Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts on the Country Music Hall of Fame

Before the month of February is complete, the Country Music Hall of Fame will probably announce their 2011 class of inductees. The ballots went out toward the end of last year and the voting should be complete.

I just wanted to take a quick look at the 3 categories for this year and offer some observations on who might be up for induction in these categories. Some of this is just based on my opinion and some is based on what I have heard.

Veterans Category:

Could this be the year that the Wilburn Brothers finally get in? They have been talked about for several years, and as many of their contemporaries have been elected, maybe it is their turn. They had solid careers, but the one negative is that the reportedly were not the most well liked people in Nashville. I know that should not be a consideration, but it kept Faron Young and Webb Pierce out until after they died.

How about Archie Campbell? He was a good one. Comedians have been elected to the Hall of Fame and Archie was not only a great Opry star, but he was a star of Hee Haw, and one of the show's main writers.

Jean Shepard should have been elected years ago. No excuse for her not getting in. In this category, I would say that Jean is probably the only female from her generation that has not been elected, and she should be.

Bobby Bare had a great career, and it was a career that was very similar to Tom T. Hall, Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Jimmy Dean, and they are all in. So will Bobby some day, and maybe this will be the year.

My final choice from this category would be The Browns. The hits are enormous and, quite honestly, Jim Ed should be elected on his own merits.

If I was a voter, my choices, in order, would be Jean Shepard, Bobby Bare, The Browns, Wilburn Brothers and Archie Campbell.

Modern Category:

This is always the one with the most competition because it includes those from back in the 1970's right up to today. There are many worth candidates who should be elected, and I am sure will be soon. Some of the top choices would be:

Connie Smith could fall into either the modern or the veterans category. Many call he the sweetest voice in country music. It does not hurt that she is married to Marty Stuart, who is very influential with the Hall of Fame. She cut he career short to raise her family, and that might be the only thing holding her back.

Reba McEntire is eligible and it is just a matter of time until she gets in. No question on her. But it seems like after Vince Gill got voted in, the voters have gone back further in time in this category, electing Emmylou, Dan Williams and Barbara Mandrell, all older artists.

Ray Stevens is one of the great songwriters and performers from his generation.

Now that the Statler Brothers are in, are the Oak Ridge Boys far behind? I don't think so. They deserve it and should get it. And, they are still active today.

A lot of people think Kenny Rogers will get in soon. How soon, I do not know. He was a leading hit maker in the 1970's and 80's. Of course, that was about 3 faces ago!!! He also expanded his career with his acting, much like Johnny Cash.

I am sorry to say that Ronnie Milsap will never see his plague in the Hall of Fame, but it will be there some day. And, it should be. What a talent and what a story he tells.

Randy Travis is eligible, and you never know with the voters. He might make it, but probably not for a few years.

And of course you have Hank Williams, Jr. Enough said.

Finally, Ricky Skaggs. He brought country music back in the 1980's, but his turn to bluegrass might hurt him with traditional voters. And like the Wilburn Brothers, there have been times that he has not been the nicest person in Nashville.

My votes, in order, would go to Hank Williams, Jr, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Milsap, Connie Smith and Reba McEntire, in that order.

This years final category is the non-performer. I would have to go with the late author, Charles Wolfe. His book, "A Good-Natured Riot" is a must read for the early history of the Opry. He has written many more books and his writing his missed since his death. But, it will probably go to some CMA or other Nashville executive that really hasn't done anything to add to the music.

That is just my opinion, based on nothing more than that. Like everyone else, I will be waiting to see what happens when the vote totals are released, possibly next week.

32 comments:

  1. I'm a big Ray Stevens fan and it will never really make any sense to me as to why he's not in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    Some may argue that his biggest hits were on the Hot 100 pop chart in the '60s and '70s but yet he's been marketed strictly country since the late '70s...and all of those years since as a "country comedian".

    He's sold millions of albums and singles...and home videos...and his current music videos on You Tube rake in the hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions, of plays and for some on a voting board that may suggest he lacks "impact" must not know what they're talking about or hadn't really looked at his stats.

    He's in other Halls of Fame such as the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Christian Music Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame...but yet can't get any support for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    I also feel that at some point John Conlee should be in the Hall of Fame...as well as Jerry Reed, too.

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  2. You are right about Ray. He should be in and I am sure someday he will be. In re-reading my post, I forgot one other great performer from the 1960's into the 80's and that was Dottie West. Great run of single hits and then the duets with Kenny Rogers.

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  3. One of the problems for Ray is the same problem that Archie Campbell faced: they were slow to recognize comedy. Minnie Pearl took until 1975 to make it, and she lobbied Rod Brasfield into the Hall in '88, while Whitey Ford, after a 60-year career, finally got in two years before that. If you think of acts that incorporated comedy or were known for it, Mel Tillis and Roy Clark seemed to have to wait an awfully long time.

