Several years ago, I wrote a post concerning Grand Ole Opry members and the Country Music Hall of Fame. I wrote as to which Opry members possibly will make it some day to the Hall of Fame and which ones would not. Since the Hall of Fame has created much comment over the past several months, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic.
Over the past week, I have contacted a couple of friends of mine who I know and respect their opinions. One is a former Hall of Fame voter who gave me some good insight into the Hall of Fame voting, and who offered me his thoughts on the various Opry members. Another is someone who is "in the know" in Nashville and this person offered me their perspective.
Of the Grand Ole Opry's current 67 members, 16 are Hall of Fame members. The list includes Bill Anderson, Garth Brooks, Roy Clark, Jimmy Dickens, Vince Gill, Tom T Hall, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jean Shepard, Connie Smith and Mel Tillis. (of the total Hall of Fame membership, just about half have been associated with the Opry).
Of the remaining 51 Opry members, there are a number who have no chance of ever making the Hall of Fame. That list includes Terri Clark, Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie, Jan Howard, Hal Ketchum, Del McCoury, Jesse McReynolds, Jimmy C Newman, Osborne Brothers, Stu Phillips, Ray Pillow, Jeannie Seely, Ricky Van Shelton, Mike Snider, Ralph Stanley, The Whites and Jeanne Pruett. It's not that these people are bad artists or have not had hits. It is just a fact that there is no support to elect them to the Hall. And as far as the bluegrass artists that are listed above, no true bluegrass artist has been elected to the Hall of Fame since the IBMA instituted their own Hall of Fame.
There are a number of Opry members who are 100% certain to be elected to the Hall. That list includes Larry Gatlin, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Ronnie Milsap, Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart and Randy Travis. When talking names with my Hall of Fame source, we traded names on this list and we agreed on all of these. Each one has had a career of many number one records, with several of them songwriters. Some of these will have to wait a while, but all will get in.
Over the past week, there have been several who have suggested that after the election of Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson would be the favorite for this year. I was told not so fast. When I asked why, I was given 2 names and a history lesson. The first was Johnny Cash. When he was elected in 1980, many thought it would start the era of the "modern" artists of that period, people such as George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and other contemporaries of Cash. But after some public comment that perhaps Cash got in at an early age (he was the youngest ever elected to the Hall), the next several years the voters went back to some of the older artists, with Grant Turner (a non-artist) elected in 1981, Marty Robbins and Lefty Frizzell in 1982, Jimmy Dickens in 1983, Flatt & Scruggs in 1985, Whitey Ford in 1986 and Rod Brasfield in 1987. It wasn't until Loretta Lynn in 1988 that the Hall elected someone from Cash's era.
The 2nd name given was Vince Gill. When he was elected in 2007, the same comments were made as with Johnny Cash, such as it was too early and there were others who should have gone in first. There were also comments that this would start a new era of artists from the 1980s getting elected. Again, that did not happen. In 2008, Emmylou Harris, Tom T Hall and the Statler Brothers were elected, with Barbara Mandrell in 2009 and Don Williams in 2010 (from the modern category). It wasn't until 2011 with Reba McEntire getting elected that a contemporary of Vince got in.
The other comment regarding my Alan Jackson question was that it was pointed out to be that while Alan has had a huge number of hit records, he is not the most liked person in Nashville or in the music community. He is known as someone who is hard to deal with and there have been comments on how he has treated some of his fellow musicians. I was told that it was just something to think about and to look at the finalists from last year.
So what about some of the others, especially those who are "on the fence". I asked and we had a very nice discussion regarding a few of them, so I thought I would share some of those comments:
Clint Black-a very solid career and stands a very good chance at getting in. But, he is not Nashville based and his career really fell off after his run of hits.
Jim Ed Brown (The Browns)-again, a very solid career who should get in at some point in the veterans category. I was told that it helps that he is still active in the business and will be celebrating 50 years at the Opry next year.
Charlie Daniels-an interesting case. While he has had a few hits, with the biggest being "Devil Went Down to Georgia", he also has been a big influence with other artists.
