Sunday, March 25, 2018

Country Music Hall of Fame & Grand Ole Opry Members

It's that time of year again as the 2018 announcement of the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame will take place on Tuesday March 27, hosted by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

When looking at the current members of the Hall of Fame, the vast majority of the performers who have been elected were Grand Ole Opry members at some point in their careers. Of the current cast of 64 members, 17 are Hall of Famers: Bill Anderson, Garth Brooks, Roy Clark, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Tom T Hall, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Ronnie Milsap, Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Connie Smith, and Randy Travis. Quite an impressive list. And if you follow the rumors, there are several more members who will be receiving serious consideration in this years voting.

So of the remaining 47 current Grand Ole Opry members, how many will eventually get elected to the Hall of Fame? Not necessarily this year or next, but at some point in the future.

My thinking is that there are a few members who are 100% locks at getting in someday: Clint Black, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Crystal Gayle, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Marty Stuart, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Steve Wariner, and Trisha Yearwood. I think the body of their work will get each of those into the Hall at some point.

There are a few others who I believe will receive some serious mention, but as to getting into the Hall of Fame, it could be an uphill battle. On that list, I have Trace Adkins, Patty Loveless, Lorrie Morgan, and Travis Tritt.

There are a few that I would say have a small chance of getting in (you never know what a voter might be thinking). I think that list would include John Conlee, Diamond Rio, Pam Tillis, and Riders In The Sky.

Sadly, and even though there are those who wish they would be, for many of the Opry members there will be literally no chance. I put Terri Clark, Joe Diffie, Jan Howard, Hal Ketchum, Craig Morgan, Stu Phillips, Ray Pillow, Jeanne Pruett, Jeannie Seely, Ricky Van Shelton and The Whites.

I did not mention Jesse McReynolds (Jim & Jesse), Bobby Osborne (The Osborne Brothers), Dailey & Vincent, or Del McCoury as these acts are bluegrass in nature and it seems that since International Bluegrass Music Association established their own Hall of Fame, bluegrass acts seem to not get any consideration for the Country Music Hall of Fame. And then there is the case of Stonewall Jackson. I really believe he should be in the Hall of Fame (some forget how good Stonewall was in his prime with his honky-tonk sound), but his lawsuit again Gaylord and the Opry pretty much eliminated his chances.

Now, there are a number of acts that I did not mention: the younger ones who have been around less than 10-15 years. Artists such as Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Montgomery Gentry, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker,  Josh Turner, Chris Young and Chris Janson. The body of work is incomplete on those acts, however if I had to list one who has the edge, I would give it to Darius Rucker.

The names of deceased and former Opry members comes up, with Ralph Stanley being the name most commonly mentioned. Ralph does deserve serious consideration and someday he might get in. Others in that category might include Dottie West, Archie Campbell, Wilburn Brothers, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Brother Oswald (in the musician category), and June Carter, However, they longer that it goes, the less their chances become.

There is a lot of competition for the Hall of Fame, much of it because of the election and voting policies of the Hall. With only 5 categories, 3 of which rotate, and only one per category getting in each year, it would seem that the Hall will never catch up. With the popularity of country music, and the growing number of eligible artists, I would expect a change at some point. The public will demand it, as will the CMA membership.

Like everyone else, I will be watching to see who is elected on Tuesday. Could it be one of the favorites, or could the electors throw us a name out of left field, as they did several years ago when Mac Wiseman was elected?

My predictions? For whatever it is worth, in the modern era, my personal hope is Ricky Skaggs, however my guess is that the voters continue the trend of last year with Alan Jackson's election, and go with another act from the same era, Brooks & Dunn. In the veteran class, I think Ray Stevens, Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, Hank Williams, Jr, and Dottie West are the most popular names mentioned. My personal hope is Ray Stevens as I think he has been overlooked for a long time, however my guess is Crystal Gayle gets the call.