    I can't dispute any of the choices, though I do put Ricky Skaggs ahead of Hank Williams, Jr. Hank Jr. was part of a group that had a big impact but it seemed to me that Ricky almost singlehandedly brought real country music back to life in the early 1980s, though I may give him too much credit. But he also did a lot to make bluegrass more commercial and popular.

    Charles Wolfe is a GREAT choice. I'll throw one in, too: Vito Pelletieri. He was the stage manager for the Opry for more than 40 years and really ran that show. He was responsible for dividing it into the sponsored segments. And those who were around back when he was there have said that his was a tremendous loss because he was involved in the production and made them better. Bill Anderson once said something like, he was the dirtiest, most profane old man I've ever known, and I say that with more love and affection than you can imagine. But another artist said, the quality of the show declined when Vito died because he used to kick them in the butt to make them better.

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  4. Warning: Long Post in several parts follows. May induce drowsiness. Sorry about that!

    I believe the third category this year will be the “Songwriter” category…which has been part of the “Non-Performer” or “Open” group in the past but was created in 2009 as one of three “Rotating” categories, the others being “Non-Performer” and “Recording and/or Touring Musician”. This year will be the first year that someone will be elected in that “Songwriter” category.
    As a result, my pick is going to have to be Hank Cochran, one of the “godfathers” of the Nashville songwriting community. He just recently passed away which may give in a sentimental bump but if you take a look at his catalog, it really stands on its own. Harlan Howard once said that every time he and Hank got a divorce they made a fortune because it always resulted in a hit song. If the only two songs he had ever written were “I Fall to Pieces” and “Make The World Go Away” his place in country music history would have been secure but he also gave us “She’s Got You”, “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)”, “Ocean Front Property”, “The Chair”, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me”, “A Little Bitty Tear”, “This Ain’t My First Rodeo”, “A-11”, “That’s All That Matters To Me”, “Funny Way of Laughing”, “Set ‘Em Up Joe”, “Don’t Touch Me”, “You Comb Her Hair”, “Right In The Wrong Direction”, and “Why Can’t He Be You”.
    He was married to Jeannie Seely (no slouch herself in the songwriting department) for many years and gave us one of my favorite stories…whether it’s true or not is a matter of speculation…when, after an all-night party and not wanting to drive home in an impaired condition, the two of them flagged down an Opry sightseeing bus…knowing that the tour busses passed by their home every day…and rode it home! I tend to believe the story myself since there was no shortage of characters (Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis, et al) writing songs in Nashville in the 60’s.
    Having so said, there are arguments to be made for several other writers. Bob McDill is a name that most people probably wouldn’t recognize but see if any of these McDill songs ring a bell: “Amanda”, “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”, “Song of the South”, “Louisiana Saturday Night”, “Good Ole Boys Like Me”, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful”, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “Gone Country”, “Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold”, “Say It Again”, “She Never Knew Me”, “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer”, “Overnight Sensation”, “The Door Is Always Open”, “You Never Miss A Real Good Thing”, “I’ll Do It All Over Again”, “Catfish John”, “I’ve Never Seen The Likes of You”, “Nobody Likes Sad Songs”, “Come Early Morning”, “Falling Again”, “Turn Out The Light and Love Me Tonight”, “It Must Be Love”, “Rake and Ramblin’ Man”, “If Hollywood Don’t Need You”, “Why Don’t You Spend the Night”, “A Woman In Love”, “We Believe In Happy Endings”, or “Black Sheep”. Many of those were big hits for Don Williams so I don’t think it’s stretching the argument too far to say that if it weren’t for Bob McDill, Don Williams might not have a place in the Hall today.
    Another writer on the very short list would have to be Curly Putman, author of standards like “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” as well as what may be the greatest country song ever written, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. He wrote Dolly Parton’s first hit, “Dumb Blonde” and also penned “My Elusive Dreams”, “I Think I Know”, “Blood Red and Going Down”, “War Is Hell On the Home Front, Too” and “It’s A Cheating Situation”.

    Part 2 will follow shortly.

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  5. Part 2: Songwriters Continued

    Dallas Frazier is another writer who will be in the Hall one day on the strength of his output alone. He wrote many of Connie Smith’s hits including “Run Away Little Tears”, and “Ain’t Had No Lovin’”, Jack Greene’s signature song, “There Goes My Everything” and the monster hit by the Oak Ridge Boys, “Elvira”. His catalog also includes “Alley Oop”, “Mohair Sam”, “If My Heart Had Windows”, “Johnny One-Time”, “Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp”, “All I Have To Offer You Is Me”, “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”, “Fourteen Carat Mind”, “What’s Your Mama’s Name, Child?” and “Beneath Still Waters”.

    John D. Loudermilk is another prolific writer who has had a formidable impact on country music with “Abilene”, “A Rose and A Baby Ruth”, “Waterloo”, “Tobacco Road”, “Norman”, Talk Back Trembling Lips”, Bad News”, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”, “Indian Reservation”, “Break My Mind”, “Blue Train (of the Heartbreak Line)”, “Ebony Eyes” and “It’s My Time”. His songs have been hits for Lou Rawls, The Lennon Sisters, Connie Francis, Ricky Nelson and The Casinos so his influence has also exceeded the boundaries of the country music community.

