SE Indiana Musicians Hall of Fame
Keith Swinney youngest to be inducted in hall of fame

Keith Swinney

Pictured at left is Keith Swinney.

“Who is going to listen to my songs? Who’s going to feel the words that I sang enough to want to sing along. When I chased my dreams into eternity, and wonder where my life has gone, who’s going to listen to my songs ?”

Mary Mattingly

Keith Swinney feels blessed that he is in a profession where his voice will live on. His legacy will be in the form of recorded songs and music. The lyrics above from “My Songs” capture not just his voice, but his thoughts.

Perhaps he’s too young to be thinking about legacies and death, but the 31-year-old musician has experienced such loss. He lost his best friend Ron Pickett in Holton from the March 2012 tornado. Ironically, he had written this song before he passed away and shared it with Pickett, who was the band’s guitar player for many years.

“I told him I wanted him to listen to it and I put it on in the car. He just stared out the window, and I was thinking ‘oh, he doesn’t like it.’ He didn’t say anything for awhile, and then said, ‘It’s the best song you have ever written.’ Two months later he was gone.” Swinney reflected, “It’s like it came true for him.”

He’s released the song and video on YouTube Wednesday, Oct. 2, the same day he was inducted into the Southeastern Indiana Muscians Association Hall of Fame. Swinney is the youngest person to be inducted into the musician’s Hall of Fame. He is pleased with the recognition, particularly because it follows Pickett’s honor a year later.

Swinney is a familiar name in these parts. The Holton native has been playing guitar ever since his great grandma Maxine Wilson taught him at age 12, and grandma Nancy Ritchie paid for his weekly lessons. He joined Hoosier Daddy band at age 15, and then formed his own band, Keith Swinney and Highway 50 band. Members have changed, but Swinney has always stayed the course. He’s the band’s songwriter, vocalist and guitar player.

Swinney had a publishing deal at age 18, and opened for big acts like Merle Haggard and Tracy Byrd, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, and Brad Paisley in Nashville, IN He’s played at the Colts games, and legendary venues in Nashville, Tennessee, and considered trying to make it in the Music City, but didn’t want to take the risk. There’s a lot of talent out there, and the ones who make it either get a lucky break or preservere, he said.

A day job helps to make ends meet for his four kids and wife. Weekends he and the band hit the road, but these days it’s mainly around his hometown. The band plays 51 shows a year, down from 120 or so. “I play so much it’s like I’m paid to practice,” he says. Sure, Swinney would like to make it big, win a Grammy, even have a one-hit wonder. “My goal, I guess, is I want a songwriting deal. That would be great.” He thinks “My Songs” would have been perfect for the late George Jones, or a Merle Haggard, someone who has been around awhile.

He knows the “stars have to be in line” as he says, for today’s musician or songwriters to make it in the competitive business. In the meantime, he’s happy writing, strumming, and singing. “I just like to keep paying the bills, doing what I’m doing. I’m happy playing music.” And if that makes others happy, then it’s a perfect gig.

EDITOR'S NOTE:: Another Ripley County resident, Denver Burdette of Sunman, has been inducted into the musician’s hall of fame. Check out the Osgood Journal Tuesday to learn more about him.

2013 musicians named
Six people were inducted into the Southeastern Indiana Musicians Association Hall of Fame Wednesday evening at the Aurora Farmer’s Fair. In 2000, the organization began recognizing local musicians. There are now 108 honored with plaques at the museum in Lawrenceburg.

The nominees must have 15 years of experience, and live in either Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio or Switzerland counties for 15 years. This year’s new members include: Denver Burdette, Sunman (see Tuesday’s Osgood Journal for more on Burdette; Judy Hall, Lawrenceburg; John Race, Dillsboro; Keith Swinney, Holton; David Taylor, Lawrenceburg; and the late Stanley Ross Hussung, Aurora; big band musician


Last time for bluegrass festival at state park
Mary Mattingly

You don’t have to go far to hear top-notch bluegrass music. This weekend is the 25th year for the Bluegrass Festival at the Versailles State Park. It’s also the last time the popular festival will be held at the state park.

Katherine Taul, executive director of the Ripley County Tourism Bureau, said they will move it to the Old Mill Campground in Friendship next year, and it will be “bigger and better.” It will then be called the Friendship Music Festival.

The bluegrass fest actually started as a way to bring people into the local park for the fall.

Many of those fans are regulars, coming from as far as Wyoming, and outside the US, such as Germany, Taul said.
Of late, she has been getting calls daily from the Tri-State and Indy area about the weekend festival. “Some of these people follow these bands,” she said. “There is a really strong following of bluegrass music in this region.”

Local people too know of these groups. Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley are familiar names. Then there’s the Lost Mill String Band, a group from here but now has a fulltime gig in Tennessee.

Music gets underway actually on Friday at the tourism office, in the Ripley County Welcome Center on US 50. They host a jam session, and any musician, picker, fiddler or singer, or anyone who just wants to listen, is welcome to attend. It starts at 6 p.m. and goes for a couple of hours. Last year, they had 20 “jammers” show up.

Saturday the bluegrass music starts at 11 a.m. with Hoosier Hills; then at noon Whiskey Bent Valley Boys; 1 p.m. Rural Route 2; 2 p.m. Common Ground; 3 p.m. Cumberland Gap; 4 p.m. Blue Mafia; and last at 5 p.m, with Rattlesnake Daddies.

Sunday the strummin’ gets going after a 10 a.m. church service with the Lost Mill group, then at noon with Happy Valley Bluegrass Band. At 1 p.m. Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley band will play; 2 p.m. James White and Deer Creek and 3 p.m. Born Again.
If time was limited for a bluegrass fan coming to the park, what is a “don’t miss?” “On Saturday I’d say Blue Mafia and Rattlesnake Daddies of Cincinnati. On Sunday? Whiskey Bent Valley gives a really good show. But gosh, I really think every band is good. They all have such a good sound!” Taul said.

It’s not just the music that is an attraction, but the park and being outdoors. “It’s a good family environment. The kids can play in the fields, while the music is going on.”

There will be food available, like funnel cakes and fried apples, plus burgers. The pork loin sandwiches from Boone’s Redneck Cookin’ Wagon are, as Taul says, “a good reason to go.” Guests are also welcome to bring lawn chairs, and their own food, but no alcohol.

The last band performs Saturday at 5 p.m., but she says the musicians will jam at the campground into the dark and they welcome others.

The festival brings in close to a thousand people over the weekend, which is good for the county businesses as those people stop to buy gas, food, etc., Taul noted. About 20 local businesses help sponsor the event. Proceeds from the festival go into the band fees and other operable costs. In case of rain, a tent will be set up.

Admission is $5 per day, plus park gate entrance. For more information, go to the website at


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