In the musicians category, there are so many possibilities again. If the voters look outside of Nashville, how about Don Rich? Brother Oswald is another name long overdue. Jimmy Capps? Kenny Harman? Kenny Buttrey? Bob Moore? Velma Williams? Tommy Jackson? Johnny Gimble? Vassar Clements? Pete Drake? Weldon Myrick? Hank Garland? I know, so many and I just named several. You could pick any of the Nashville "A" team players and not go wrong.

Good luck to all and who else cares to chime in?


  1. While I have not sat down and seriously compared the merits of individual artists, I feel some of the lock artists are not necessarily a lock. Specifically, I would not consider Clint Black or Trisha Yearwood a lock. Unless the hall of fame expands the number of entries, I think the backlog will force some of those people out. There are already ~10 names on that list that would be modern era and at 1 per year would be the next decade. However, you also have guys like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, etc. that are not in the hall that would also take up years. Then by that time the younger candidates in your TBD category would be coming up for election.

    Either way, thanks for the thought provoking article.

  2. Byron, remember that the Flatts were around long LONG before Carrie. To my generation, they were our Alabama for about a decade. I don't see them not getting in at some point and if it goes in order, ahead of folks that haven't been around as long.

  3. I think that truly Gene Watson should be considered. He represents country in a steadfast not trendy way. Ray Price was a big fan of Gene’s which should carry some weight.
    It will be most unfortunate if he is not inducted.

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  5. Have to do this in 2 parts so here's part 1:

    I've given up trying to figure out what the voters are thinking when it comes to the veteran and modern categories. I've generally been delighted by their choices and, at the same time, dismayed over who they continue to pass over. Everybody has their sentimental favorites but based on their overall contribution to the country music industry I believe The Wilburn Brothers or Dottie West are the most deserving of the honor in the veterans category and Ricky Skaggs or Hank Williams, Jr., in the modern category (although where does an artist like Hank Junior, whose career began back in the 60s but didn't have his greatest success until the 80s and 90s, fit into the CMA's box?).

    The musician category is the one that's of genuine interest to me this year. Again, the list of deserving candidates is endless. Up to this point, the voters have gone with one of the members of Nashville's legendary "A Team" and I don't see that changing this time around.

    Hank Garland is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time in any genre. If his career hadn't been cut short he would have gone on to be one of the most famous guitarists of all time.

    If there is one instrument that gave country music it's unique sound it's the steel guitar and it seems strange that there are no steel players represented in the Hall. Steel guitar players are generally pretty quiet and like to stay in the background but those classic licks from Pete Drake and Weldon Myrick on "Stand By Your Man" or "Once A Day" are what help make those songs instant country classics. The list of steel players is long but Pete Drake probably tops that list thanks to his portfolio as a studio musician, producer, solo artist, bandleader, studio owner and innovator. Weldon Myrick, Lloyd Green, Hal Rugg, Ralph Mooney, John Hughey, Buddy Emmons, Buddy Charlton, Bud Isaacs...any of those would be good choices as well.

    Tommy Jackson was probably the most sought after fiddle player in Nashville for many years and his body of work stands on it's own. The man practically invented commercial country fiddling and has probably been heard on more recordings than anyone. For anyone not familiar with Tommy Jackson, Eddie Stubbs wrote a great piece on his Facebook page that is definitely worth reading.
    Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher and Vassar Clements are also members of an elite group of fiddle players that are also deserving but Tommy Jackson tops that list.

    It's said that if a copy of every record he played on was laid end to end, they would stretch down 16th Avenue from Owen Bradley Park to Belmont University and that no single musician in Nashville has been heard by more people than Bob Moore. 17,000 plus documented recording sessions isn't something to be sneezed at and Time magazine once called him the #1 country bass player of all time. Other great bass players on the list would be Junior Huskey and Lightnin' Chance.

  6. Part 2:

    The drum, along with the electric guitar, seems to be the defining instrument in modern country music (and, frankly, that's among the major reasons I don't listen to modern country music). Some would argue that drums have no place in country music. Herman Crook was certainly not a fan and when a recording engineer once asked Grandpa Jones how much drums he wanted on one of his records, Grandpa replied "Very little if any". But Buddy Harman would be at the top of the list of Nashville session drummers. The list of recordings he played on is vast and he was the first staff drummer at the Opry (where he returned in the last years of his career). That little soft brush that gives Patsy Cline's recording of 'Crazy" a little extra oomph that you don't think about but would miss if it wasn't belonged to Buddy Harman. I think it will be a long time before a drummer is honored by the Hall of Fame but when it happens it will be Buddy Harman. Other great session drummers on the list would be Kenny Buttrey and Larrie London.

