MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 8, 2014

Honor puts musician in influential company

He follows Wills, Haggard into Western music hall of fame

A Vian native earned a spot with a prestigious list of musicians as a “Hero of Western Swing” and a Western music hall of fame inductee.

“It’s a real honor to be inducted,” Jerald Ritter said. “Down through the years I never thought I would be inducted into something like that.”

Ritter was recently inducted to the Cowtown Society of Western Music Hall of Fame, joining legendary artists such as Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, and Hank Thompson.

The Cowtown Society was formed in 1999 by Gary Beaver and Muskogee native Joyce Miller.

“Each year, we honor persons we believe were instrumental in promoting Western swing music,” Miller said.

The induction ceremony was at Mineral Wells, Texas.

For 16 years, the Cowtown Society has been honoring country artists. Miller said Ritter was chosen for the hall of fame based on his influence on country music.

“He is an outstanding person and a good promoter of Western swing music,” Miller said.

Ritter was inducted along with the other members of the Les Gilliam and the Silver Lake Band. Ritter plays in two other bands, The Timekiller Band and The Ritters.

At age 79, Ritter said he enjoys playing live shows. He plays a fiddle that he built, the mandolin, and rhythm guitar. He also sings.

The multitalented musician grew up in Vian immersed in classic country music. He said he comes from a large musical family. Of 10 siblings, seven grew up to be musicians.

“Country music is what we were raised up on, back in the Grand Ole Opry days,” Ritter said.

He began playing fiddle around the age of 14.

“Hearing people on radio years ago influenced me,” Ritter said.

He gradually started performing in different places and joining different groups.

“I started out playing for pie suppers,” Ritter said.

Lola Ritter said she first met her husband at one of his shows in Porum.

“He was playing for the dance at Porum many years ago,” she said.

The couple married in 1956.

Over the years, Jerald Ritter said his music has progressed, but his strong Western music roots have stuck with him. Ritter played with the Les Gilliam and the Silver Lake Band at the two-day John Wayne Birthday celebration in Iowa at the end of May.

“We played classic country still,” Ritter said.

Ritter plays public shows and private shows with his bands. The TImekiller Band plays on the first and third Saturdays of each month at Showtime at the Falls at Webbers Falls. He said the band is always eager to play.

“We just enjoy playing,” Ritter said. “We’re always there ready.”

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or ehillin@muskogeephoenix.com.  

Meet Jerald Ritter

AGE: 79

HOMETOWN: Vian.

CAREER: Retired from Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

FAMILY: Wife, Lola Ritter; son, Steve Ritter; daughter, Jeri Ritter.

HOBBIES: “I just like to work around the place.” Gardening with wife. Building and repairing fiddles.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Baptist.

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