PRESTONSBURG — The Road to Fame contest came to an end Saturday night, as Pike County native Logan Hall emerged victorious.
Hall, a Virgie native, was a top three finalist from the Pikeville Expo region of the competition who first had to survive an audition against 70 other hopefuls, then two more rounds of eliminations before Saturday’s finale.
Hall won a Gibson Epiphone “Hummingbird” guitar and will receive $25,000 in scholarship from PCG Nashville to help promote and expand his musical career.
Hall says he is most excited about a visit with Tom T. Hall and the opportunity to record a song with the Eastern Kentucky legend.
Hall says that he was excited about the finals, and also nervous and anxious. “I was up against some really talented people.”
Hundreds of hopefuls, ages 13 to 35, who grew up or live in the 15 counties surrounding the famed U.S. 23, auditioned for the competition which launched in February at the State Capitol as part of a larger initiative to promote tourism and interest along the eastern corridor of Kentucky. All proceeds from the competition go directly to the Country Music Highway Arts Education Fund, which provides monetary support to struggling music and arts programs in Eastern Kentucky schools.
“It’s been a long time since I can remember having this much talent competing against one another from one geographical area,” said Bernard Porter, Road to Fame judge and president of PCG Nashville. “It made it extremely difficult to judge the competition, but it affirms what we already knew. There is an amazing amount of incredible talent in this part of the nation.”
When asked how he felt about winning, Hall said, “I was excited, but mostly excited for my family.”
Hall’s story has the makings of a rags-to-riches story to encourage and inspire in every corner of Appalachia. A coal miner on a strip job, Hall says he broke his back three years ago in a work-related injury and hasn’t been able to return to work.
When asked how bad things got, with a wife and four children at home, Hall paused, seeming to search for the words. After a moment of silence, Hall resigned himself to his new reality. “Things are looking better now.”
What the three years as a disabled coal miner did afford Hall was the opportunity to focus on playing music. Hall said his musical influences have been Ray Charles and Greg Allman, but that his personal writing style mimics that of Jamie Johnson. “He fuels it through and through,” he says.
According to Hall, he isn’t packing his bags for a move to Nashville just yet. “This is where my friends and family are,” Hall said. “We are planning for the future, but taking it one day at a time.”
Hall says winning the competition means he doesn’t have to move right away. “Bernard Porter knows exactly what I need to do to make a good living playing music,” Hall said. “They understand how hard it is. This competition has brought Nashville here, giving people an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
The Road to Fame competition has had a tremendous opening season, selling out the Mountain Arts Center during Saturday’s final. The contest is already planning for next year’s competition.
Hall will serve as an ambassador representing the Country Music Highway at various events throughout the year and will help promote the 2013 Road to Fame competition.
“It was a huge success this year,” Hall said. There are a lot of plans in the works for next year, he added, but nothing has been made official yet. “Every year is going to be bigger.”
The competition has been a boost to tourism in the area, promoting the cultural significance of Eastern Kentucky as a hotbed of country music talent.
The contest’s second-place winner was Whitley Mullins, from Hazard, and third place featured a tie with Floyd county duo JoLeigh, from McDowell, and Bronson Bush, of Raceland.
Hall will next appear in a concert at Dwale June 30. After that is a Fourth of July show at Mountain Homeplace, in Johnson County, that will feature many of the top 12 performers. He will also be performing with Confederate Railroad in Virginia soon.