    The saxophone isn't the first instrument when you think of country music but when you do think of a country sax player you think of Boots Randolph. "Yakety Sax" is probably the most famous sax instrumental of all time and the unforgettable riff on Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is also his. Along with Ray Stevens and Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph is among the handful of great session musicians who had outstanding solo careers of their own.

    Finally, among the "touring musicians" (the category is, after all, called "Recording and/or Touring Musician") the two that truly define the music of the artists they worked with are Pete Kirby ("Bashful Brother Oswald") and Don Rich. Os recorded and toured with Roy Acuff for 54 years and you don't generally think of one without the other. He was a fixture on the Opry for a decade after Acuff's passing. What other "sideman" can claim that distinction.

    Don Rich stood side by side with Buck Owens and, again, you generally don't think of one without thinking of the other. His vocals and guitar playing are the very definition of the "Bakersfield Sound" and he is heard on all of the classic Buck Owens recordings. In addition, he lead the classic lineup of "The Buckaroos" (with Doyle Holly, Tom Brumley and Willie Cantu) that many consider the best touring band of all time.

    So, the finalists on my list: Pete Drake, Bob Moore, Hank Garland, Tommy Jackson, Buddy Harman, Brother Oswald and Don Rich.

    My top two: Pete Drake or Bob Moore.

    Pete Drake would be my top choice and gets the edge simply because of his legacy as a musician, producer and businessman. But, the CMA also seems to largely prefer inductees who can still attend their annual medallion party and since the others on my list have all had the bad manners to pass on, Bob Moore would be more likely to get the nod. I've been right before, I've been wrong before and I've been surprised before and since I don't have any skin in this hunt this is purely an amusing academic exercise for me. Like everyone else, I'll be watching on Tuesday morning.

    1. Barry, your thoughtful insights are always appreciated. Hard to go wrong with your thought process and your analysis.

  7. Barry,
    Your analysis was profound and amazing.

    Could not agree more with your thoughts on drums and bass (although a bass played the right way can add to a recording - today's poke a hole in your chest).
    Also totally agree on fiddles and steel. If you aint' got 'em, you aint got country music.

    One MINOR correction. Eddie Stubbs has pointed out more than once that it is almost always Buck Owens singing the high part on his recordings. I THINK Eddie said there were only two actual Buck Owen's recording's with Don Rich singing the high part. Doesn't change my opinion of Don Rich's contributions to the Buck Owen's sound, but I was really surprised when Eddie said that.

    Please keep commenting. I'm not sure who you are, but you clearly have a DEEP understanding and knowledge of the history of country music industry. I have to think you are right in the middle of it.

    1. Nat,

      From past posts by Barry, we have learned he worked on the road with several Opry acts in sound systems I believe and spent a lot of time around the Opry with those folks back in the 80's. Barry, please clean up my comments because I am probably off in your experience but I know it is first hand.

      And a minor correction to the minor correction on Don Rich. Pretty sure Eddie cites 12 recordings he sang harmony on with Buck. I need to get a list of them! Of course Buck could not have recreated that sound on the road without Don and I have always read they were like brothers and Buck never really got over his death in 1973,

      I would add Jimmy Day to that steel list. I agree 200% that Oswald should be in the HOF. I love Roy Acuff but he really wasn't Roy Acuff with Oswald. In fact, I often smile and then shed a tear sometimes when I hear Os in the background, especially on live shows.

      Thanks for posting Barry. Always great to hear your thoughts and memories.

      Knightsville, IN

    2. Thanks Jim. Two is real close to twelve, right? :)
      As usual, Good insight on your end!

  8. How can Hank Williams Jr not be at the top of your list? And how is Travis Tritt an uphill climb with more hits than Larry Gatlin, Marty Stuart, or Trisha Yearwood. How are they all locks and Travis will have an uphill climb?

