In February, the Country Music Hall of Fame typically announces the name of three new inductees into the ranks of the genre's most exclusive class. With that in mind, we'd like to offer our thoughts on who might be the honorees in the individual categories this year.
In the Modern Era...
Garth Brooks - Yes, it's time to start thinking about the famous "Class of '89," and Garth Brooks would rank atop the list. The numbers speak for themselves. Albums like "No Fences" and "Ropin' The Wind" proved that country music didn't have to take a backseat to any other genre.
Ronnie Milsap - A favorite of many in Music City in this category - deservedly so, as the numbers speak for themselves. Nearly every Milsap single released on RCA became a huge hit - an incredible run of close to twenty years. As versatile as any other singer, he hit with traditional sounds, rock, and soul. Watch him live today, after nearly forty years in Nashville, and you get the idea. A natural choice.
The Oak Ridge Boys: "Elvira"
The Oak Ridge Boys - Their harmony is legendary, matched only by their accomplishments. They continue to dazzle with projects such as "The Boys Are Back." But, with their music, as well as their many contributions to society, they have definitely left behind a lot more than they have taken.
Kenny Rogers - One of the biggest artists to ever record in Nashville, Kenny was a integral part of country music becoming known and loved world-wide, as well as across musical genres. His song selection - "Lucille," "The Gambler," and "Islands In The Stream" continue to speak volumes to this day.
Ricky Skaggs - In the early 1980s, Kentucky native Skaggs was taking songs from Carl Butler, Flatt & Scruggs, and Webb Pierce and making them cool to a whole new crowd. In addition, "Picky Ricky," as he came to be known, instilled such a high level of excellence with his albums that he still is one of the most respected singers and pickers in Nashville. And, he's done the same thing over the past fifteen years in the bluegrass field.
In the Veterans Era...
Archie Campbell - Fans of modern-day country comedy might not grasp the East Tennessean's importance to the art form. But, before Campbell, all male country comedians dressed in rube hillbilly garb - usually with a piece of hay dangling from their mouth. Campbell shocked Grand Ole Opry management in 1958, walking out on the Ryman stage in a suit and tie. It didn't matter how he was dressed, however. He knocked them dead - and did so, on stage and on "Hee Haw" for almost thirty years.
June Carter Cash - It might come as a surprise that she is not in the Hall, but her contributions as a singer, comedienne, and writer definitely merit induction - regardless of her being the woman who helped bring Johnny Cash back from the brink.
Jerry Reed: "City of New Orleans"
Jerry Reed - Though time has rendered him best known as the comic sidekick to Burt Reynolds in several late 70s movies, Reed was also one of the predominant guitar players of his time, with a style that influenced so many that have come since him. And, his movie and TV work helped to make him one of the most known performers of his time.
Connie Smith - One of the most captivating female vocalists that country music has ever seen. She hit the ground running with 1964's "Once A Day," and continued to rack up hit after hit through the late 1970s. Along the way, her music made a mark on just about every female vocalist that has entered Davidson County in search of fame.
Hank Williams, Jr. - OK, He could be in either the Veteran or the Modern category. But, he did start charting in 1964, and had achieved many hits on the charts prior to his commercial heyday of the 1980s. He totally revolutionized the live show aspect of country music, and his albums became not just record releases, but events. Is he tough sometimes? A little abrasive, perhaps? Sure, but his name might very well be the most glaring omission on this list.
Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician:
Don Rich - This one, we are passionate about. As a fiddler, guitarist, and harmony singer, he had no peers. For an example, look at the career of Buck Owens with Rich -- and after his 1974 death. Enough said, though arguments could be made for Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Hank Garland, Johnny Gimble, and many others.