to copy the sounds of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson on his homemade cigar box guitars and one string diddley-bows. King obtained his first real guitar in 1942. He was fascinated by the playing of Blues musicians who frequented nearby West Memphis, Arkansas, most notably the works of Robert Nighthawk and Elmore James. He is considered one of the most influential blues guitarists ever and was the first blues guitarist to perform with a symphony (1969). In 1983, he was inducted into both the W.C. Handy International Blues Awards Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
. Inducted into the National Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013.
Alan Ladd (1913-1964)
- Born in Hot Springs and raised in California, he worked in variety of jobs before landing bit parts in films and theatrical productions. His big break came when he was cast as the psychotic paid killer, Philip Raven, in "This Gun for Hire" (1942). With a career consisting primarily of westerns and adventure films, he is perhaps best known as the mysterious stranger in "Shane" (1954). He appeared in 150 films. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Chester Lauck (1902-1980)
- Creator, along with Norris Goff, of the radio comedy team of "Lum and Abner." He was born in Alleene but grew up with Goff in Mena. Their cracker barrel humor was popular in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s in both radio and the movies. Lauck played the character, Lum. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Tracy Lawrence (b. 1968)
- Country music recording artist originally from Foreman. His hits include "Alibis," "Sticks and Stones," "If the Good Die Young", and "Outlaws, Rebels and Rogues" from the movie "Maverick." In 2007 he released his first studio collection in three years featuring the hit singles "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," and "Til I Was A Daddy Too." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Amy Lee ((b. 1981))
- Lead singer for the group Evanescence of which she is a co-founder along with Ben Moody, Lee is graduated from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock. The band’s career began in Arkansas appearing in books stores and coffee houses. American music magazine Blendar named Lee as one of the hottest women in rock (2006) alongside Joan Jett, Courtney Love and Liz Phair. She ranked first in NME.com’s “Hottest Women in Music” award. Her “Dark Water” composition was the 2015 winner of the World Beat Song by Independent Music Awards.
Robert Lockwood Jr. (1915-2006)
- Born March 27, 1915 in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. He first learned music on the family pump organ, then was taught the guitar at age 11 by Robert Johnson, the mysterious delta bluesman. By age 17, Lockwood was performing professionally with the likes of Johnson, Johnny Shines and Rice Miller, who became an institution himself as Sonny Boy Williamson. In 1941, Lockwood and Williamson joined forces in Helena, Arkansas to host the now legendary King Biscuit Hour on KFFA radio. During his lifetime, he received numerous accolades including the very first W.C. Handy Award. He is also a member of the Blues Hall of Fame and the Delta Blues Hall of Fame. The album, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas
, recorded by Lockwood, Henry James Townsend, Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, and David Honeyboy Edwards, received the 2004 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. He continued to perform on a regular basis at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (formerly the King Biscuit Blues Festival) in Helena until his death.
Laurence Luckinbill (b. 1934)
- Fort Smith is where actor Laurence Luckinbill was born on Nov. 21, 1934. He studied acting at the University of Arkansas where he appeared in nine student productions. Luckinbill made his professional debut at the Carnegie Playhouse in New York as the Old Shepherd in "Oedipus Rex." His theatrical career includes roles in "Othello," "A Man for All Seasons," "Galileo" and "Death of a Salesman" among others. Luckinbill reprised his role of Hank in the critically acclaimed film version of "The Boys in the Band" in 1970. He went on to appear in "Such Good Friends," the made-for-television movie "Ike," "Cocktail" and "Star Trek." Luckinbill is married to Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
The Martins (unknown)
- One of the hottest Southern gospel groups in the country the three siblings -- Joyce Martin-Sanders, Judy Martin Hess, Jonathan Martin
-- were born and raised in Hamburg. They were discovered in the mid-1990s by gospel music legend Bill Gaither. They have won eight Dove Awards, the Gospel Music Association’s top honor, and have one Grammy nomination.
Roberta Martin (1907–1969)
- An American gospel composer, singer, pianist, arranger and choral organizer, who helped launch the careers of many other gospel artists through her group, The Roberta Martin Singers.
Martin was born in Helena but moved with her family to Chicago when she was 10. Contact with Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music led her to form the Martin Frye Quartet in 1933. In 1936 the named changed to the Roberta Martin Singers, which set the standard for gospel choir and mixed group performers. Their extremely successful recording career featured such hits as "Only A Look," and "Grace." She composed about 70 songs, arranged and published 280 gospel songs. Her compositions include "He Knows Just How Much We Can Bear," and "God Is Still on the Throne”, "Let It Be," and "Just Jesus and Me." Martin earned six gold records. Her great contribution to the history of gospel music was her development of a distinctive gospel-piano style and the special sound of her group. With her singers, men and women were integrated for the first time into the gospel chorus. A 1998 U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp was released in her honor. It was one of four honoring gospel women. The other women honored were Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe
, also an Arkansas native.