    Dicky Lee has had a number of hit records on his own but he’s a prolific songwriter going way back. “She Thinks I Still Care”, “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together”, “Keeper of the Stars”, “9,999,999 Tears”, “I’ll Be Leaving Alone”, “The Door Is Always Open”, and the classic “Never Ending Song of Love” have all come from his pen and he has also worked in numerous collaborations with Bob McDill.

    Part 3 is on the way.

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  6. Songwriters, Part 3:

    Don Schlitz is another prolific writer who belongs in the Hall one day. “The Gambler” is probably one of the best-selling records of all time and there probably isn’t another writer who had more number one hits in the 80’s than he did. He wrote many of Randy Travis’ hits including “On The Other Hand”, “Deeper Than the Holler”, and “Forever and Ever, Amen”. The Judds had hits with “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain”, “I Know Where I’m Going”, and “Turn It Loose”. “Forty Hour Week”, “I Feel Lucky”, “Old School”, “Houston Solution”, “Give Me Wings”, “I Watched It All on My Radio”, “One Promise Too Late”, “Strong Enough To Bend”, “Learning To Live Again”, and my favorite Kenny Rogers song, “The Greatest” all came from Don Schlitz.
    Bobby Braddock also makes my short list as the writer (or co-writer) of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E", "Did You Ever",
    "Golden Ring", "Her Name Is...", "Thinkin' of a Rendezvous", "Womanhood", “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, "They Call It Making Love", "Fadin' In, Fadin' Out", "Something to Brag About", "Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Bad as Losing You))…one of the funniest songs ever written, "I Believe the South Is Gonna Rise Again", “Come On In", "Ruthless", "Peanuts and Diamonds", "Texas Tornado", and "I Wanna Talk About Me".

    You could also make arguments for Albert E. Brumley (one of the most prolific gospel songwriters of all time who wrote “Turn Your Radio On” and “Rank Strangers”), Ted Daffan (“Born To Lose” and “Tangled Mind”), Mac Davis (“In The Ghetto”, “Don’t Get Hooked On Me”), Woody Guthrie (for his catalog of popular folk songs…both original compositions and public domain songs that he made popular), Mickey Newbury (“American Trilogy” and “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye”), Shel Silverstein (“A Boy Named Sue”, “Marie Laveau”, and “Queen of the Silver Dollar” among others as well an outstanding author of children’s books), Joe South (“Rose Garden” and “Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Hole”), Wayne Walker (“All The Time” and “Are You Sincere”), and Billy Edd Wheeler (“Jackson”, “Coward of the County” and the classic “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back”) in this category. There are just a LOT of talented writers who deserve recognition in the Hall of Fame and, according to the current election guidelines, one will be inducted in this category every third year.

    Up next: Thoughts on the "Modern Era"

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  7. Barry, I think you are right (as you usually are). I think I was looking at the wrong year as far as the category was concerned, and of course, with Billy Sherrill getting elected last year, that would be right.

    I can't disagree with you regarding any of the songwriters listed. There are so many great ones, and that is what happens when so few are elected. And songwriters deserve a place in the Hall of Fame. And, there are many that should be joining Harlan Howard and Cindy Walker, among others.

    I like the choice of Hank Cochran. And you are right, with him recently dieing, that will probably increase those chances. Dallas Frazier would be another great one. In fact, all of those listed would be great, including Johnny Russell. He did have his far share of songs.

    No Barry, I am not drowsy yet, and I look forward for your further opinions on the "Modern Era"

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  8. Part 4: The Modern Era Category

    Moving on…in the performing categories I think a variety of factors need to be taken into consideration for induction into the Hall other than hit records...unless, of course, that the number of hits has just been extraordinary over a long career. I think that if you look at the list of inductees into the Hall you’ll find that their resume also includes a much broader scope of influence (recording, writing, business, radio, television and film, philanthropy, others whose careers they helped launch, etc.). The top three on my list in the “Modern Era” category, in order, are The Oak Ridge Boys (Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban and Joe Bonsall), Ronnie Milsap and Reba McEntire. Although I think Reba has more points as a business woman, actress, philanthropist and as one who has pushed the boundaries of both recorded music and live concerts), the Oak Ridge Boys have been on the country music scene in one form or another for many more years and have consistently turned out hit records and sold out concert halls and continue to do so today. Ronnie Milsap has been a consistent hitmaker since he arrived on the scene in the early 70’s. In fact, one of the first concerts I worked as a teenage “gopher” had Ronnie Milsap headlining and Reba McEntire as his opening act (prior to her first number one record).