Patty Loveless-it was stated that Patty is a Nashville favorite who is much loved and respected in the industry. She has the hits and is popular. What would help her is if Vince Gill gives her a push. As was pointed out, Bill Anderson gave a big push for Jean Shepard last year and it worked, and I was told Marty Stuart pushed for Connie Smith this past year, and that worked.
Lorrie Morgan-I was told not to discount her. She has the name and like a few others, is well liked in Nashville and is involved. While not the biggest hit maker during her era, neither was her father, George Morgan, and he got in. He was also well liked and he also got a push from Lorrie.
Steve Wariner-he is a 99% chance of getting in. Not only is he a fine singer, but he is a great musician who is well respected. I was told that he will have to wait his turn, but his turn will come. He is still young so it will be a while.
There are a few others who's name will come up once in a while with Hall of Fame discussions, and a case can be made for each of them. But, the chances of getting into the Hall are pretty small. Those include Trace Adkins, John Conlee, Jack Greene, George Hamilton IV, Riders In The Sky, Pam Tillis and Trisha Yearwood. Most of these have had solid success, but just not Hall of Fame careers.
We didn't really talk about the younger artists, because while their careers are doing well now, it doesn't mean that will continue. We mentioned Brad Paisley as being as close to a guarantee as any of these and we both agreed on him. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood were 2 other names that came up. Some who had initial success, such as Dierks Bentley, Montgomery Gentry and Josh Turner have all cooled off. And that may be more of an indication of where country music is today than anything else.
Finally, we talked about a few of the former Opry members, most of whom have passed away, and what was thought of some of those individuals. Specifically, we talked about Bobby Bare, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Wilburn Brothers, Dottie West, Archie Campbell, June Carter, Billy Walker, Johnny Russell, Hank Locklin and Del Reeves. All of these artists had good careers that were long. And they have all been mentioned on and off regarding the Hall of Fame. Of those who are listed, the thought is that Billy Walker, Johnny Russell, Hank Locklin and Del Reeves have really no shot at getting in. It was mentioned that there are 2 words on why the Wilburn Brothers are not in, and probably will not get in, "Loretta Lynn." (if anyone needs a history lesson, let me know and I will fill you in). Archie Campbell has been a finalist for several years but has not gotten in. June Carter's high point was when the movie "Walk the Line" came out and it was mentioned that there are quite a few people around Nashville who have a lot of respect for June. But he said, there are more deserving candidates than June. There has never been strong support for Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, or for Wilma Lee individually. He did say that in his opinion, the Coopers are deserving of being in the Hall.
It was felt that Bobby Bare's time will come. He is still alive and active, which helps. He just does not have a power base and nobody really pushing him to the voters. And that leaves Dottie West. With few females in the Hall, I asked if there was "pressure" to elect a female. He said, not really. With several females going in the past several years, that has not come up as much, but it still does. The voters notice. I asked if the present campaign to get Dottie elected this year, which would have been her 80th birthday, would have an effect. He said it might, if the right people are involved. And he mentioned that if these campaigns work, it is usually only effective that first year. And with the voting getting underway, this is the time for a campaign like this to get going.
Some have mentioned the Hall of Fame changing the categories and increasing the number elected each year. The thought process is that the Hall is perfectly fine with the number getting in and the categories. They would rather have someone wait a while longer than get in too soon. And while that leaves some deserving candidates out, it does create some discussion and publicity, which is always good. The Hall is currently expanding with the convention center and new hotel and attendance is good.
I finished by asking if there were any thoughts on who the favorites might be for 2013 election and he mentioned the usual names that we have heard in the past, including Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens, in addition to those names mentioned above. And with Garth Brooks out of the way, and the history lesson above, don't be surprised if the voters look back into the 1980s for the modern era. It just depends on who gets behind who when it comes to the voting. And while record sales are important, so is the respect for the music industry and the Nashville community. The voters will continue to have plenty of choices when it comes to the Hall of Fame.