W. Francis McBeth (1933-2012)
- Known primarily for his works for wind band, William Francis McBeth was a Texas-born composer who taught at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia from 1957 until his retirement in 1996. His most frequently performed compositions include “Symphony No. 3,” “Kaddish,” “Beowulf,” “Of Sailors and Whales,” and “Through Countless Halls of Air.” Also known for conducting, he led fellow Arkansan and musician former President Bill Clinton in the 1962 Arkansas All-State Band and served as the third conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1973. McBeth was appointed Composer Laureate of the State of Arkansas in 1975 and received several awards including the Howard Hanson Prize at the Eastman School of Music for his Third Symphony and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Special Award each consecutive year from 1965 until his death in 2012. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Skeets McDonald (1915-1968)
- Born on a farm in Greenway (near Rector), McDonald was a noted singer-songwriter. Best-known for his self-penned chart-topper "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," McDonald was a honky-tonk singer and songwriter whose work helped serve to bridge the gap between country and rock and roll. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Robert McFerrin Sr. (1921-2006)
- Born in Marianna on March 19, 1921, McFerrin was the first African-American male to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Los Angeles Times
critic Albert Goldberg described his voice as “"a baritone of beautiful quality, even in all registers, and with a top that partakes of something of a tenor's ringing brilliance." Father of Grammy Award-winning singer/musician Bobby McFerrin, he made his New York City Opera debut as Popaloi
in the premier of William Grant Still
’s Haitian opera, Troubled Island
. Still is also an Arkansas native.
James Henry “Jimmy” McKissic (1940-2013)
- Born in Little Rock and raised Pine Bluff, McKissic was playing hymns by ear by age 3. His mother served as his teacher until age 13 when it was decided he needed professional instruction. McKissic received a B.S. in Music from Arkansas AM&N (now UAPB) followed by study with Marjorie Petray of Berkeley, CA. He furthered his training in Europe, where he became one of the most popular entertainers. During his lifetime, he spent 49 years abroad. McKissic played for three U.S. presidents and performed 28 times at Carnegie Hall in New York City, fulfilling a childhood dream. A PBS documentary entitled “How do you get to Carnegie Hall” chronicled his path from Pine Bluff to the Big Apple.
Jack Mitchell (1923-2011)
- Though not a native Arkansan, Mitchell now chooses to call Arkansas home. The self-taught drummer had his first professional gig when he was hired at age 17 by Harry Barry to be the featured boy drummer in an otherwise all-girl orchestra. His first introduction to The Natural State came during the 1940s when stationed at Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville. He continued his military and musical career when he was transferred to a base in Sebring, FL, then Smyrna, TN. After the war, Mitchell worked as an exporter for 30 years and continued to play in various bands. When not overseas, he worked with bands in Chicago and appeared with such entertainers as Eddie Fisher, Steve and Edie Gorme, The McGuire Sisters, Joey Bishop, Bob Newhart, Isaac Stern, Gregory Hines, Regis Philbin and Tony Bennett. Member Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Mitchell retired from business and moved to Bella Vista in 1988. He joined the Bella Vista Big Band, becoming leader in 1990. Under his tutelage, the band performed for both of former President Bill Clinton’s inaugural balls in 1993 and 1997 in Washington, DC. He continues to reside in Northwest AR and leads several bands, ranging from small combos to his big band and the Praise gospel band.
Patsy Montana (1914-1996)
- This Hot Springs native who grew up in Hope as Rubye Blevins was known as the "Queen of Country Western Music." She was one of the first country singers to successfully cultivate a cowgirl image. Her 1935 recording "I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," which included a virtuoso yodeling piece, was the first big hit by a female country singer, making her the first female country singer to have a single sell more than one million copies. She wrote over 200 songs during her career. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, shortly following her death. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Jason Moore (b. 1970)
- Award-winning director of film, theatre and television, Moore was born and raised in Fayetteville. His Broadway credits include Shrek: The Musical (Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award nominations for Best Director), Avenue Q (Tony nomination for Best Director), and Steel Magnolias. Other credits include Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (American Conservatory Theater), Jerry Springer: The Opera at Carnegie Hall; Avenue Q and Shrek: The Musical in London's West End; and, off Broadway, Speech and Debate (Roundabout Theatre Company), Avenue Q (The Vineyard Theatre), Guardians (Culture Project), and The Crumple Zone (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater). Associate directing credits include Les Misérabbles (Broadway; national tour) and Ragtime (Vancouver). Writing credits include The Floatplane Notebooks (Charlotte Repertory Theatre), and television credits include directing episodes of Dawson's Creek, Everwood, One Tree Hill, and Brothers & Sisters.