    Others on the short list in this category would be Hank Williams, Jr., (a larger-than-life figure who just barely misses my top 3…but not by much), Ricky Skaggs, Kenny Rogers, Larry Gatlin (who could also be included in the songwriter category although some of the raw nerves he touched early in his career will probably keep him out for a while longer) and Eddie Rabbitt (who is virtually forgotten since his untimely passing but who wrote and recorded some of the biggest selling hits of the 80’s and was also a consistent concert draw). Dottie West, Bobby Bare and Jerry Reed would also fit in this category as well as the “Veteran Era”…and Jerry Reed could even be included in either the “Songwriter” or “Musician” categories. Dottie West really had two careers, her “Country Girl” era and her modern era (including her hits with Kenny Rogers) and she was also responsible for launching the careers of Larry Gatlin and Steve Wariner.

    On a side note, according to the CMA’s eligibility rules, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Clint Black, and Alan Jackson are eligible for election this year. Although I like Garth Brooks as an artist, I hope the CMA doesn’t make the mistake of putting him in ahead of the others that have paid their dues...and have kept working without taking a decade long “retirement”. He will be there some day…record sales alone will ensure that…but Garth is on my “ugly list” for what I call the “Rock-N-Rolling of Country Music”. Keep in mind that I am a lighting and production designer by trade and I make my living by creating wild and crazy rock and roll lighting shows. But, while Garth certainly helped in the evolution of concert production values, he also made his shows such over the top rock events that now, EVERYBODY thinks they have to have rock and roll lighting and sound…including the Opry. And, in fact, thanks to people like Garth, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban, modern country music has become rock and roll with a cowboy hat and a fiddle. Even at the Opry I’m more likely to see The Doobie Brothers or Elvis Costello than I am Loretta Lynn or George Jones. Call me old-fashioned. Call me an old coot. But that’s my pet peeve and I’m entitled to it! LOL

    More diatribe is on the way. Hope I'm not killing you, Byron!

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  9. Moving on to the “Veterans Era” category, I hope this is the year for The Wilburn Brothers. People tend to forget that they were more than just a popular Opry act. Although they never had a number one record, they turned out consistently good music and appeared in the Top 10 twelve times. Their Sure-Fire publishing house and Wil-Helm Talent Agency were two of the most successful businesses in the country music community. Their syndicated television show ran for 11 years and they are generally credited with helping to launch the careers of Loretta Lynn and Patty Loveless. According to my “scope” criteria they should have been in the Hall long ago, but since Doyle passed away nearly 30 years ago and Teddy more or less retired from recording they’ve lost much of their recognition factor. Hopefully that will change this year.
    I think Jean Shepard is long overdue for recognition for her role as a pioneer among female singers. Kitty Wells was the predominant female of that era but Jean opened a lot of doors…actually, more like kicked in a lot of doors…for the women who followed her. Her career has lasted a remarkable 5 decades and counting and, although it’s been said that her outspokenness has hindered her somewhat, I find her voice and her attitude to be refreshing and think that she deserves her place right up there with Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.
    The Stanley Brothers have been an influence on countless performers (Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley being the most prominent) but their style of music was all their own. I really feel like they are the third side of a “fathers of Bluegrass triangle” with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs being the other two sides. Country music consists of so many roots and branches. Bluegrass is probably the most prominent branch of that tree and The Stanley Brothers are certainly two if it’s founding roots.
    Going a little deeper, how about The Maddox Brothers and Rose…certainly one of the most popular acts on the west coast during the 30’s and 40’s. Rose Maddox continued to influence female singers right up until her passing a few years ago and they were among the first purveyors of outlandish stage costumes…Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagoner might not have been so colorful if not for The Maddox Brothers and Rose, aka “The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band In The Land”.
    Bradley Kincaid is another name that is practically forgotten today but he was one of the most influential recording artists to come out of Ohio and Kentucky in the 30’s and 40’s. A prominent member of the National Barn Dance in Chicago he also worked in Boston where he discovered Grandpa Jones. Merle Travis and The Delmore Brothers were all protégés of Bradley Kincaid in one way or another. His “My Favorite Mountain Ballads” songbook was one of the first mail order successes and it’s said that he had one of the largest repertoires of anybody. More than anyone of his era, he helped keep many of the old-time folk songs before the public, much the same as Grandpa Jones did in later years.
    There are others on my veteran’s list who are deserving of recognition in the Hall. The Osborne Brothers, The Browns, Martha Carson, Elton Britt, Ted Daffan, Wanda Jackson, and even Jimmy Martin. Yes, he had a big mouth and he rubbed just about everybody the wrong way but you can’t dismiss his body of work or his introduction of that “high lonesome sound” to bluegrass and country music. Dottie West, Bobby Bare and Jerry Reed could also be included in this category. And Archie Campbell certainly meets the criteria for induction as does Connie Smith (although her early departure from the recording scene in the mid-70’s may work against her but Eddie Stubbs hits it squarely on the head when he calls here the “Rolls Royce of the Female Country Singers”).