    1. There is no question that Hank Williams, Jr will be elected to the Hall of Fame at some point. The only reason I did not mention his name was that my focus was strictly on Opry, or former Opry members.

      As to my reasoning on those I listed, Larry is not only a fine singer, but he is a very good songwriter, which is how he originally came to Nashville. Marty has done much behind the scene to preserve the history of country music, while Trisha has lots of connections in the Nashville music community. And you are right Ty, Travis will get in some day, I am sure. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Wonderful speculations - and we will all probably be shocked with the announcements!
    Who are the actual voters?

    1. The voters are an anonymous group of CMA members.

  10. You forgor Jerry Byrd,Billy Byrd,Buddy Emmons & David ''Stringbean''Akeman for musician.

  11. The favorites for the Hall of Fame this year are Dottie West, Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, Ray Stevens, & Hank Williams Jr., in the Veterans category and Brooks & Dunn, The Judds, & Ricky Skaggs in the Modern category out of all the names that I mentioned (Dottie, Crystal, Tanya, Ray, Hank Jr., B&D, The Judds, & Ricky) who do you guys see going into the Hall of Fame tomorrow?.

  12. You would think since Trisha is doing the announcing with Garth that there's a female getting in this year.

    If I had to choose my final picks right now:
    Modern Era: Ricky Skaggs or Marty Stuart
    Veteran Era: Hank Jr or Tanya Tucker
    Musician: Don Rich or Weldon Myrick


  13. There's an endless list of deserving musicians. On my "long list" I've got Jimmy Day, Shot Jackson, Leon Rhodes, Norm Hamlet, Roy Nichols, Billy Byrd, Pete Wade, Wayne Moss, Luther Perkins, Jimmy Capps, Josh Graves, Les Paul, Ray Edenton, Kenny Baker, Velma Smith, David Briggs, Danny Davis, Buck Trent, Bobby Thompson...and the list goes on and on.

    Another big question I have is where do Anita Kerr and Millie Kirkham fit into the CMA's categorical box? Anita Kerr headed up a number of groups over the years in Nashville and Los Angeles and was also well-known for her work in Europe but I'm thinking of the classic Nashville lineup of singers that included Dottie Dillard, Gil Wright and Louis Nunley. If you had backup singers on a Nashville record from the late 50s to the early 70s, if it wasn't the Jordanaires on the session it was the Anita Kerr Singers. The Jordanaires got in before the CMA went with their three category box and I'm not so sure they wouldn't still be on the outside looking in if that weren't the case. Anita Kerr is 90 years old and lives in Switzerland.

    Millie Kirkham is the other studio singer who doesn't fit into the little box but would Ferlin Husky's "Gone", Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" or George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" be the same without Millie's beautiful (and sometimes haunting) soprano in the background? When you hear that voice you almost always stop and ask "who's that?"

    And finally, what about Bill Walker? One of the creators of the "Nashville Sound", his arrangements are instantly recognizable and gave the CMA and Music City News awards shows their lush, uptown sound during the 70s and 80s. You mostly saw his back every week during the Statler Brothers' gospel segment on their TNN show but he was the arranger and band leader for the entire run of that show. And before he that he was the musical director on Johnny Cash's classic ABC show. Hands up who remembers Cash's weekly sign-off, "Good night, Bill Walker!"? He's still with us, too, a couple of months short of turning 91!

    1. Barry, again great observations. The Anita Kerr singers have been overlooked and their contributions have been great, and how do you classify them. Bill Walker did much behind the scenes to create the "Nashville Sound" and really most of his public recognition came from the Johnny Cash show.

  14. I'll make it short and sweet with my predictions.
    Crystal Gayle
    Brooks & Dunn
    John Hughey

    Hughey going in before Hank Garland I know is unreal, but I just think he has some very heavy hitters in his corner.

    We'll know tomorrow.