George Newbern (b. 1964)
- This Little Rock native began his career in his hometown of Little Rock, in a performance of “Life with Father” at the Arkansas Arts Center. His first lead role was in the television show “Double Switch” in 1987. Newbern then landed the role of Dixie Carter’s son, Payne, in the classic Southern sitcom, “Designing Women.” Newbern became a fan favorite with his portrayal of Steve Martin’s son-in-law, Bryan MacKenzie, in “Father of the Bride” and its subsequent sequel. Newbern continues to act, appearing recently in “Criminal Minds,” “Nip/Tuck,” and “CSI:NY.” Member Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Joe Nichols (b. 1976)
- Native of Rogers, Nichols secured his first record deal at age 19 with Intersound records. In 1999, he met studio guitarist Brent Rowan, who ultimately produced Nichols' 2002 album “Man With a Memory,” the first project from the Universal South imprint. Alan Jackson invited Nichols to open selected shows on his 2003 tour and that same year he won the Country Music Association Horizon award. Also in 2003 The Academy of Country Music named Nichols its Top New Male Vocalist and Country Music Television (CMT) named "Brokenheartsville" the year's Breakthrough Video. He was voted Best New Artist of 2003 by the readers of Radio & Records. Billboard Magazine tapped him as Top New Country Artist of 2002, with "The Impossible" certified as the number 10 most played song of the year. Music Row magazine bestowed upon him its prestigious Critics' Pick award and he was nominated for three Grammy Awards: Best Country Album, Best Country Male Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for "The Impossible." His fourth album, 2005's gold-certified “III,” produced his biggest hit to date in the Number One single "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off." In 2007, Nichols released the album “Real Things,” which produced the Top 20 hits "Another Side of You" and "It Ain't No Crime." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Walter Norris (1931-2011)
- Little Rock native who began classical piano studies at the age of four and a half. Norris worked professionally (1944-1950) with Howard Williams's 19 piece band in Little Rock, and in 1949 he also worked with Bitsy Mullins. His trio had a nine month stay at the El Morocco in Las Vegas before moving on to Los Angeles where he worked in the quartets of Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Teddy Edwards, Zoot Sims, Buddy DeFranco, Herb Geller and Charlie Ventura. In addition to becoming a Steinway Artist in '95, he was selected for the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame by the Jazz Heritage Foundation. In August '98 he formed Sunburst Recordings, Inc. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
K.T. Oslin (b. 1942)
- Born in Crossett as Kay Toinette Oslin. In 1988, K.T. won a Grammy, an Academy of country Music (ACM) award, and A Country Music Association (CMA) award for "80s Ladies." K.T. was the first female artist to win "Songwriter of the Year." She also won the CMA's "Female Vocalist of the Year" beating out Reba McEntire, who had won it the previous four years. Later in 1988, K.T. released her second album "This Woman" which went platinum. She had another major hit off it entitled, "Hold Me." She won a Grammy and CMA award for that song also. "This Woman" won the ACM Album of the year. K.T. is currently writing songs and taking it easy at home in Nashville. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Freeman Harrison Owens (1890-1979)
- Born in Pine Bluff, Freeman Owens
served in World War I as a combat cameraman. He changed the movie making business forever when he perfected the process of putting sound on film and later advanced cinematography technology when he designed and developed cameras and lenses used by Eastman-Kodak Company. He is also credited with inventing slow motion and 3-D technology. Owens was 89 years old when he passed away in Pine Bluff. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Twila Paris (b. 1958)
- Award-winning gospel singer, composer and author, Paris' roots go deep into Arkansas soil where her great grandparents served as ministers. She later lived in Fayetteville. She is known as today's "modern-day hymn writer" and has had 22 number one hits. Some of her hits include "Where I Stand," "A Heart That Knows You," "God is in Control," and "The Time is Now." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Lloyd Perryman ((1917-1977))
- Born in Ruth, Arkansas, on January 29, Perryman is known for being an actor and a member of the singing group Songs of the Pioneers. He was a member of the group from 1936 to 1977. The group was well-known in their own right and for their work with Roy Rogers. He appeared in 30 Minutes at Gunsight
(1950) and Rio Grande
(1950), both starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford, Sons of the Pioneers
(1942), and Call of the Rockies
(1938). The group was also a part of Rex Allan’s 1950 radio show. Perryman was Inducted (as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers) into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1995. He was also elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers. The Sons of the Pioneers were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6843 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Charles B. Pierce (1938-2010)
- Though born in Indiana, Pierce grew up in Hampton, Arkansas and lived in Texarkana as an adult. He gained fame with his directorial debut film, The Legend of Boggy Creek,
based on the legendary south Arkansas monster. Other productions include Bootleggers
(1974), The Town That Dreaded Sundown
(1975), The Winds of Autumn
(1977), The Norseman
(1978), The Evictors
(1979) and The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek II
(1985), among others. Member Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Don Pirl (1946-)
- Don Pirl is an actor from Benton, Arkansas. He has performed many roles. He has been in movies, television and performed live theater. Don starred as Cole Younger in 2010’s True Grit. He was also in “A Place For Raymond”, “Barbers Crossing”, “Forty Shades of Blue”, “Serving Sara”, “The Crown”, “Five Time Champion” and “Twinkletown.” He played Mr. Watson in John Grisham’s “A Painted House.” Don acted in a few “Walker, Texas Ranger” episodes as well. Some of his theater productions include “Moon Over Buffalo”, “Bus Stop” and “Who’s Happy Now Horse” just to name a few.
Oscar Polk (1899-1949)
- This Marianna native is best known for his role as the servant Pork in Gone With the Wind
. Polk was also a fixture on the Broadway stage, appearing in a variety of dramatic and musicals roles, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can't Take it With You
. He was killed when struck by a taxi in Times Square at the age of 49. At the time of his death, he was to have had a major role in the play Leading Lady
. He was replaced by Ossie Davis.
Jim Porter (b. 1932)
- Jim Porter was born in Little Rock in 1932. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1954 and entered the family businesses of warehousing, moving and storage, food and appliance distribution. But it was the music business that called Porter, not as a performer, but as an agent and manager and as a promoter of famous jazz artists.
