NASHVILLE, Tennessee - On a Sunday night that was years in the making, Brenda Lee and Ray Stevens were honored with the Cecil Scaife Visionary Award which raises money for the Cecil Scaife Endowment at the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University.
This event, fittingly held at Ray Stevens CabaRay was in the planning stages before the pandemic and finally came to fruition on December 4th, 2022. The caveat was that Brenda Lee thought the award was going to long-time colleague Ray Stevens while Stevens thought the award was going to Lee.
Both were taken aback as they each went on stage with an award to present.
Nashville gentry was there to help celebrate as performances were given by Mandy Barnett, Charlie McCoy, Ricky Skaggs, Lang Scott, Jeannie Seely, and the McCrary Sisters who sang the honorees’ hit songs.
Mike Curb gave a big shout-out via video to the “King and Queen” of Nashville, Brenda Lee, and Ray Stevens.
“They are in their 8th decade of performing and they look and sound so great. So much talent!” Curb emphasized.
He continued by thanking everyone for participating in this wonderful scholarship opportunity.
Other celebrities who paid tribute to Stevens and Lee via video included Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Tricia Yearwood, Mike Huckabee, and Steve Wariner.
Cecil Scaife’s daughter, LaRawn Scaife Rhea, was a cohost of the event as she thanked the audience for their support of the endowment fund. She along with Senator Marsha Blackburn were on stage as Ray and Lee presented each other with an award.
Lee queried, “Why am I getting an award? This is your night. Is this one of those TV shows where you’re spoofed?”
Ray assured her it was her night as well.
Both Lee and Ray hail from rural Georgia and have been friends for years. They also cite Cecil Scaife as someone who greatly influenced their careers.
Lee told Scaife-Rhea, “I loved your daddy dearly. And this is such a pleasure to be here and accept this with you.”
Lee also praised Ray for “giving himself to this industry.”
The most heartfelt tribute of the evening came from Pam Tillis where she spoke of growing up alongside Ray’s daughter, Susie Ragsdale. She also praised Ray for his vision of the music industry in Nashville.
Tillis then recalled that Lee’s mother, Grace Tarpley, used to babysit her and her siblings and remembers a home video of Brenda Lee doing the twist at her sweet sixteen party along with a movie from Lee’s wedding. Pam Tillis’ dad, Mel Tillis, also wrote Brenda’s number one hit, “Emotion.”
She concluded by stating that Lee and Ray are the “bricks and mortar of this town” and have given their talents and themselves so selflessly as they brought “true joy to the world.”
The Cecil Scaife Visionary Award is given annually to an individual whose life and work have made it possible for future generations to realize careers in the music industry. That is why this scholarship/endowment is critical to the lifeblood of Music City.
Past recipients include Mike Curb, Tony Brown, Wynonna Judd, David Briggs, Norbert Putman, Amy Grant, Jo Walker-Meador, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, and Harold Bradley.
The evening ended as the artists and audience participated in a rousing rendition of Lee’s renowned “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” It was a true delight to celebrate Brenda Lee and Ray Stevens as money was raised for Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business via the Cecil Scaife Endowment Scholarship.
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Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. You can follow her blog, Instagram, and Twitter.
All photos courtesy Eli Greiss.