Two long-time musicians with Antelope County ties were inducted into the 2019 Nebraska Music Hall of Fame on Friday night.
Barb Legate and Bob Wanek took center stage at Divots DeVent Center in Norfolk as they were recognized for their musical contributions.
Legate grew up on a family farm outside of Spalding, and just down the road were the Glaser Brothers, who encouraged her to pursue music. She recorded in a Lincoln studio at age 13 and released her first records. Legate eventually headed to Las Vegas, where she was a featured artist and backup singer for many well-known artists, including Johnny Paycheck. Legate appeared onstage with numerous Opry stars including Bobby Bare, The Louvin Brothers, Leona Williams, Wanda Jackson and more. She starred onstage with her husband Bill Legate, recording “The Life of Riley” and “Two Steps From Heaven” on the Texas Records Label. Legate, who now lives in Norfolk, resided on an Antelope County farm for many years. She and her late husband had seven children — Connie, Billy, Crystal, Jimmy, Cheri and Darren Patzel and Mitchell Legate, both now deceased.
Choking back tears, Legate said being inducted into the Hall of Fame “made it all worthwhile.”
“I took my children with me everywhere I went,” she said. “Sometimes I played seven nights a week and we traveled 10 states. The award should have went back to my children. I decided I wanted to dedicate this award to our icons of American freedom, our veterans, and my children.”
Legate said she now enjoys playing her flat top guitar in nursing homes and she “loves to play for the veterans.”
“I’m trying to give back since there were so many who supported me over the years,” she said. “Not only my children, but the people of Neligh, Elgin and Clearwater who followed our shows from one end of the state to another.”
Legate joins her late husband Bill in the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame, who was inducted in 2000. Their son Billy was inducted into a different Hall of Fame in June — the Nebraska Eight-Man Football Hall of Fame.
“Now we have three Hall of Famers in one family, so I think that’s really cool,” she said.
Wanek, who resides in Neligh with his wife Jordien, said he was born into a musical family who loved to play the piano and sing. He put together his first band as a teenager and began his 50-year music career. Wanek was a member of many bands, including Circle K, The Kvamme Family Band, Rougues Gallery, Double Shot and the Lonesome Walker Band.
“Performing music has always been a major part of my life. You never get it out of your blood,” he said. “It brings people together, at least for a little while, to forget about the weeks behind them and not think about the week ahead.”
Wanek said his Hall of Fame recognition “didn’t sink in at first.”
“It’s really come full circle for me since I’ve been playing in bands for 50 years,” he said. “For that to happen in my 50th anniversary year is pretty special for me.”
Wanek said Friday night’s event was special in another way.
“It was a really nice night because I never got to mix and mingle with people while I was playing,” he said. “And I normally don’t get to see other bands because I’m working at the same time.”
Other Friday night inductees were Judi Letheby and Jerry Stingley. Mike Brownson, John Carlotto, Web of Sound and Stormin’ Normans were inducted on Saturday night.
Wanek said each artist was invited to play several songs.
“I’ve always been an advocate for local music. It’s so important to our heritage,” he said.
That’s exactly why Jim Casey said he started the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame 26 years ago.
“Jim Casey is an icon of country and rock ‘n roll,” Legate said. “I would like to thank him for all he has done. He has helped hundreds of musicians over the years — I am one of them.”