Porter presented such artists as Ray Charles, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner, Louis Armstrong, Ramsey Lewis, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Stan Kenton, Harry James, Four Freshmen, George Shearing, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Dave Brubeck, Buddy Rich, and Maynard Ferguson. Porter's long and outstanding career with promoting jazz in Arkansas is the reason he was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Art Porter, Jr. (1961-1996)
- Legendary saxophonist born and raised in Little Rock. Although Art is best known for his saxophone playing, he originally played the drums in his father's jazz trio at age 9. Growing up in the Porter household in Little Rock, he was exposed to the sounds of Coltrane, Bird, and Gene Ammons. After receiving his degree in music education, Art began his journey as a professional musician, playing with Jack McDuff, Pharoah Sanders, Gene Chandler, and serving as musical director for the vocal R 7 B group, After 7. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Art Porter, Sr. (1934-1993)
- Legendary jazz pianist born in Little Rock; Porter, the Arkansas jazz statesman, never officially worked as a touring musician, choosing instead to perform, teach, contribute to his church as well as to other charitable causes in his hometown and state. There were two exceptions: In 1977 at FESTAC 77 (the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture) and at jazz festivals in Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands during a 1991 European Tour with his son, saxophonist Art Porter, Jr. Porter has appeared on stage with Pharoah Sanders, Steve Allen, O.C. Smith, James Leary, Al Hibbler and many others. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Dick Powell (1904-1963)
Actor, director and producer was born in Mountain View. A former band vocalist and emcee, he played the male lead in a number of musicals in the 1930s, often opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. He then made a successful transition from the boyish crooner to more serious roles as the hardboiled detective in thrillers of the 1940s. In the early 1950s, he became president of the successful Four Star television production company. Movies included: "42nd Street," (1933) "A Midsummer Night's Dream," (1935) "Murder My Sweet" (1944) and "The Bad and Beautiful" (1952). His television series include "Four Star Playhouse" (1952) and "The Dick Powell Show" (1961). Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Luther G. Presley (1887- 1974)
- Born March 6 on Beckett Mountain in Faulkner County, five miles west of Rose Bud, Presley was raised in White County and is best-known for writing the memorable lyrics to “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Virgil O. Stamps composed the famous melody in Dallas one day in 1937 and Presley penned the immortal words at his rural Arkansas home in White County. Neither one had the slightest notion that their rousing religious tune would become a Dixieland standard – and over 70 years later -- the theme song of the New Orleans Saints football team. Other famous Presley hits include “I Know the Lord is With Me,” “He Wills It so,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus”
and “I’ll Have A New Life.”
A 1944 Arkansas Democrat
newspaper article described as the state's most prolific songwriter. He composed the music or wrote the lyrics to hundreds of gospel songs - 1,500 or more, according to the article. According to Presley's son, his father also edited the gospel hit "The Great Speckled Bird,"
made famous by Roy Acuff at the Grand Ole Opry. Luther Presley is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery at Rose Bud, near Beckett Mountain where he was born. Member of the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame.
Florence Beatrice Price (1888-1953)
- This Little Rock native is considered to be the first African American woman symphonic composer in the United States. By the age of 11, her compositions were being published. Her parents, both artistic, carefully guided her early musical training, and at age fourteen, she enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music with a major in piano and organ. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frederick Stock, premiered her Symphony In E Minor on June 15, 1933. Price wrote other extended works for orchestra, chamber works, art songs, works for violin, organ anthems, piano pieces, and spiritual arrangements. Some of her more popular works are: "Three Little Negro Dances," "Songs to a Dark Virgin," "My Soul's Been Anchored in de Lord," and "Moon Bridge."
Lee Purcell (1947)
- Born in Cherry Point NC, her father died when she was an infant. Her mother remarried Dr. Donald Purcell and she was raised and graduated from high school in Paragould. She has appeared in many movies and television shows, including multiple episodes of “Murder, She Wrote.” Purcell has been nominated for two Emmys: one for outstanding supporting actress in 1994’s “Secret Sins of the Father” and one for outstanding lead actress for 1991’s “Long Road Home.” Some of her movies include “My Wicked, Wicked Ways…the Legend of Errol Flynn” (1985), “Mr. Majestyk” (1974), “Almost Summer” (1977), “The Amazing Howard Hughes” (1977), “Big Wednesday” (1978), and “The Gambler” with Kenny Rogers (1980).
Colin Raye (b. 1960)
- Birth name Floyd Collin Wray, this country music singer was born in DeQueen. His hits include "Love Me" and "Little Rock." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Scott Reeves (b. 1966)
- Born in Delight, the same small Arkansas town as Country Music Hall of Fame member Glen Campbell who was a close personal friend of the family, Reeves was raised in Los Angeles. He began his career acting, including stints on "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless." He also starred in such feature films as the 1989 horror movie "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" and in the 1993 comedy "Hot Shots! Part Deux." Now pursuing his music full time, he is, along with partner Aaron Benward, one half of the duo Blue Country which has been nominated for Country Music Academy and Academy of Country Music Awards.
Judge Reinhold (b. 1957)
- Born Edward Ernest Reinhold, Jr., in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of a trial lawyer; his father is responsible for his nickname “Judge.” Raised in Fredericksburg, Va. and West Palm Beach, Fla., he attended Mary Washington College and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Reinhold began his career in regional theatres, included Burt Reynolds’ Dinner Theater in Jupiter. Fla.
