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Larry Stephenson grows "Thankful"

By C. Eric Banister, March 2008

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And not only is Stephenson writing with a friend, but he is now writing with a Country Music Hall of Famer.

"It's really funny. He called me Monday morning about 8:30, and he didn't say anything about it. I don't know if he didn't know it or, just the kind of guy he is, didn't say anything about it," he says. "Then yesterday morning at 11 o' clock, I see it on TV that he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. I was just telling my wife that it is just so weird to me to be that close to somebody and have spoken to them a day before, and now here they're in the Country Music Hall of Fame. And it's well deserved. It probably should have been done years ago. He's a great guy and what a songwriter! I mean, man o' man, the catalog he's got is just unbelievable, and I'm so happy for him."

Their songwriting collaboration resulted in the song "Every Day is Mother's Day," a paean to the blessing of motherhood.

"I got that idea from a friend of mine up in Virginia, and I took it to Tom T. and Dixie. The next thing I know, they wrote it," he laughs. "Basically, it was my idea. I think I came up with a line or two, but we didn't actually sit down and write that song together. It was just kind of my idea, and they were kind enough to put my name on it."

But Tom T. isn't the only one in the partnership that has been bestowed a hall of fame honor, as Stephenson is a proud member of the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame. Inducted in 1996 by the Virginia Folk Music Association, the honor still comes as a shock to him.

"I don't know that I'm worthy or not," he says. "It was very kind of them to do that, but sometimes I think I don't know if I'm old enough or have I been around long enough for this, you know? But they seem to have felt that I had and was."

"When I was in middle school and high school, my Dad and I used to play music around the state of Virginia, and we used to go down and participate in some of those Folk Music Association events that they put on across the state of Virginia. So, I was aware of who they were and what they'd done, and I knew they had a Hall of Fame and had inducted people every year like Jim and Jesse, Mac Wiseman, Eddie Adcock, Bill Harrell, the Statler Brothers, the Stanley Brothers and people like that, Patsy Cline's in it, and I was very aware of it. I moved to Nashville in 1992, and I had been down here about 4 years, and they called 1 day and said I was going to be the next guy. It just blew me away, I couldn't believe it. So. I was very very honored to be a part of that group of folks."

Earlier this year. Stephenson was honored with his fifth Contemporary Male Vocalist of the Year award by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, something that is very important to him because it isn't just an industry award.

"I think all awards are important, you know, we could probably sit here and debate them all day, but the fans vote on that award down there at the convention every year in Nashville, and to me, the fans are what it's all about," he says. "I mean, we play to ´┐Żem, they spend their hard earned money to some see us play and sing, something we love to do and when they vote you something like that and present you an award, it's very important to me coming from the fans."

Even though "Thankful" is just hitting shelves across the country, Stephenson is already working on his next project, taking advantage of a midwest ice storm to look for new material for the all-bluegrass project.

"The last two or three days with the weather being like it is, I've been sitting in the middle of my floor listening to CDs," he says describing his search process. "I get stuff in the mail; I've got about a 3,000 album, LP, the old vinyl LPs, record collection that I go through a lot to find old material, and I just start putting the word out and let people know that I'm getting ready to record. I bet in the last two days, I've probably listened to 500 songs. I look in all kinds of places, anything from rock 'n' roll albums to country albums to old bluegrass albums and people you've never heard of, people just walk up to me at shows and give me cassettes and CDs sometimes of songs that they've written and I listen to every one of them. So, it comes from all different directions with me."

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