I am sure by now most everyone has heard the news that Reba McEntire, Jean Shepard and Bobby Braddock have been elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame. While I know that we all had our personal favorites, I don't think anyone can really be too upset by who was elected. All are deserving, and many will agree that in the case of Jean Shepard, it is about time.
In looking at the categories and how the Hall of Fame conducts its elections, I am concerned that there is starting to build a backlog in several of the categories again, and with the election of only 1 per year, some are not going to be elected. In her short speech today, Jean mentioned specifically, The Wilburn Brothers, Jimmy C. Newman and The Browns as those who should be in the Hall. And, I can think of several more. While I was hoping that Jean would get elected, I was still somewhat surprised, as the veteran candidates have tended to come from the era of the 1960's, versus her era of the 1950's. I know Ferlin Husky was elected last year, and he had his greatest success starting in the 50's, but also elected out of that category the past several years have been Jimmy Dean, Roy Clark, Mel Tillis, The Statler Brothers, Tom T. Hall and Sonny James, all of whom achieved their greatest success in the 60's.
The same could be said for the modern category, as even with the election of Reba, the backlog of candidates is building. And, this is the one category where more are eligible every year. Reba, while a veteran in the business, is relatively young and several older candidates were bypassed. I am concerned that in electing Reba, the voters are going to bypass the stars that had the majority of their careers in the 70's and early 80's, and move on to those who have recently become eligible and had the majority of their success in the very late 80's and 90's.
While I was not happy with the way the mass induction was handled in 2001, I do think it is time for the Hall of Fame to look at increasing the number who are elected each year. We have been lucky in the fact that in the last several years, there had been ties in the voting involving the veteran category, and several were elected, including last year with Ferlin Husky and Jimmy Dean. I think even electing 2 or 3 per year in this category would help end some of the grid lock, and still make sure that only those truly deserving got into the Hall.
Every Hall of Fame does it different. The Baseball Hall of Fame is pretty limited to between one and three elected per year, while the Football Hall of Fame elects up to seven. The Rock Hall of Fame tends to have larger classes. I would not want to see anything that big as I think it does take away the honor of being in the Hall.
This year would have been the perfect time to have a "catch up election", if you want to call it that, as it was in 1961, 50 years ago, that the Hall of Fame elected it's first class. In several years, the new expansion of the Hall of Fame will be completed, and that is another opportunity. But, only if it is handled right. And that was my issue with the mass induction in 2001. I just think the way it was handled, that several of the artists, and some did comment on it, felt that the honor wasn't the same because the impression was left that some of those elected that year would not have been elected if not for this mass induction and that they were going in as a group, not as individuals. I know Bill Anderson, who was elected that year, made sure that it was known that he was elected in the "regular election" that year and not the mass induction. I do hope that the Hall of Fame will continue to revisit the election procedures and make the changes necessary to make sure that those who deserve the honor do have the opportunity to be elected in a timely manner.
That said, my congratulations go again to Reba McEntire, Jean Shepard and Bobby Braddock on their election to the Hall of Fame and I do continue my hope that all of those artists who are deserving of election into the Hall can be elected while they are still living and able to enjoy the honor.