Reinhold’s first major film was Fast Times at Ridgemont High
along with then such unknowns as Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicolas Cage. He also was in Beverly Hills Cop I, II
and III, Ruthless People, The Santa Clause
and its sequels, Swing Vote
and Arrested Development
. He was nominated for an Emmy for the “close talker” role on Seinfeld
. He is now appearing in the television series Easy Money
. Reinhold and his wife Amy Miller (a Little Rock native) have homes in Little Rock and Santa Fe.
Charlie Rich (1932-1995)
- Born in the Colt community between Wynne and Forrest City, Rich got his start at Sun Records in Memphis and penned many songs for other artists before recording his first hit "Behind Closed Doors" in 1973. Other hits like "The Most Beautiful Girl" followed and Rich was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1974. His nickname was "the Silver Fox." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Bob Robbins (1944)
- Robbins began his radio career in Little Rock in 1972 on KAAY-AM and joined KSSN 1979. He helped to build the KSSN brand as a dominant station in the market and has been a champion for the local community - he helped to start "The Toy Hill Weekend," one of the largest toy drives the in the U.S. that benefits the Marine Corps Reserves Toys For Tots campaign. Robbins has also been recognized by the radio industry including a Country Music Association Award for radio personality of the year and a Marconi Award as well as being inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame. Robbins, with his co-anchor, won a 2013 Country Music Association Award for best media market radio station of the year at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville.
Jay Russell (b. 1960)
- Born in North Little Rock, Russell is a film director, writer and producer. He graduated from Columbia University in 1984 with a MFA in screenwriting. Some of his better known films include: "Ladder 49" (2004); "Tuck Everlasting" (2002); "My Dog Skip (2000); and "End of the Line (1988) with fellow Arkansan, Mary Steenburgen.
Mark Sallings (1952-2009)
- Born in Searcy and raised in McCrory, Sallings began playing harmonica at a young age and was playing professionally by 14 (he later added sax, keyboard, clarinet and flute to his repetoire). After graduating from high school, Sallings was recruited across the Mississippi River to Memphis, where he worked at Stax Records as a session musician. During the 1980s, he performed with the Coon Elder Band and country musician David Lynn Jones. He later formed the band The Famous Unknowns, which became the first house band at B.B. King's Blues Club in Memphis. Sallings and the band were a favorite at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (formerly known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival) in Helena-West Helena. He was on the way to a performance when he was killed in an automobile accident on Feb. 25, 2009. Member Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
B. J. Sams (b. 1935)
- Longtime Central Arkansas news anchor, Sams is one of the most recognizable faces in the state. B.J. has worked in broadcasting for more than 50 years, 32 of them in the Little Rock market. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Business and Administration degree. After graduation he entered the U.S. Army where he took basic training at Fort Hood, Texas with Elvis Presley. He began his broadcasting career in 1964 at KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana. He then came to Little Rock to work for KATV as anchor in 1966. In 1973, he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where he worked for nine years. Sams returned to Arkansas in 1982 to work for KTHV until his retirement in 2009. For the past 10 years, he has worked the top morning show in the state along with former co-host Robyn Richardson and Tom Brannon. He continued those duties with Brannon and Alyson Courtney until retiring. The Associated Press presented Sams their Broadcaster of the Year award in 2000. On his 50th anniversary in broadcasting, KTHV renamed the studio in his honor. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Pharoah Sanders (b. 1940)
- Pharoah Sanders, originally Farrell Sanders, was born and raised in Little Rock. He became well-known in the local jazz scene in Oakland, California in the early 1960s. In the middle of the decade he moved to New York, where he worked with Sun Ra and other luminaries of the new jazz avant garde. He was asked by John Coltrane to join his group in 1965, and so became a part of Coltrane's most experimental unit. After Coltrane's death in 1967 he continued in musical collaboration with Coltrane's second wife, Alice. Sanders is known for a distinctive sound, including a split reed technique. While primarily playing the tenor sax, he has also recorded playing the soprano sax, flutes and percussion. His most well-known work is "The Creator Has a Master Plan." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Louie Shelton (b. 1941)
- A North Little Rock native, Shelton is a well-known studio musician, providing guitar riffs for such hits at The Monkee’s “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson Five, and the long guitar solo on “Hello” by Lionel Richie. In addition to playing, he has also produced for recording artists such as Seals and Crofts, Art Garfunkel, Dan Seals, and Corey Wells. Albums by Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond, Whitney Houston, Glen Campbell and John Lennon have featured his playing. Shelton currently lives in Australia but makes frequent trips home to the U.S. for performances. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (b. 1936)
- Born in Helena, Smith is one of the many Blues legends who were influenced by Helena's KFFA King Biscuit radio show. Considered one of the world's greatest blues drummers, the multi-award winning musician is also a harmonica player. He joined the Muddy Waters Band in 1961 and toured with them until 1964. He rejoined Waters in 1968 and stayed with him until 1980. Smith is a member of The Legendary Blues Band, which appeared in The Blues Brothers
movie and has also toured with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
P. Allen Smith (unknown)
- The award-winning garden designer is based in Little Rock. He is the star of public television’s P. Allen Smith's Garden Home and the syndicated 30-minute show P. Allen Smith Gardens. He has emerged as America's most recognized and respected garden design expert, providing ideas and inspiration through multiple media venues. He also makes regular appearances on NBC’s Today Show and The Weather Channel. In addition Smith has written a number of books about lifestyles, home and gardening and is a popular speaker around the country. He is a fourth-generation nurseryman who studied garden history and design at the University of Manchester in England.