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  10. Next year I believe it will be the “Recording and/or Touring Musician” in the rotating category…and that list is practically endless. Boots Randolph, Ray Stevens or Jerry Reed certainly deserve a place in the Hall but the guys who plugged in the studio day in and day out without any name recognition (known collectively as “The A-Team”) are the real heroes on this category: Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Ray Edenton, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman, “Pig” Robbins, Tommy Jackson, Pete Drake, Junior Huskey, and the list goes on. Buddy Emmons and Shot Jackson certainly had a great influence as both musicians and builders of steel guitars. When talking about great steel players you can’t leave out Weldon Myrick or Hal Rugg. Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher and Vassar Clements are among the kings of the fiddle players. When you think about Ernest Tubb can you NOT think of Billy Byrd or Leon Rhodes? And, I can’t think of another touring musician that has been as identifiable and crucial to the music of a single artist as Bashful Brother Oswald (Pete Kirby) although you might make an argument for the members of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys (Don Helms, Jerry Rivers, Howard “Cedric Rainwater” Watts, and Hillous Buttram).

    Another important group of musicians were the members of the Anita Kerr Singers (usually Anita Kerr, Dottie Dillard, Louis Nunley and Gil Wright). Along with The Jordanaires they appeared on just about every major hit coming out of Music Row in the 50’s and 60’s and were certainly a big part of the studio scene in that era, not just in Nashville but on the West Coast as well.

    And, finally (I’m sure you’re glad), the “Non-Performer” category. The great producers (Owen Bradley, Don Law, etc.), businessmen and women (Joe Frank, Frances Preston, Hubert Long) and radio personalities (George D. Hay and Grant Turner) all fit under the umbrella of this category and among the record producers I think Fred Foster has been one of the most influential, and yet underappreciated, producers in Nashville. As head of Monument Records he was the first to sign a young woman from East Tennessee named Dolly Parton to a recording contract. If he hadn’t allowed her to leave and move over to RCA in the late 60’s he might have had greater name recognition outside of the Nashville music community.
    The late Buddy Killen was certainly one of the most successful music publishers of all time as president of Tree Tree International. He was also a well-respected restauranteur as owner of The Stockyard in Nashville (“Where The Stars Meet To Eat”) as well as a producer of hits for T.G. Sheppard, Dottie West, Roger Miller and Ronnie McDowell and, in his later years, his Killen Music Group published the rap duo OutKast. He was certainly one of the most popular and well-respected members of the Nashville business community and even has a street named for him (Buddy Killen Circle) at the edge of Music Row.

    Irving Waugh is another name that is less familiar to country music fans but the veteran broadcaster and television pioneer was largely responsible for bringing country music to a national radio and television audience. He was among the founders of the Grand Ole Opry Birthday Celebration, the annual Disc Jockey Convention, Country Music Month , the Country Music Association and later, Fan Fair. In 1955 he sold the Ralston-Purina Company a series of one-hour Grand Ole Opry television specials which were broadcast on ABC, which brought the Opry to a national TV audience for the first time. Later, he helped secure Kraft’s sponsorship of the first televised CMA Awards…a partnership that would continue for 20 years. As president of WSM in 1968, he began the planning for the design of the Grand Ole Opry House, the Opryland theme park and the Opryland Hotel.

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  11. The last one...I promise.

    Those are the names I think are most likely to be elected in the coming years but allow me to think outside of the box for a moment…some will say WAY outside of the box.

    I like the idea of electing Charles Wolfe to the Hall of Fame. He has been one of the most prolific writers on the subject of country music. But before him was Bill Malone. Malone’s “Country Music USA” was first published in 1968 and is widely considered to be the definitive history of country music (or at the first…a lot of great books have come out since that time). A revised edition covering the period from 1985 to 2000 was published in 2002. I worked at the Hall of Fame very briefly in the 80's and the Malone book was required reading for all of the guides which says something about it.

    Vito Pellettieri is another name that is largely forgotten by all but the old-time Opry fans. I’m not that old but I can still remember seeing him sitting on the stage in his wheelchair, running things as he had for years, in the late 70’s prior to his passing. Until he came into the picture, the Opry was, as Charles Wolfe puts it, “a good natured riot”. His format of dividing the Opry into sponsored segments has remained virtually unchanged for decades and he was an important part of the show’s history.

    And, if you want to take the “non-performing” category way out there, how about this: How would the stars get from town to town, night after night if it weren’t for bus drivers. And who was the granddaddy of the country music bus drivers? None other than Hoot Borden, who drove for Ernest Tubb and who was as famous as any of the Texas Troubadours. After ET passed away, Hoot continued to drive busses and later became known as the “King of the Rock and Roll Bus Drivers” taking everyone from Michael Jackson to ZZ Top from town to town. Hoot was an original and if the real backstage personnel are ever honored in the Hall, he should be the first.

