Grammy for Best Country Album. CMA Entertainer of the Year. ACM Entertainer of the Year. Grand Ole Opry Induction.
Some awards and honors bestowed to artists in the country music industry are on another level. They mean more, not only to the artists, but also to the industry execs, media members and fans who are invested in the genre.
The biggest honor is election into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
On March 27, the Country Music Association announced the Country Music Hall of Fame class of 2018: Ricky Skaggs (modern era), Dottie West (veteran era) and Johnny Gimble (musician).
As a teary-eyed Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood announced the class of 2018 in the CMHOF rotunda, it dawned on me once again that two of this year’s inductees—Dottie West and Johnny Gimble—weren’t present to enjoy the honor. Dottie died in 1991, while Johnny passed away in 2015.
In their steads, teary-eyed—just like Garth—family members accepted the honors on behalf of both Dottie and Johnny. The same scenario played out in 2017 when one of my favorite artists, Jerry Reed, who died in 2008, was elected. Again, in 2015, Grady Martin (dead since 2001) and Jim Ed Brown (who was deathly ill) were elected. In 2014, Hank Cochran (dead since 2010) was elected.
Their bodies of work hadn’t changed significantly, if at all, before their elections. The only thing that changed? Their bodies were no longer with us.
Since 1961, the CMA has elected 136 members to the Hall of Fame in its five categories: Modern Era, Veteran Era and Songwriter/Musician/Non-Performer (this category rotates every year). For the most part, what the CMA has done each year is elect one to four new members based on its own set of criteria.
Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is solely the prerogative of the CMA. New members, elected annually by an anonymous panel of industry leaders chosen by the CMA, are formally inducted in special, invitation-only ceremonies held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum does not participate in the election. Through a licensing agreement with the CMA, the Museum exhibits the bronze plaques commemorating membership in a space and fashion befitting the honor.
2001 was the exception, when there were 12 inductees, including Waylon Jennings, Bill Anderson, The Everly Brothers, Webb Pierce and more.
I wrote all of that so I could write this: there are a number of people who deserve induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They should be elected while they are still alive so they can enjoy country music’s biggest honor. If that means electing 10 or 12 people in one year again, so be it.
Can you imagine Jerry Reed giving his own induction speech? The “Guitar Man” would have been entertaining, to say the least.