Mary Steenburgen (b. 1953)
- This Academy Award-winning actress from North Little Rock was discovered by Jack Nicholson. She has starred in "Ragtime" (1981), Woody Allen's "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (1982), "Parenthood" (1989), "Back to the Future III" (1990), "The Butcher's Wife" (1991) and many other movies. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "Melvin and Howard" in 1981. She produced and starred in "The End of the Line" (1987), a movie filmed in Arkansas. Steenburgen also starred, along with her husband, actor Ted Danson, in the television miniseries "Gulliver's Travels" (1996) and the television series "Ink" (1997). She also appeared in the television show "Joan of Arcadia." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Steve Stephens (b. 1932)
- Stephens began his television career at the dawn of the rock-and-roll era, appearing on Little Rock television station Channel 11 in various shows. His dance party, called "Steve's Show" was an instant success and helped launch the careers of such performers as Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, songwriter Melvin Endsley, Brenda Lee, Fabian, Tommy Sands and Carl Perkins. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
- This Little Rock native was a violinist and composer of ballets, symphonies, operas, and other musical works. He began his musical career with W.C. Handy at Memphis, then later worked with Earl Carroll, Artie Shaw, and Paul Whiteman. His compositions were the first works by an African-American composer to be performed by major orchestras, earning him the title, "Dean of Afro-American Composers." Still would continue to add to his list of firsts, being the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra (the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl), the first African American to have an opera (Troubled Island) performed by a major opera company (1949), and the first to have an opera (A Bayou Legend) performed on national television (1981). He is still regarded as America's greatest African-American composer. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Sarah Tackett (b. 1958)
- The owner and founder of The Agency, Inc., Sarah was born in 1958 in Conway. Her involvement with the entertainment industry began as a self-employed freelance make-up artist for film and video production. Recognizing a production void for a consolidated source of models and actors to efficiently cast projects, Tackett began to enlist local talent while looking for new faces to provide a well-rounded pool for client casting needs. "The Agency, Incorporated" was introduced to area production companies, advertising agencies, and photographers as Arkansas’ first full-service professional talent, modeling, and casting agency in 1984. She has since provided location casting for over 20 films throughout the south including over 350 principle roles and extras in excess of 20,000. She has worked for award-winning directors including Billy Bob Thornton, "Slingblade;” Mike Nichols, "Biloxi Blues;" and Ray McKinnon, "Chrystal." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
John Michael Talbot (b. 1954)
- Former rock star in the late 1960s with Mason Proffit who pioneered the Country Rock that became the mainstay of modern Country Music. Now a moving force in Christian music, Talbot leads the monastic-style Little Portion, a Roman Catholic community a few miles east of Eureka Springs. Catholic music's number one recording artist with sales of around four million records worldwide. John Michael's numerous awards include nine Dove award nominations, a Dove Award for the album "Light Eternal," and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) President's Merit Award for "Song of the Poor."
Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Johnnie Taylor (1934-2000)
- Taylor, known as the "Philosopher of Soul," was a popular gospel and R&B singer with a recording career over four decades long. Born in Crawfordsville, he was raised by his grandmother in West Memphis who encouraged his church attendance which then spurred his love of singing. He sung with several gospel groups before starting his solo career, including The Soul Stirrers, where Taylor and a young Sam Cooke became friends. Cooke later signed him on his own SAR label, and it was there he began singing secular music. Hits include "A Whole Lotta Woman," "Who's Making Love," and "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)." His single, "Disco Lady," was the first single to rank platinum. Taylor was awarded a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
Clark Terry (1920-2015)
- World-class trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, and NEA Jazz Master, Terry is one of the most recorded musicians in the history of jazz, with more than nine-hundred recordings. Clark's discography reads like a "Who's Who In Jazz," with personnel that includes greats such as Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Ben Webster, Aretha Franklin, Charlie Barnet, Doc Severinsen, Ray Charles, Billy Strayhorn, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Gerry Mulligan, Sarah Vaughan, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Milt Jackson, Bob Brookmeyer, and Dianne Reeves.
Among his numerous recordings, he has been featured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, Dutch Metropole Orchestra, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra, Herbie Mann Orchestra, Donald Byrd Orchestra, and many other large ensembles - high school and college ensembles, his own duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, octets, and two big bands – Clark Terry's Big Bad Band and Clark Terry's Young Titans of Jazz.