    1. David, you can't go wrong on any of those picks. Looking at all the Facebook comments regarding Dottie West, and a lot has been posted in the last 24 hours, perhaps this is finally her year. We will know in a matter of hours.

  15. And it's official! Johnny Gimble, Dottie West and Ricky Skaggs are the Hall of Fame Class of 2018!

  16. I am absolutely elated, Dottie West has made the hall. This shows the love of her fans and finally the voters listened after 26 long years.

  17. Who can argue with these 3 selections. What I like about it, the electors are looking back (in Gimble's case), to the days of the 1940's, through the Nashville sound era with Dottie and into that great traditionism of the 1980's with Ricky. They are still shying away from that 1990 date (Alan & Garth came along in 89), which I am loving.

  18. Good hall of fame choices.If I had my way,my picks for modern category [Hank Jr.,Marty Stuart,Crystal Gayle,Tanya Tucker] My picks for veteran category [Ralph Stanley/Stanley Brothers,June Carter Cash,Wilma Lee & Scotty,Lulu Belle & Stoney] My picks for musician [Bashful Brother Oswald,Buddy Emmons,Weldon Myrick,Boots Randolph] 4 in each category.

  19. Looking ahead to 2019 and taking a very early look at next year, with Dottie West now finally in, the focus will shift to Hank Williams Jr., Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, and Ray Stevens. Of the veterans not yet in the Hall, they are the ones that stand out the most. And with Ricky Skaggs also finally going in, following Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, The Oaks, Randy Travis, and Alan Jackson the last several years, I think you're finally ready to open the floodgates on the next generation and this will now open the door to Brooks & Dunn, The Judds and other acts from that era.

    What do you think?.

  20. These were the correct choices this year, and at long last Dottie West. That's a major oversight that has been corrected, the campaigns have certainly helped and Kenny Rogers induction I feel really set the wheels in motion. I think Johnny and Dottie will be the last posthumous inductions for a while.

    But again its politics in Nashville. Skeeter Davis would be an ideal choice for next year as well as the Wilburn Brothers, however so long as Ralph Emery and Loretta Lynn are alive that will never happen for them. Also if Hank Jr kept a low profile rather than being political he would have consideration.

    My choices next year: Tanya Tucker/Lynn Anserson, Marty Stuart, Boots Randolph

  21. Garth Brooks just commented on WSM (through tape) that there are too many people good people NOT in the Hall of Fame.
    Three a year just ain't gettin' it for me. Need a much bigger class each year, or maybe one big class one year.
    Maybe the first time I've agreed with Garth! :)

  22. Hey Guys:

    there is a movement to get Hank Williams Jr. into the Hall of Fame and it's called Bocephus Belongs and the grassroots campaign to get Hank Jr. into the Hall of Fame started in 2015 by two guys by the name of Adam Sinsel and his Navy buddy Mike Abernathy, with Dottie West's campaign to get her into the Hall of Fame now finally over (aka successful), the artist whose fans will cry over them not being in the Hall of Fame now is Hank Jr. I think he'll be one of the favorites for the Hall of Fame in the Veterans class next year along with Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, and Ray Stevens.

    What do you guys think?.

  23. I'm glad Dottie finally got in, I doubted it would ever happen. Ricky started being more high-profile (he was artist in residence at the HOF a couple of years ago) starting playing more country on the Opry etc. Honestly, I think he got lucky because I really thought they were going to blow right past him for Brooks & Dunn or the Judds. I'm not a fan of Hank Jr but I don't doubt he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame -- but so do the Wilburn Brothers, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Ralph Stanley, Johnny & Jack, The Maddox Brothers & Rose, Skeeter Davis, on and on -- performer's who made contributions to Country Music aside from chart records which really mean nothing but money for corporations. I think unless there are more performer spots, the Wilburn's contributions (performers/publishers/booking agents/TV show/helping others) get lost. I do agree with Nat there needs to be a bigger class. I think the rotating musician/non-performer/songwriter category is ridiculous. Those categories should each be a separate wing (say like coaches and announcers are done in the baseball hall of fame) each year that doesn't take away from the performer category. So, you'd always have three performers, a songwriter, a non-performer (when applicable) and a musician. Otherwise it's ridiculous that so few of the deserving musicians and songwriters get in. Even with three performers there is a lot of ground to make up pre 1980. (oldtimeopry)

  24. I think the favorites for the Hall of Fame for next year will be Hank Williams Jr., Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, and Ray Stevens from the Veterans category and Brooks & Dunn, The Judds, Tim McGraw, and Toby Keith from the Modern category.

