MECHANIC FALLS – Country music is nothing new to this ordinarily blue state. Just ask Slim Andrews who has been playing for 62 years and who with promoter and showman Barry Deane founded the Maine Country Music Association in 1977.

The veteran singer/songwriter/promoter got his start at age 11 when he got his first guitar and entered a talent competition in Auburn in 1942. The only station he could pick up on his dad’s radio was country. “I used to fall asleep listening to it,” he recalled.

Sunday, Aug. 17, Andrews, a 2002 inductee into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, will be joined by other hall-of-famers and country music fans from all over the state to celebrate the opening of MCMA’s first permanent country music hall of fame.

The MCMA recently negotiated with the Silver Spur club to lease 1,500 square feet of space on the first floor.

“We have what we call our ‘mobile unit,'” Andrews said, describing the 30-foot trailer that currently houses MCMA memorabilia. The association also owns five acres in Greene, but the high cost of building a museum or hall of fame makes it a distant goal, said Andrews.

Work at the Silver Spur is well under way. Walls have been put up along with decorations and lots and lots of memorabilia – busts of performers, costumes, belt buckles, photos, records, even a replica of one inductee’s farmhouse.

“We work every day down there,” said Lorry Wilson, president of the Maine Country Music Association. “It’s beautiful.”

“I love to look at that wall, with all the inductees up there,” she said.

What does it take to make it into the hall of fame?

“A lifetime of dedication to country music,” explained Andrews, who continues to perform as soloist or with his band, Slim Andrews and the Cumberland Valley Boys with Vickie Jaimes.

The Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, now in its 31st year, boasts nearly 70 members. Representing a cross section of country music’s best personalities, the list of inductees includes singers, instrumentalists, folk music artists, blue grass performers and comedians.

The grand opening will begin at 11 a.m., when hall-of-famers and country aficionados can mingle and walk through the history of country music in Maine. The official ribbon cutting is at noon.

Between 1 and 5 p.m., a lineup of 15 hall-of-famers, including Denny Breau, Bing Crosby, Russ Adams, Bob Elston, Ginger Mae and Fred “Tommy” Thompson, will perform.

All artists will perform for free. “This is a volunteer organization,” Wilson noted.

Donations will be accepted at the door, but Andrews stressed they are not required. “Some will put in 20 bucks, some will put in 2,” some might not put in anything, he said. Country music is “for working class people and we want those people to come and enjoy themselves.”

And he, no doubt, will have a good time. After all, he said, “A dream is becoming a reality on the 17th.”

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