His Grammy and NARAS Awards include: 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, NARAS President’s Merit Award, three Grammy nominations, and two Grammy certificates. Terry was a resident of Pine Bluff where he lived with his wife.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973)
- Born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant around 1915, Rosetta’s early training was in religious music. Her mother, Kate Bell “Mother Bell” Nubin was a traveling missionary and "gospel shouter". Rosetta developed a unique vocal and guitar style that caught the attention of Decca Records who signed her in 1938. She was an overnight sensation and is considered by many to be gospel music’s first superstar. Also a crossover performer, she influenced numerous rock musicians such as Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and fellow Arkansan Johnny Cash. She appeared with such legendary performers as Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan and took the stage at the Cotton Club and Café Society. Her biography, by George Washington University scholar Gayle Wald, is entitled “Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
The documentary entitled "The Godmother of Rock & Roll" was shown on PBS as part of the American Masters series. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Harry Thomason (b. 1955)
- Former Little Rock high school speech teacher and football coach who is now one of the hottest producers in Hollywood. His hits include "The Blue & The Gray" mini-series, "Designing Women," "Evening Shade," and "Hearts Afire." He was born and raised in Hampton. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Billy Bob Thornton (b. 1955)
- A native of Hot Springs, Thornton was featured on the television series "Hearts Afire." He directed and starred in "Slingblade" a movie he filmed in Benton. He received two Oscar nominations for the film, one for Best Actor and one for Best Screenplay, which he won. He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1999 for "A Simple Plan." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Conway Twitty (1933-1993)
- Known as the "High Priest of Country Music," this Country Music Hall of Famer was born and raised in Helena. He was born as Harold Jenkins and later chose his stage name from Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. He also considered "Bald Knob" as a stage name. Twitty's No. 1 hits include: "Hello, Darling," "It's Only Make Believe" and "Tight Fitting Jeans." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
T. Texas Tyler (1916-1972)
- Born David Luke Myrick near Mena, Tyler initiated a style of country/western music that set a pattern for singers throughout three decades. His first recording hit was "Deck of Cards" in 1948 and Tyler had his own Los Angeles television show in 1950. He appeared often on the "Grand Ole Opry," "Louisiana Hayride" and also performed in Carnegie Hall.
Mike Utley (b. 1947)
- Musician Mike Utley was born in Blytheville and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a zoology degree. Early in his career he worked with the house band for Atlantic Records, backing performers such as Aretha Franklin, Jerry Jeff Walker and the Allman Brothers. In February 1973, after Jimmy Buffett had moved to Key West from Nashville, he heard Utley playing keyboards on one of Jerry Jeff Walker’s albums. He liked what he heard and asked Utley to play on his first major label album, "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean." Utley continued to work with other performers in the mid-1970s while continuing to work with Buffett until the latter’s 1977 breakout "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” He then joined the Coral Reefer Band full-time, making him the longest active member of the band. He now serves as its musical director. Utley has recorded with an impressive list of artists over his career, including Aretha Franklin, Ronnie Hawkins, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Jimmy Cliff, Sam The Sham, Jackson Browne, Booker T. Jones, and John Kay of Steppenwolf. He's also produced many albums with Buffett. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Junior Walker (1931-1995)
- Walker was born in Blytheville, Arkansas and was raised in South Bend, Indiana. Upon picking up the saxophone in high school, he began playing in local jazz and R&B clubs soon after. In the 1950s, Junior Walker relocated to Battle Creek, Michigan and formed the band Junior Walker & the All-Stars. Singer Johnny Bristol saw the group perform and recommended them to his friend, Harvey Fuqua, who signed the All-Stars and produced their first recordings in 1962. The next year Motown absorbed Fuqua’s artists and Walker & the All-Stars debuted for Soul in 1964. Their first big hit was the dance tune “Shotgun,” in 1965, and it also marked Walker’s vocal debut. “Shotgun” topped the R&B charts and hit the pop Top 5 charts. The All-Stars had success with a stream of instrumental R&B hits until the disco era, when Walker resurfaced as a solo artist. He continued to tour through the 1980s and 1990s, until his death in 1995.
William Warfield (1920-2002)
- A native of West Helena, Warfield is a Grammy-award winning baritone. He is known for such career-making roles as Joe in the film "Showboat" where he sings the memorable "Ol' Man River," and the role of Porgy in "Porgy and Bess." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Gary Weir (Unknown)
- A native of Russellville and now a North Little Rock resident, Weir became a television icon in Arkansas when, in 1966, he began appearing on KATV, Channel 7 (later on KARK, Channel 4 and KLRT, Fox 16), as Bozo the Clown. It aired every afternoon for 25 years showcasing cartoons and games, but mostly, Bozo and the kids. Weir also has a love of Thoroughbred racing and for 18 years was host of the Oaklawn Report, which was featured on various TV channels recapping the day’s races. He is now producer and co-host of the TV dance show, "The Good Ole Daze", a one hour weekly dance show that he co-hosts with his wife Linda. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
John Weston (1927-2005)
- A Lee County native, Weston was born on December 12, 1927. The singer/songwriter combined fine songwriting with a deep Delta Blues style. John began performing in 1970 and by 1977 had built a local audience in Marianna where he was living. His lyrics, which grew from his personal experience, reflect the humor and irony of daily life. He became a popular festival performer in the Delta and all over the world.
