A framed poem by the late Col. Hugh X. Lewis hangs at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music. Shown here, from left, are Academic Dean Leila Sandlin Smith, HCTC President Dr. Jennifer Lindon, and KSBTM Director Dean Osborne.
The late Col. Hugh X. Lewis’s gift hangs proudly at KSBTM
A gift to HCTC’s Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music (KSBTM) from country music star Hugh X. Lewis is valued even more today, following his death in December 2020.
Hugh X. Lewis presented a framed print of a poem he wrote, entitled “Bluegrass Roots,” during the 20TH Annual Osborne Brothers Hometown Festival in 2013 where he also performed. The print hangs proudly near the entrance to the KSBTM performance area.
Lewis, a native of Leslie County, was a supporter of the creation of the KSBTM and thought the school would be a perfect fit located in the hometown of his dear friends, the Osborne Brothers.
Nashville, TN was home for Lewis, but he made a return visit in May 2019 and he had the chance to see his work displayed. Lewis was in his hometown when he was recognized as a Local Treasure award recipient by the Leslie County Community Foundation.
Dean Osborne fondly remembers working with Col. Hugh X. Lewis. They met and began working together in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, where Osborne hosted a weekly show. As a member of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame Board of Directors, Osborne had an opportunity to get to know and perform with some of the great artists from the commonwealth.
“After Bobby Osborne, Col. Hugh X. Lewis was the first real star to offer help with our show, the museum and everything we were trying to do to promote the music of Kentucky at Renfro Valley. He did this without any charge to us, knowing we were struggling to get the show going. He was a very generous and kind man,” Osborne said. Col. Hugh came back to the school several times over the years for TV tapings, workshops and festival appearances. “He was one of the best artists to entertain a crowd I have ever seen!” noted Osborne.
Hugh X. Lewis can still be heard on radio station WSGS F.M. in Hazard, KY, where he hosts “The Christian Country Story Show,” Sundays 8 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. His connection to the folks listening to the program, especially those in nursing facilities, was so great in previous years that he shared his personal home phone number over 100,000 watts at the end of each program. The call didn’t go to some answering machine; it went directly to Lewis. “After sharing the stage and friendship with Col. Hugh over the past 20 years, I found him to be perhaps one of the most giving, prolific and multi-talented artists I have ever had the pleasure working with. We will not see his like again,” Osborne said.
Hazard Community and Technical College President Dr. Jennifer Lindon is thankful of the gift and continued support of the KSBTM in Hyden, at HCTC’s Leslie County Center. “We are so appreciative of Hugh X. Lewis and we are so proud of his involvement with faculty and students,” she said.
The Lewis story: “The year was 1963 and, after 10 years of working in the coal mines at Lynch, Hugh decided it was time to move to Nashville. He made the move by himself initially. His first year in Nashville brought him a fair amount of recognition as he produced some number one tunes. There were BMI awards for “B.J. the D.J.” (recorded by Stonewall Jackson) and “Take My Ring Off Your Finger” (recorded by Carl Smith). Through his songwriting career, he’s had tunes recorded by folks such as Charley Pride, Del Reeves, Jim Ed Brown, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Bobby Goldsboro, Lynn Anderson, Mac Wiseman and many others. His very first record, “What I Need Most Is You,” went to number 12 on the charts. He authored over 250 poems and was awarded Poet Laureate of Christian Country Music by the Tennessee State House and Senate in 2006. In 2007, he was made a Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Lewis is enshrined in the “Walkway of Stars” at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and in March of 2011 he was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.
A Celebration of Life service to honor Col. Hugh X. Lewis will be held at Cornerstone Church in Nashville at 3 p.m. on February 20. The event will also be streamed for those unable to attend in person.
For more information about the KSBTM, or enrolling in classes, call Admissions at 606-487-3293.