    There are others on my list…John Lair, Hap Peebles, Carlton Haney, Eli Oberstein, Hairl Hensley…but I’ve rambled on too long. I’m interested to know what other people think of my opinions (which are completely my own and the product of a lot of study, a smidgen of ignorance and the occasional wild-haired whim).

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  12. Barry, no drowsiness here--a great series of posts. There are so many different ways to approach who should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I'm not convinced that anybody or everybody listed would have qualified when the field was wide open, but now that they have divided it up into categories, many of those you mention are incredibly deserving. Alan Lomax could be added for drawing attention to bluegrass. Louise Scruggs could be considered for her role in the business side. Hal Durham merits consideration. The voters can't really go wrong, but they also can't go right.

    What worries me, and always has bothered me, is the politics. I mentioned Minnie Pearl lobbying for Rod Brasfield. He was deserving, but I thought she was wrong. Webb Pierce didn't get in while he was alive because he angered so many during his career. Grandpa Jones went in ahead of Hank Snow, and I just marvel at that one.

    Another thing that worries me is something referred to above: the easy mark. Garth Brooks? No. Not yet. Now, Johnny Cash and Eddy Arnold both were younger than Garth when they went in, and if I were campaigning for Garth, I could make an argument that he fits that profile. But I didn't think THEY should have gone in so soon! Then I think of Marty Robbins saying he could think of people who were much more deserving but he was going to take it, and he died two months later--and the next year, Jimmy Dickens got in, and it's hard to figure out why the guy who discovered Marty went in after him, you know?

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  13. Barry, thanks for the great posts. Fantastic job as always. Now, just for my comments, you did strike a nerve with me when you mentioned Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. Not that they should not be considered, but the age of these entertainers and the fact that I feel that if they were elected now, it would be too soon and ahead of more deserving and older candidates.

    While I believe that almost everyone who is in the Country Music Hall of Fame, several did get in too early. Johnny Cash was 48, when elected, as was Eddy Arnold and Vince Gill was 50. Chet Atkins was also 48 when elected, but I give him a pass as it was thought that he was going to die from cancer and there was the sentiment to get him elected before he did. But, as Chet used to joke, he did get better and recover.

    Garth Brooks and Clint Black are each 49, Alan Jackson and Randy Travis are 52, and Reba is even 56.

    In the voting, I think 2 mistakes that the voters made was electing Johnny Cash in 1980, not that he would not have gotten in eventually, but there were so many more deserving artists who got in after he did that should have been elected before him, and Vince Gill, again, getting in way too early. But I think in Vince's case, there was some confusion over the new "modern" category, and a perception to elect younger stars. If you notice after Vince, the voters have backed away and have elected artists from the 1970's and 1980's in that category. Of course, Vince is very popular and politically connected in the music industry, so I am sure that played a role.

    Garth, Alan, Randy and Clint would all be of the age that some of the artists have been inducted, but I am afraid that if the voters decide to start electing the artists that became popular in the 1980's and into the 90's, they would be turning their back on the artists that deserve to get in from the generation before Garth, and those artists might end up waiting a long time to get in. Just look at how long Ferlin Husky and Jimmy Dean had to wait.

    Looking at the "veteran" category, should the Wilburn Brothers get in this year, or should the voters elect an artist who is still living, so that they can have the honor while still alive? If I had a vote, I would elect the artist that is still alive, such as Jean Shepard. Why the voters don't put her in, I would like to know. Of course, these are the same voters who elected Phil and Don, the Everly Brothers.

    Finally, Barry, you mentioned Larry Gatlin. Yes, he would be a good one for eventual induction. I put him in the same class as a Steve Wariner. Both similiar. And, in naming other names of potential Hall of Famers, how about Charlie Daniels and Tanya Tucker.

    We could go on and on. The one thing for certain is that there is no shortage of candidates.

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  14. Well, I am late to the discussion and you guys have pretty much covered it all. I would elect in the Veterans category Jim Ed Brown and the Browns over Jean Shepard. It is hard to argue with what Jim Ed Brown has accomplished in the Browns, solo, and with Helen Cornelius.

    In the modern era, Ronnie Milsap over the others. What he achieved is remarkable. Hank Jr. would probably be my second choice.

    I would agree that the Oaks have got to be in somewhere at some point in the near future.

    Finally, I don't believe he has been mentioned, but I would throw Bill Mack out there. He has written songs, "Blue, Drinking Champaigne, etc. and done some performing so he might not qualify in the non-performer category. But he goes way back in radio on WBAP, has really been involved in the Texas music scene and IMHO should be the next country DJ into the Hall of Fame following Grant Turner and Ralph Emery. He still hosts a daily show on Sirius XM. An interesting story he told this week on his show,was that he could have had the job at WSM that Ralph Emery got but elected to stay in Texas. He said he kind of regretted that decision a little. Thought that was interesting.

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  15. The political nature of the selection process is painfully evident when you consider Jean Shepherd's continued exclusion. If anyone deserves election it's her. I strongly second Charles Wolfe being considered too.

