Bill Carter Receives Two State Honors

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Bill Carter (center) receives Crystal Award from Richard W. Davies, Executive Director, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism (left) and ASU alum Sloane Roberts, Miss Arkansas 2012 (right).

The legend is growing for Rector native Bill Carter, who, in recent days, received two very special honors from his home state.

First it was announced he will be inducted June 8 into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Then, during the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's annual Henry Awards dinner Tuesday night, March 5, Carter accepted the state's Crystal Award, recognizing his amazing work as executive producer of the Johnny Cash Music Festival at Jonesboro.

After only two years, the festival, launched in 2011, already is recognized as one of the state's top music events. Carter collaborated with Arkansas State University to produce the shows, which have helped fund restoration of the Johnny Cash boyhood home in Dyess (Mississippi County).

Both shows featured a long list of mega stars, many of whom performed free in memory of their late friend Johnny Cash.

"I want to thank the Department of Tourism for this prestigious honor and I accept this award on behalf of (Cash's children) Rosanne and John Carter Cash, Kirkley Thomas, whose idea the restoration was, Ruth Hawkins and Paula Miles of ASU, who took the idea and ran with it, Christy Valentine, Derek Bowman, the entire ASU and Convocation Center staff, and the hundreds of volunteers who worked hard to make the festival a success," Carter said in accepting the Crystal Award.

Carter has lived for some time near Nashville, where he is widely known for his work in country music management (clients included Reba McEntire, Rodney Crowell and Carlene Carter) and for his recent work as producer of Bill Gaither's gospel music videos and television shows.

In the early 1960s, his interest in local politics led him to work with the Secret Service, which he served as an agent during President John Kennedy's time in office. He later was assigned by the Secret Service to help investigate Kennedy's assassination in Dallas.

Carter then established a private legal practice and had a much-celebrated stint as attorney for one of the world's most famous rock and roll groups, the Rolling Stones. That period of his life is recounted in Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards' recent book, Life, and in Carter's own fascinating autobiography, Get Carter, published in 2005.

According to an article released last week by Nashville's Alliance Media Relations, Carter is known to many as the only person Keith Richards actually had something nice to say about in his best-selling biography.

Carter was the lawyer who was called when Richards needed legal help in Fordyce, Ark., and when the Stones needed help negotiating with the State Department because they were denied entry into the United States to tour, they called Bill Carter.

Seemingly tireless, Carter returns often to his hometown of Rector, where he and friend George Barker founded the Rector High School Helping Hands Foundation in 2006 to provide assistance to disadvantaged kids. The Foundation already has helped change the lives of hundreds of students, who have been the recipients of college scholarships, dental care, athletic uniforms, band instruments and much more.

While Carter's incredible life could be material for a movie, he is perhaps most proud of the Helping Hands Foundation and its work.

"I am flattered to receive recognition from my peers, but actually I am just Henry and Faye's boy from Rector," he said.

Others who will inducted into the Entertainers Hall of Fame in June include:

* Louie Shelton, whose smooth guitar playing on hit records and albums with the world's most acclaimed musicians have been heard by millions of people. Born in Little Rock and later a resident of North Little Rock, Shelton has worked as the session guitarist or producer for Barbra Streisand, John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye and others. He is well known for his work with the legendary Seals and Crofts.

* Arkansas native Rosetta Nubin Tharpe, one of gospel music's first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label (Decca), and an early crossover from gospel to secular music. Tharpe has been cited as an influence by numerous musicians, including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Arkansan Johnny Cash. She was born at Cotton Plant on March 20, 1915, and died in 1973.

* Mike Utley, who was born in Blytheville and graduated from the University of Arkansas. Early in his career, he worked with the house band for Atlantic Records, backing performers such as Aretha Franklin, Jerry Jeff Walker and the Allman Brothers. Walker recruited Utley to play keyboards on Buffett's first major label album, "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean" in 1973. Utley continued to work with other performers in the mid-1970s while appearing on Buffett's subsequent albums until Buffett's 1977 breakout "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," when he joined the Coral Reefer Band full-time. Utley has recorded with an impressive list of artists including Franklin, Sam and Dave, Brook Benton, Ronnie Hawkins, Duane Allman, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Jimmy Cliff, Petula Clark, Carmen McRae, Sam (The Sham), and Booker T. Jones. He is also the producer of 11 albums with Buffett. Additionally, he produced Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits album. He has worked with Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits. Utley and steel drum player Robert Greenridge also formed their own band, Club Trini, which has recorded several albums.

* Gary Weir, a resident of North Little Rock, who became a television legend in the state when, in 1966, he began appearing on KATV, Channel 7, as Bozo the Clown. His famous nonsense repartee ("Are you married or do you carry your lunch?") continued to delight generations of Arkansas kids on TV until the late 1980s.

Tickets for the Entertainers Hall of Fame event, which will go on sale April 1, will be $75 each or $750 for a table of 10 and may be purchased by calling the Convention Center at 501-321-2027 or 800-543-2284. The reception will start at 6 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7:30.p.m.

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