He performed solo for many years although he occasionally played with a band. John won the Lucille Award (named after blues singer B.B. King’s infamous guitar) at the Handy Awards in Memphis. In 1995 he began performing as a duo with Little Rock slide guitarist Mark Simpson. His CD "Got To Deal With The Blues" contains several cuts featuring the two. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Doyle & Teddy Wilburn (1930-1982; 1931-2003)
- Known as The Wilburn Brothers, the duo was born in Hardy and were child performers in an act called The Wilburn Family that was brought to the Grand Ole Opry by Roy Acuff in the 1940s. Due to the child labor laws the Wilburns were forced to leave the Grand Ole Opry after only six months. They continued to travel and were regulars on the Louisiana Hayride from 1948-51. After the family act disbanded, and the brothers served stints in the Army during the Korean War, they continued on in country music as The Wilburn Brothers and had their first hit record in 1954 titled "Sparkling Brown Eyes." Their other hits include "Go Away With Me" (1956), "Which One Is to Blame" (1959), "Trouble's Back in Town" (1962), "It's Another World" (1965), and "Hurt Her Once for Me" (1967). They were Opry members from 1953 until the time of Doyle's death in 1982 (at the age of 52) and Teddy continued on at the Opry as a solo artist until his own death in 2003 (six days before he would have turned 72). The Wilburn Brothers had a long-running syndicated television show, “The Wilburn Brothers Show,” that ran from 1963 to 1974 and produced 354 half hour episodes. Members of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Elizabeth Williams (Unknown)
- A producer on Broadway and around the world since 1989, Williams received the Tony Award for Best Musical for her production of "Crazy for You" (1992) plus the Best Revival Tony for both "The Real Thing" (1999) and for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (2000). Together, with partner Anita Waxman, Waxman Williams Entertainment has garnered 71 Tony nominations and 16 Tony Awards, more than any female producing team in history. Ms. Williams' and Ms. Waxman's recent Broadway productions include "Bombay Dreams," "Gypsy," "Flower Drum Song," "Topdog/Underdog" and "Noises Off," along with London West End productions of "By the Bog of Cats," "Ragtime" and "Hitchcock Blonde." In addition, her Four Corners Productions company is responsible for "Crazy for You," "Into the Woods," "the Secret Garden" and "Moon Over Buffalo." From 1984-1989, she served as vice president of Mutual Benefit Productions and Fifth Avenue Productions, which created art and theatre investment funds. The company also served as the American financiers for Cameron Mackintosh by syndicating theatrical partnerships and helping finance the West End, Broadway, Australian and U.S. national touring companies of "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Miss Saigon." Williams has served on the board of directors of the 52nd Street Project and is a past chair of the board of directors of the New York Theatre Workshop. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Lucinda Williams (b. 1953 )
- American singer/songwriter who spent her formative years in Fayetteville where her father, Miller Williams, was a professor at the University of Arkansas for 33 years. Her dad is an Arkansas native who is considered one of the most foremost American poets of the post-World War II era. She received a Grammy Award in 1993 for Best Country Song for writing “Passionate Kisses,” recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter. She also received a Grammy in 1999 for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 2002. Her 2012 album “Blessed” was nominated for Best Americana Album.
Sonny Boy Williamson (1908-1965)
- Born on the Sara Jones Plantation near Glendora, Miss., the date and year of his birth a matter of some uncertainty. Beginning in the 1930s, he traveled around Mississippi and Arkansas and encountered Big Joe Williams, Elmore James and Robert Junior Lockwood. He was also associated with Robert Johnson during this period. Williamson lived in Twist, Ark., for a time with Howlin' Wolf's sister Mary Burnett and taught Wolf to play harmonica. In 1941 he was hired to play the “King Biscuit Time” show on radio station KFFA in Helena with Lockwood. Williamson had begun developing a following in Chicago beginning in 1953, when he appeared there as a member of Elmore James' band. During his years with Chess Records he enjoyed his greatest success and acclaim, recording about 70 songs for Chess subsidiary Checker Records from 1955 to 1964. In the 1960s he toured Europe during the height of the British blues craze, recording with The Yardbirds and The Animals. Some of his better known songs include "Don't Start Me to Talkin,'" "Fattenin' Frogs for Snakes," "Keep It to Yourself," "Your Funeral and My Trial," "Bye Bye Bird," "Nine Below Zero" and "Help Me.” His song "Eyesight to the Blind" was performed by The Who as a key song in their rock opera “Tommy” (the only song in that opus not written by a band member) and it was later covered on the Aerosmith album “Honkin' on Bobo.” His "One Way Out” became popularized by The Allman Brothers Band in the early 1970s. He returned to Helena, and died there a few hours prior to a scheduled radio performance on May 25, 1965. He is buried in Tutwiler, Mississippi. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Mark Wright (b. 1975)
- A Fayetteville native, he started his career by leaving a lucrative job singing jingles to take a $150-a-week songwriting gig. RCA made the 25-year-old Belmont graduate the then-youngest executive at a major label. That confidence saw Wright co-produce Clint Black's "Killin' Time," the 1989 record that spawned five number ones. Wright now has to his credit more than 26 million units in sales and over 40 number one singles that he's written, published or produced. As songwriter, he's had 12 BMI Awards - seven of them Million-Airs - including Mark Chesnutt's "Goin' Through The Big D," Oak Ridge Boys' "Lucky Moon," and "Today My World Slipped Away," cut by both George Strait and Vern Gosdin. His latest accomplishment is an Album of the Year Grammy for Lee Ann Womack's dazzling "I Hope You Dance," which has already earned him 2000 CMA Single of the Year honors. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Alberto Zoppe (1922-2009)
- Born in north Italy, Alberto was one of 17 children, 11 of which died in World War II. The family business began in 1842, when a French street clown and Hungarian equestrain ballerina, ran away to Venice. Zoppe's trademark stunt, which he performed in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 Academy Award-winng motion picture "The Greatest Show on Earth," was standing on a moving horse, then doing a somersault back flip to a trailing horse. His career included appearances with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and on the Bob Hope, Red Skelton and Ed Sullivan television shows. He was a member of the circus world's "Ring of Fame." Zoppe lived moved to Arkansas after his retirement. He was living in Greenbrier at the time of his death.