The voting for the 2014 inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame is now getting underway. The rotating category this year is for songwriters. This individual will join the person, or persons, elected from the modern and veteran eras. As far as when the announcement will be made, last year's took place on April 10. In past years, the inductees have been announced anywhere from late February or into March. It all depends on how many of the new inductees are living and on what date they can get everyone together for the announcement.
As in the past, I am sure there will be articles from various writers that will list who they believe are the 5 finalists in each category. But as we learned again last year, these so-called lists are just about worthless. 2 of those elected, Bobby Bare and Jack Clement, did not appear on any of these lists. I think it just shows that we are not the only ones guessing. And I think it also confirms that the voters are sworn to secrecy as to who is on the final ballot. From a personal standpoint, I enjoy the days when the finalists were announced aheard of time. It allowed for discussion and debate. As close knit as things are in Nashville, I have to believe that those who are on the final ballot, know who they are.
That said, here are my thoughts on each category and who I feel will be among those that will receive serious consideration. And as usual, I will offer my choices.
Since the "songwriters" category was established, Bobby Braddock has been elected to the Hall. Other songwriters who have been elected include Kris Kristofferson, Harlan Howard, Cindy Walker, along with Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Yes, there are other members of the Hall of Fame who were very successful songwriters, including Bill Anderson, Tom T. Hall, Charlie Louvin among others, but they were also very talented performers. This category is tough because there are so many deserving songwriters and a case could be make for any of them. 2 names that I will throw out are Hank Cochran and Don Schlitz. If you want a third name, how about Dean Miller. I know there are many others, but they come to mind first. You can't go wrong with any of them. My first thought would be Hank Cochran. His first songwriting credit was in 1960 with "I Fall to Pieces", which he co-wrote with Harlan Howard. "Make the World Go Away" came next and the hits just followed. He passed away in 2010.
Next up is the "veteran" era nominee. It is the one category that seems to create more of a backlog each year and as with the songwriter category, there are so many deserving candidates. Those in the veteran era category are eligible for election 45 years after they achieve "national prominence". That would take it back to 1969 or earlier. I bring this up because, as always, there are individuals or groups that could fall into either the veteran era or the modern era, depending on how "national prominence" is determined. The 2 that come to mind this year are Ronnie Milsap and the Oak Ridge Boys. Both have been mentioned as finalists previously, usually in the modern era category. But depending on circumstances, they both could land in the veterans category this year. In the case of Ronnie Milsap, he did not hit it big as a singer in the country field until after 1970, but prior to that he was writing and performing. His first single was actually released in 1963. In the case of the Oak Ridge Boys, they have been around since the 1940s. However the current country line-up did not come together until the early 1970s. This past year, they toured in celebration of their 40th anniversary. I guess if there was someone who had similar circumstances it would be Kenny Rogers. Although he first became known in the 1960's as part of the First Edition, he did not hit it big in the country field until the mid 1970s. And last year, he was elected in the modern category.
In looking at the veteran category, those who have received serious consideration in the past several years, and have been finalists depending on who you ask, would include Hank Williams, Jr., Jim Ed Brown, The Browns, The Wilburn Brothers, Archie Campbell, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, June Carter Cash, Mac Wiseman and Dottie West. I would assume that these will be the main contenders again this year. Last year, a big push was made for Dottie West. I know there were some who felt she should have been elected before Connie Smith and I think her election in 2012 might have stimulated the push for Dottie. The supporters for Dottie West have been very vocal and active. They have a Facebook page devoted to her and getting her elected and in 2013 they had a strong campaign going to make sure the voters were educated in what a great career she had. There is also a small exhibit for her in the Hall of Fame. While she did not get elected in 2013, an impact was made with the voters. Even with that, it could still be tough for her to get elected in 2014.
In my mind, the strongest candidate will be The Browns. 2013 was a good year for Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie as Jim Ed was recognized for being a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 50 years. Maxine and Bonnie were included in the August celebration and at the Opry that night, a lot of people in the music industry came to visit with them. I think it shed some new light on their careers and how successful they were. While Maxine and Bonnie retired in the late 1960s, Jim Ed has continued on with a great solo career and as a successful duet with Helen Cornelius. A strong argument can be made that Jim Ed could be elected as a solo artist. I think another thing going for The Browns is the election of Bobby Bare last year. There was some confusion over the outcome and Bobby Bare and The Browns have been tied so closely together that perhaps Bobby's election will actually help The Browns.
