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Country Music Hall starts $1.1M fundraising effort, results from fraud case

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 – The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is launching a $l.1 million fundraising campaign to defray costs associated with the institution's acquisition of four instruments associated with Maybelle Carter, Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe.

The effort follows approval of a $750,000 settlement with the Robert W. McLean estate in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee last week. McLean was involved in a Ponzi scheme and later committed suicide. He had agreed to give the hall of fame the instruments, but they were tied up in lawsuits resulting from the fraud.

The Precious Jewel Fund launches with leadership gifts including a $150,000 donation from Scott Siman of Nashville-based RPM Management and a $300,000 gift from the Academy of Country Music headquartered in Los Angeles.

With Museum Board President Steve Turner as co-chair, Siman will lead the campaign in the music and business communities. Monroe's musical legatee, Grand Ole Opry star Ricky Skaggs, will lead the national appeal to music fans.

Under the terms of the compromise agreement, the museum is required to pay the $750,000 settlement by Feb. 22. As part of the agreement, the museum agreed to provide additional value to the creditors by subordinating its own $870,850 proof of claim against the McLean estate, which means the institution has no chance of recovering even a small percentage of the unpaid pledges that facilitated the acquisition of the Carter and Monroe instruments.

"Like their lifelong partners, these beloved instruments can now rest in peace," Skaggs said. "This outcome means that we, the public, remain the owners of these treasures, and it reminds us that we are fortunate to have them protected and accessible under the stewardship of one of the finest museums in the country. As owners, we have an obligation to help with these costs, and I believe fans will be honored to have the opportunity."

"Settling with the McLean estate has allowed us to more swiftly serve his creditors," said Museum Director Kyle Young. "This compromise allows us to finally set a fundraising goal that can be easily understood and accepted by the largest possible audience. We know these are not the best of times. We understand that many of our brothers can't spare a dime, but we trust in the nobility of those who are more fortunate."

"We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Scott Siman, who was the first to call and offer not only a financial commitment, but also volunteered to lead the fundraising campaign," Young said. "He has been quietly accessing potential donors on our behalf throughout this struggle. To say that he has given us strength and courage is a gross understatement."

"Our friends at the Academy of Country Music also rushed to our aid early on and long before the picture really fully developed," Young said. "Even as the economy went into a tailspin, their commitment and moral support remained firm.

The approved settlement concludes more than a year of lengthy negotiations with Robert Waldschmidt, the Trustee for the Robert W. McLean Bankruptcy Estate. McLean was accused of operating a Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of more than $67 million over a period of years.

The museum had entered into confidential purchase agreements for the acquisition of Mother Maybelle Carter's Gibson L-5 guitar and Bill Monroe's Gibson F-5 Loar mandolin, two of the most significant instruments in popular music history. McLean also donated two familiar and historically compelling Johnny Cash instruments, including his Martin D-35 acoustic guitar and his Martin prototype guitar, to the Museum's permanent collection. Since McLean's involuntary bankruptcy and his death in 2007, the Museum has continued to honor all the terms of the purchase agreements that he had pledged to fund.

Waldschmidt had sought to recover approximately $l.54 million from the museum. The figure represents McLean's total cash payments to the museum plus the value of the two Cash guitars. As an alternative, Waldschmidt had asked the court to order the surrender of the instruments so they could be sold to satisfy the claims of McLean's creditors.

"We did not have the money and, because we hold the instruments, like all of our collection, not for ourselves but in trust for the benefit of the public, we could not merely turn them over to the Trustee," Young said. The museum's unique collection, considered the largest and finest of its kind in the world, does not appear on the institution's balance sheet and cannot be used as collateral.

As a nod to Monroe, who was fond of passing out quarters to his fans, Skaggs will encourage fans to contribute to the Precious Jewel Fund in increments of 25. "This is an equal-opportunity challenge to the greatest fans in the world," he said. "Twenty-five cents is as significant as a gift of $25,000. The important thing is that we all stand up and be counted. After all," he laughed, "we'll want to have something to report when we run into Maybelle, Monroe and John R. at that famous gate down the road."

More news for Bill Monroe

CD reviews for Bill Monroe

True Life Blues
This tribute to the father of bluegrass music was already in the finalproduction stage when Bill Monroe passed away in early September, so it becomes the first of what are sure to be many all-star celebrations of Big Mon's legacy. Produced by bassist Todd Phillips, the album follows a current trend by creating one-time combinations of some of the top names in bluegrass. The material concentrates on Monroe's early songwriting, with such familiar tunes as Molly and Tenbrooks, »»»
Live From The Mountain Stage
Continuing their distinguished series of live recordings from the nationally syndicated radio show, "Mountain Stage," this release marks more than one milestone for Blue Plate Music. Recorded by Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys for broadcast in May 1989, it's the 20th in the "Best of Mountain Stage" series and also marks the first release of an album in the series by a single artist. Monroe and the boys, along with singer/songwriter Diana Christian, tear through 13 of his »»»
Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe
Ricky Skaggs has wrapped the cloak of Bill Monroe's legacy tightly around him over the past few years. However, one might feel about that, this star-laden country music tribute to Bill Monroe is more than just a curiosity item - it's an interesting collection of how various artists incorporate and honor tradition. Some fit snugly into Monroe's timeless sound as if they'd been Bluegrass Boys (or Girls) themselves. Patty Loveless shows a classic bluegrass sensibility on »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: The Head and the Heart go beyond the nah nahs – "Nah nah," "la la" and "Wee oh" populated a number of songs from The Head and the Heart. Yes, the Seattle-based band does pen a good amount of sing-along songs that were clearly designed that way. And while that style can certainly engage and energize a crowd, there was more to that from the sextet.... »»»
Concert Review: Underwood leads a night of women in country – Carrie Underwood may have been off the road for three years, during which time she had two boys and did not release an album until "Cry Pretty" 13 months ago, but the most successful American Idol contestant has lost none of her vocal luster to say the least in her Cry Pretty 360 Tour. First and foremost, Underwood remains one tremendous... »»»
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