    I think Sam & Kirk MeGee should be given serious consideration. Their sustained contributions to the Opry alone deserve merit - also Sam's pioneering guitar work deserves recognition.

    I'm struck by the fact that Vern Gosdin is not mentioned in this discussion. He'd get my vote anytime.

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  16. You are right that there is so much politics in the election. Sorry to say that is nothing new. You can go through the entire history of the Hall of Fame and see how evident it is.

    Another good example is Tex Ritter. Nothing against Tex. He was a great one. But, Tex getting in ahead of Ernest Tubb, who had to wait an additional year. Of course, Tex was a big part of the Country Music Association, so I am sure that helped his cause a lot.

    And when Johnny Cash started to make comments to the press and on his television show about the Carter Family not being in the Hall, they got elected pretty quick. Of course, the Carters should have been in from the beginning.

    And, as already been stated, you have Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash himself, Vince Gill getting in early and Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Don Gibson and Waylon Jennings having to wait to get in because of they way the acted toward the music industry executives.

    It goes on and on.....

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  17. I'll never forget Faron co-hosting a TNN show and telling Jeannie Seely he didn't want to be in the Hall of Fame if he couldn't get in while he was alive. Under the old system, it was harder to get in for some, easier for others. But I miss the old way of announcing it as a surprise on the CMA Awards. Now it doesn't matter to the CMA.

    I always think of Earl Scruggs when Chet Atkins announced it. Chet said, "Lester Flatt," and the camera cut to Earl, who got a slight smile. Then Chet said, "And Earl Scruggs," and Earl just went totally blank in expression, got to the stage, and barely said a word. Now somehow the moment seems less special.

    As for Tex Ritter, bear in mind that he was only the 5th person elected, and had had a movie and stage career, hit records, AND an Oscar-winning song. I don't dispute you that ET should have been ahead of him. I can think of a lot of others, too! How the Carter Family didn't go in for so long ....

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  18. I've got someone else I should have mentioned in the "Musician" category. I wrote this for something else so I'll just cut and paste it here and see what you think:

    There’s also a native Australian whose body of work deserves recognition in the Hall as well (and, no, it’s NOT Keith Urban).

    Bill Walker has been putting his own distinctive mark on country and pop music for nearly 50 years and has been the man that Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, the Statler Brothers, Chet Atkins, Ray Charles, Loretta Lynn, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ann-Margaret and dozens of other show business luminaries relied on to make them sound their best on stage and on record. He was born in Sydney, Australia, began his professional career with RCA in South Africa and came to America in 1964 to work with Jim Reeves.

    His arrangement of “Make the World Go Away” for Eddy Arnold earned him his first gold record and made him a hot property on Music Row. He turned down the opportunity to succeed Chet Atkins as A&R director at RCA to accept ABC-TV’s offer to conduct the orchestra for “The Johnny Cash Show” in 1968. Cash’s habit of closing the show by shouting “Goodnight, Bill Walker” made him famous in households all over the country.

    When Cash recorded “Sunday Morning Coming Down” , Walker’s arrangement captured all of its emotion in that live performance and when the direct transcription from the show was released as a single in 1970 it went to number 1 on the country charts.

    From 1971-73, he worked as an independent producer for Capitol Records, producing sessions for Roy Rogers, Billy Walker, Ferlin Husky and Wanda Jackson. He also produced “The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A.” with Donna Fargo.

    As a producer, arranger and/or conductor, he earned gold records for Eddy Arnold’s “Make The World Go Away,” “Turn The World Around The Other Way,” “Misty Blue” and “What’s He Doing In My World”, Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red” and “My Elusive Dreams”, Roy Clark’s “Come Live With Me,” Jim Reeves’ “From A Jack To A King”, Sammi Smith’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, Marty Robbins’ “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife”, Bob Dylan’s “Copper Kettle” and Nashville Skyline, and Fargo’s “Funny Face.”

    For seven years he served as music director of The Statler Brothers Show on TNN and appeared on-camera each week during the gospel segment that closed the show. “The Bill Walker Orchestra” was part of the CMA Awards on CBS for 15 years as well as the Music City News Cover Awards (also for 15 years). He served as musical director for countless other television specials including “Perry Como and his Nashville Friends”, “The Grand Old Opry at 50”, “Conway Twitty On The Mississippi” and “Music Hall America” where he worked with a rotating stable of prominent hosts including Arthur Godfrey, Roy Rogers, Pat Boone and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

    He continues to record and travel all over the world. I love this quote that I found somewhere that kind of sums up his career. “’It’s been a very nice sojourn in the music business’, Walker reflects. That’s like Lance Armstrong saying he’s taken some ‘very nice bike rides’.”

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  19. Well Jean shepard definitley.

    But there's one woman who should be there and that's Miss Dottie West, she was the first country female to win a grammy for self penned tune here comes my baby back again. I'm not gonna write loads about her but she has slipped into the forgotton artists category and she should'nt have she acheieved alot.

