The evolution of country music will be evident Wednesday in separate milestones involving Roy "Pop" Lewis and Billy Gilman.
Mr. Lewis, 94-year-old founder of The Lewis Family bluegrass-gospel group, will be inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at an awards banquet in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Billy, whom insiders predict will be country music's next child star, will turn 12 the same day.
One great career continuing. Another potentially great career starting. The circle stays unbroken.
Roy Lewis was in his 40s when hisand wife Pauline's children began performing at church socials and back-porch gatherings in Lincoln County, Ga. Mr. Lewis joined them, playing upright bass. Talented grandchildren later joined the group.
Honors came their way, including induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and a Dove Award (the Gospel Music Association's highest recognition) received in April for So Fine as Bluegrass Recorded Song of the Year for 1999.
Another important day for The Lewis Family will be Saturday, Oct. 28, when Mr. Lewis' 95th birthday, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis' 75th wedding anniversary and The Lewis Family's 50th year as a performing group are celebrated with a banquet at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel. Tickets are $35. Reservations must be made by Sept. 30. Call (828) 453-7590 for details.
For Billy Gilman, of Hope Valley, R.I., exciting times and career honors are just starting.
America sat up and paid attention during the recent Academy of Country Music Awards show when he earned a standing ovation from the star-studded audience with his energetic singing of the Bob Wills' song Roly Poly with the Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. It marked his national TV debut.
Billy is performing several dates with Asleep at the Wheel as opening act on the current George Strait tour.
He also performs June 12 on the Sony/Epic Records show at the International Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville, along with other Sony/Epic stars.
His first single, One Voice, debuts Tuesday, June 20. It is a ballad about a boy who takes a gun to school. The video version of the song recently was filmed at Glencliff Elementary School in Nashville.
As if all this isn't enough, he will be featured in the cable TV special Class of 2000 about hot young stars, with LeAnn Rimes and actor Andrew Keegan as co-hosts. The special, filmed at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, on the TNN network. Billy sang the old hit Little Bitty Pretty One for the show.
Visit the Web site www.sonynashville.com/BillyGilman/main/index.html to see photos of Billy and read more about him.
Several girls - Brenda Lee, Tanya Tucker, LeAnn Rimes, Jessica Andrews - became child country superstars. Several boys - Troy Hess, the Moffatt brothers, Little Jimmy Sizemore, Larry Collins, Hank Williams Jr. - achieved some national fame but never made it to the superstar level as children.
Time will tell if Billy Gilman stays around long enough to pick up lifetime honors, as Roy "Pop" Lewis will. Either way, think of them both Wednesday as they celebrate important moments of their lives.
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 29 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.