    What do you think?.

  25. I like your thoughts about stopping the ridiculous rotating category Oldtime Opry. As we progress, all of the great sidemen and women of the past will be lost to history, at least at the HOF, if they don't change something!

    I admit that I do not follow or know much about today's so called Country so someone please correct me, but how many sidemen are known these days? The most recent I can think of was John Hughey while working with Vince and that has been 15 years or so. And he was an old hand and Vince mentioned him partly because of his notoriety with Conway.

    With so much of the music sounding the same today, no real identity from one star to the next, I doubt if the musicians are even thought of unless you play music yourself. So, as we progress away from the days when a certain instrument and musician gave an artist much of their identity, I would not expect many of theses greats of the past to be recognized.

    I agree that the Wilburn Brothers are long overdue but I have my theory on them which I will keep to myself. It seems that they were so instrumental in what went on in Nashville for about 20 years and even without their great performances it would seem they should be in the HOF.

    Anita Kerr was mentioned and today's stars would do well to learn how she and her group helped broaden the audience to Country Music during the Nashville Sound era and beyond. I like a lot of the music made during that period but I think it helped kill hard Country with the fiddle and steel. Regardless, much like the Opry today, it was a matter of survival and it worked.

    Millie Kirkham was also mentioned and she deserves to be in as well. So many records that she made just so sad or eerie, fitting the lyrics. How many great Sonny James records was she on?

    And I will say this again, I think Goldie Hill deserves to be in as well as Rose Maddox (and brothers) as others have mentioned her. No, Goldie did not have a long career or a bundle of hits. However, she was right there with Kitty and Jean in 1952-53 breaking the male dominated field. She did it as a solo with a answer song. I love Jean Shepard, maybe my favorite female, but her first big success was with Ferlin and further, a timeless song with the Korean Conflict. I don't know if Goldie has ever been up for the HOF but she should at least be considered. As a side, I do realize she had some inside influence with brother Tommy and his role in the business.

    I was pleased with the inductee's yesterday and I thought Ricky did a nice job and it was great that he spoke so highly of Buck White. I was surprised at how few seemed to be in attendance!

    Knightsville, IN

  26. I do not have a issue with the musician/songwriter/non performer categories as is. I think an extra category simply needs added for performers. They could easily put 4 a year in with one category being the rotating category; one being those who achieved promince, say 1985-present ; those who achieved promince 1965-1985 and then those who achieved prominence prior to 1965. Four a year would not be a mass induction like 2001, and it would keep it special for all involved. The extra category would give hopes to The Wilburns, Johnny & Jack, Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, Archie Campbell & others. But even if that was established overlooked artists such as Bradley Kincaid, Stringbean, Lulu Bell & Scotty, still may never get attention. Perhaps another route would be to establish a pioneer category on the rotating basics. Rotate them 2 a year, say one year it would be songwriter and pioneer and the next year musician and non performer. The backlog is big enough to handle that I believe.
    One artist nobody has mentioned is Steve Wariner. He will go in at some point. Maybe sooner than expected. It would not surprise me at all if he was not on the ballot this year. Also, The Gatlins, Crystal Gayle, Hank, Jr., Ray Stevens, Marty Stuart, Tanya Tucker, Anne Murray, Keith Whitley and The Judds. Another act no one seems to mention is The Bellamy Brothers. They were the Brooks & Dunn of the 80's. Gene Watson and Vern Gosdin should be considered as well. Then there's Stonewall Jackson (sigh).... he's a Hall of Famer.
    I could go on and on. I agree with Garth. Maybe he'll have some influence on the issues.

  27. David B,

    Which acts do you see being inducted into the Hall of Fame in the next ten years?.