    Some say Dottie was too scandalous but there are people in the hall who would put the devil to shame. All i'm saying now is Dottie West has been dead for 20 years and the hall could use a little country sunshine

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    1. Amen, it needs to happen now.

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  21. You are right about Dottie West. She had a fine career, but she seems to be largely forgotten when it comes to the Hall of Fame voting. Not only did she do well as a singles artist, but she had some classic duets with Kenny Rogers.

    It is hard to believe that it will be 20 years this fall since she passed away.

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  22. This is my first time here so here goes.My picks for veterans are Wilburn Brothers,Hank Williams,Jr.,Jean Shepard,Archie Campbell,Elton Britt,Vito Pelletieri.My picks for the modern era are Reba McEntire,Ray Stevens,Kenny Rogers,Oak Ridge Boys,Ronnie Milsap,Randy Travis,Alan Jackson,Tanya Tucker.My picks for non-performer are Irving Waugh,Charles K.Wolfe,Don Pierce,Horace Logan,Harold ''Pappy'' Dailey.Of course there several veterans from 1925-1950 I could have picked.Same for the modern era but I'll come back later.

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  23. I still think it would be great if Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were inducted while Wilma is still around to see it. No problem with most of the other names suggested here but the chance to honor some of the greatest legends before they leave us is rapidly fading away (Don Williams who recently passed away comes to mind).

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  24. Hey "Anonymous". Welcome aboard. Thanks for posting and I hope you come back and become a regular. We are just a bunch of folks who love and care about the Opry. And, you had some great choices.

    Hey Hobo Bill, I think you meant to say Jimmy Dean. Don is, thankfully, still with us. And, Hobo Bill, its been a while since I heard from you. Welcome back.

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  25. When I look at the Hall of Fame roster from 1961-1980 I see a lot of holes that could have been filled in with country greats from the 1925-1960 era.Same with the 1961-1990 era.I already mentioned quite of few.Wilburn Brothers,Archie Campbell,Elton Britt,etc.I hope they put in 10-12 inductees this year like they did in 2001.Keep doing that every year until everybody is in.Then 1-3 inductees every 2-3 years.

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  26. You know they could have started the Hall of Fame with 10 people instead of 3 in 1961.It would looked like this;Jimmie Rodgers,Fred Rose,Hank Williams,Sr.,Vernon Dalhart,Deford Bailey,Uncle Dave Macon,Carter Family,Ralph Peer,George D.Hay,Sam & Kirk McGee.In 1962 it would look like this;Roy Acuff,Delmore Brothers,Patsy Montana,Blue Sky Boys,Bradley Kincaid,Sons of the Pioneers,Gene Autry,Herman Crook,Tex Ritter,Rod Brasfield.Every year from then on they would have 8-12 inductees instead of what they have now.The old-timers and veterans would be alive at the time of induction.

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  27. In your post you stated "I am sorry to say that Ronnie Milsap will never see his plague in the Hall of Fame, but it will be there some day. And, it should be. What a talent and what a story he tells." You seem to contradict yourself with what you've stated. This is my first time on your blog page. They're many who feel Ronnie should've been inducted into the CMA Hall of Fame long ago, for the outstanding career he's had. Any artist with 40#1 hits, including a recent number #1 gospel hit Up to Zion last year, ought to be selected for induction into the CMA Hall of Fame. At 68, Ronnie is respected as a beloved singer still touring around the United States. Ronnie has been inducted into every other Music Hall of Fame, yet the CMA Hall of Fame continues to elude him. I just hope Ronnie's induction into the CMA Hall of Fame isn't a posthumous one, it'd simply be wrong.

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  28. Hi GhostRider, thanks for finding my blog and I hope you become a regular. Sorry, if you did not understand what I meant. First, Ronnie definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, no question about it. My comment on where I said, "I am sorry to say that Ronnie Milsap will never see his plague in the Hall of Fame....", was in reference to his being blind. For him to overcome this handicap and what he went through early in his life, makes his entire career even more impressive.

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  29. hey fayfare Ronnie Milsap will get his day in the sun.Maybe next year.Keep your fingers crossed.

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  30. I think any of these lists that ignore Gene Watson, are done by people who do not listen to classic country. Maybe you will correct that. I see where you DID go back and give a shout out to Dottie West. Well done.

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  31. Just four performing artists are in both the Country Music and R&R Halls Of Fame: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers and Brenda Lee. It's incredible that the Old Boy's Club that forms the CMA continuously ignored Jerry Lee Lewis for that honor as well. I mean, all the guy did was put 65 songs onto the Billboard Country charts, 6 of them # 1 and 28 Top 10, never mind his many Country albums. Can their vindictiveness know no bounds? And while I'm at it, the pathetic ratio between female and male inductees is just ludicrous. Anita Kerr and her singers are as responsible for as many top Country hits as The Jordanaires, yet they're in while Anita sits and waits. A collection of num-nuts in Nashville.

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