News Column

Exile entertains SomerSport Park crowd

June 10, 2014

By Chris Harris, Commonwealth Journal, Somerset, Ky.

June 10--SOMERSET -- Marlon Dale Hargis is used to his fingers touching keys -- as in, what he plays on the keyboard.

It's only fitting then that he became the first person to hold in his hands a key to the City of Somerset awarded by Mayor Eddie Girdler.

Hargis was recognized along with the rest of the rock-country band he belongs to, Exile, by the city in a special ceremony Saturday at SomerSport Park, followed by one of very few concerts the band has performed in Somerset since the 1960s.

"Marlon (said in a recent interview that) he'd never received a key to the city, never received a lot of the acknowledgments some of the other members of Exile have received from their hometowns," said emcee John Alexander at the event. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, tonight, we're going to take care of that."

Exile capped off a day spent in perfect weather at the lush, green park facilities, with additional performances by guest artists Cindy Standage, a country singer, and rock 'n roll cover band The Devonshires.

George Wilson, Economic Development Director for the City of Somerset, told of reading the article in the Commonwealth Journal's "Southern Kentucky Health & Family" magazine with Hargis and feeling like it was indeed time the town did something to honor Hargis, a Pulaski County High School graduate, who has been with Exile for the bulk of their more than 50 year span of success.

"I told the mayor, 'We've got one of our own and we've never reached out to him to tell him what a great job he did.' The mayor said, 'Well, we're really waiting to see if he proved himself,'" Wilson joked. "You know what? I think he has."

Exile formed in 1963, originally known as The Exiles, with many members from Madison County. In the days before their many radio hits, including the smash no. 1 single "Kiss You All Over" in 1978, the band played many gigs here in Somerset.

"I remember growing up, my father ran the armory, and Exile would play over at the armory -- probably the worst venue you'd ever play in your life," quipped Wilson, as a nostalgic voice from the crowd could be heard to say "one of the best" in response. "We lived on Maple Street. I could be down to the Hotel Beecher (to hear the Exiles play) in four seconds ... and get home before I'd get in trouble."

In addition to the key to the city, Somerset City Councilor Jerry Wheeldon gave Hargis a plaque recognizing him as a "Somerset Colonel," a mark of distinction in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and Cindy Clouse, Director of Advancement for Somerset Community College, announced the $500 scholarship to be awarded each fall in the name of Marlon Hargis to an Associates of Arts Degree student at SCC.

"We're excited to be able to give this scholarship (in honor of) a legend ... in this community," she said. "I found out right before that he was an alum of SCC as well, so that makes it even more special."

Girdler also announced that the concert would be the first of a series to be held at SomerSport in months and years to come at the new venue.

Hargis spoke briefly and thanked a number of possible who helped him get where he is today, including former Exile manager Gilbert Muncy -- who told the band after their first paying gig, "You're now professional musicians. Always act like a professional"; "I always remembered that," said Hargis -- and his music teacher at Pulaski County High School Thelma Harris -- "She was great to me and encouraged me to play what I wanted. If it wasn't for Thelma, I wouldn't be in music."

He also thanked his older brother Ivan ("He was very much responsible for getting me into the music"), friends from a fellow rock band from the old days, the Savages, and in particular thanked Wilson and Leslie Ikerd, City of Somerset Associate Community Planner.

"I hope we've always represented Somerset and all the other towns around, and represented Kentucky," said Hargis at the event, "because we're all Kentuckians, we always brag about being from Kentucky, and we always will be proud to be Kentuckians."

Following the event, Hargis told the Commonwealth Journal how much he appreciated what the city had done for him and the band.

"I was actually -- I don't know if I'd use the word 'touched,' maybe so -- pleasant surprised by how much effort had gone into (the event Saturday) and the trouble people went to," said Hargis.

"And everyone's attitude," he added. "Forget all that stuff (in the magazine interview) about it taking a while. It doesn't matter in the long run."

Hargis said he was happy to see old friends and get to play with the band in Somerset again, though in many ways, it felt as natural as just another gig, which he performs on the regular with Exile to this day (visit www.exile.biz for more information about the band's schedule).

"We work together almost every week ... We're together not as much as in the old days, but together as much as we want to be," he said, noting that much of the band's time is devoted to family life now. "We don't want to be away from home weeks at a time. We tour two or three days on a weekend, maybe a weekday, and then be home during the week."

In fact, Hargis' daughter Cressa is having his first grandchild, a boy, very soon and was unable to make it to the Somerset performance, he announced at the event, much to the delight of the crowd.

Hargis said on Monday that he already has his plaques from the recognition up on the wall at his Nashville, Tenn., home, and continues to think about his appreciation for Saturday's tribute to one of the town's musical heroes -- a man who showed, as the event's organizers put it, that you can be from Somerset and still make it big in the music industry.

"The mayor's office did a great job," said Hargis. "I want to thank everybody for their role in it. It was great."

Said Girdler at the concert, "(Hargis) went through the '60s and '70s, both national and international, and did a great job. He's a survivor. ... If he had the technology they have today, and the marketing and those things, he'd probably, rather than being in Nashville, he'd be in New York City or Paris, France, or somewhere. But we're glad he came back to Somerset."

Chris Harris is a staff writer for the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at charris@somerset-kentucky.com.

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(c)2014 the Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, Ky.)

Visit the Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, Ky.) at somerset-kentucky.com

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Source: Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, KY)


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