Arguments can also be made for Mac Wiseman, who was a pioneer in the business. The major success for him came in the 1950s through the 1960s and he will always be associated with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. But he also had a fine career as a solo artist. He was also one of the founding members of the Country Music Association. Jerry Reed was one of the finest guitarists in any form of music and he had a fine string of hit records in the 1970s and 80s and he also acted in some movies. Archie Campbell was a country comedian who was a writer and performer on Hee Haw. He was also a long time member of the Grand Ole Opry. In fact, he was the first comedian at the Opry who insisted on performing dressed in a suit and not in the usual rural country clothing that the Opry's management insisted that comedians wear. Archie also wrote a few songs and was one of the first country entertainers to operate a theater in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which was the part of the country where he was from. June Carter's career has been well documented as has the career of Hank Williams, Jr. Hank Jr., will be elected at some point, but I can't say the same for June. I think people sometimes forget what a talent Ray Stevens is. Not only is he a great writer and performer, but he is also one of the smartest businesmen in country music.
My guess for 2014 would be The Browns. I think this could be their year. But, and this is a big but, if for some reason the Oak Ridge Boys end up in this category, I could easily see them getting in. The Oaks had a big year in 2013 with the tour and new music, and say what you will about them, they put on a great show and are very popular.
Now for the "modern"category, which is for those who have had a career of 20 years or more. That would include anyone who's career acheived "national prominence" from 1970-1994. To really nobody's great surprise, Kenny Rogers was elected in 2013, with Garth Brooks getting in the previous year. There was some thought that when Garth got elected it would begin the era of electing those who came into their own in the early 1990s, but last year the voters retreated and took a step back. It was almost as if in 2012 the voters thought that Garth would get in sooner or later, so let's get it over with. But who can complain when he has been the biggest thing in country music for the past 25 years.
So let's step forward to 2014. I think there are 3 names to watch this year: Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson and Randy Travis. Let's start with Ricky. There is no doubt that he has the resume to get elected. His career has been long and successful and he helped to lead the traditionalist movement in the 1980s. Yes, he is outspoken at times. One thing to think about is that he is the current "artist-in-residence" at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Why is that important to note? We'll the last 2, Kenny Rogers and Connie Smith, were elected to the Hall in that same year. Previous residences have included Tom T Hall, Jack Clement, and Kris Kristofferson, all eventually elected to the Hall.
If there was an artist from the early 1990s that would be next in line for election after Garth Brooks, it would be Alan Jackson. Alan has won so many awards that I could not list them all. He has had 35 #1 singles and has sold more than 60 million records worldwide. If there was anything holding Alan back it has been his personality and the way he has treated some folks around Nashville. But, he was a friend of George Jones and that association never hurts.
Randy Travis has had a tough year. It is so said to see what has happened to this great singer and now at the young age of 54, his career seems finished. After a career that saw him achieve 16 #1 singles and over 50 singles on the charts, things started to fall apart for Randy in 2010 when he divorced his wife Lib Hatcher and she no longer was his manager. He was arrested several times in addition to several embarrasing incidents involving public nudity. It seemed he had it rock bottom but it got worse for Randy as in July 2013 he was admitted to a hospital with a serious life threatening heart condition. Several days later he suffered a stroke. Depending on what report you read, or believe, Randy remains at least partially paralyzed and will never be able to perform again. While Randy has never been listed as a finalist before, and I don't know why, nothing helps a person get an award or recognition as much as a serious health crisis or death. The reason Chet Atkins was elected to the Hall at such a young age was because people thought he was going to die. Thankfully, he recovered. The voters might feel that this would be the time to honor Randy. If his condition is as serious as some have reported and his recovery is in doubt, the voters might want to make sure he receives the recognition before his condition becomes even more serious.
Others who should receive serious consideration include Ronnie Milsap (depending on what category he ends up in), Brooks & Dunn and probably The Judds.
My guess is probably Randy Travis, for the reasons I stated above, with Ricky Skaggs right behind.
Those are my thoughts. Randy Travis, The Browns and Hank Cochran.
Reaction and thoughts!!!!!!!