A few weeks ago the Country Music Hall of Fame announced this year’s inductees. As most of you probably have heard, the 2011 inductees included Jean Shepard, Reba McEntire and songwriter, Bobby Braddock. Like all Country Music Hall of Fame inductees of the past, Jean, Reba and Bobby are completely worthy of the honor and each have certainly left their impression on country music.
Over the past few years, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly interested in not only the folks who are being inducted, but also those who have yet to be inducted. The first Hall of Fame induction took place 50 years ago in 1961. On the surface, it seems that 50 years of inductions would have included all of the major influential artists in country music, but that is truly not the case. Those of us aware of the deserving country artists that have yet to be inducted surely have our opinions – rightfully so, because being elected as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame is one of country music’s greatest honors.
This year I was especially intrigued by some of the remarks made by Jean Shepard during her induction. Jean said that we should not forget about the other greats that are deserving of the accolade. Jean mentioned The Wilburn Brothers, The Browns, Jimmy C. Newman, Leroy Van Dyke and Skeeter Davis all of whom would be eligible in the “Veteran Era Artist” category.
Speaking of categories, let me give you a quick break down on the Country Music Hall of Fame induction categories. Currently, the Country Music Hall of Fame has been inducting three different people per year in the following categories: Veteran Era Artist (artists become eligible for this category 45 years after reaching national prominence), Modern Era Artist (artists eligible 20 years after reaching national prominence) and Non-Performer (comprised of “Songwriter,” “Recording,” and “Touring Musician,” each of which is awarded every third year in a rotation).
No surprise Jean is letting her opinion be stated, she has always been an outspoken member of the country music community standing proudly in honor of the music that she loves. In 1974 Jean began serving as president of the Association of Country Entertainers, which was formed after Olivia Newton-John won CMA’s female vocalist of the year. Olivia Newton-John winning the award was a hard pill to swallow for Jean, and she intended to keep the music that she loved pure and not “pop.” It appears Jean is still standing up for the artists and music that she loves judging by her comments at the induction.
In an article about Jean’s former duet partner, the great Ferlin Husky, who we recently lost, the article went on to mention what a real thrill and sense of accomplishment it was for Ferlin to be honored as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ferlin was happy that he could be honored, while still alive, and he and his family and friends could take joy in that.
Part of me understands that if the Hall of Fame were to induct everybody worthy of the honor, then there would be no more “greats” to be selected for the subsequent inductions. Considering the categories that apply to each year’s inductions, the Hall of Fame more-than-likely would prefer to have plenty of country stars that fit the bill for the “Veteran Era Artist” for years to come. But, the other part of me agrees with Jean for exactly the reasons that Ferlin stated. These artists deserve to be honored during their lifetime, such an achievement should be received while the artist is here to enjoy it, along with their family and friends.
Once again, I’ll be looking forward to next year’s Hall of Fame inductions and hoping that the Hall of Fame recognizes one the artists suggested by Jean Shepard. The Wiburn Brothers, The Browns, Jimmy C. Newman, Leroy Van Dyke and Skeeter Davis all have done so much for country music. The people that they have helped along the way, the influence that they have left behind and the music that they created all point to being deserving of the honor of becoming a decorated member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. I hope we can see them all in the Country Music Hall of Fame soon.