It was among the last words he spoke during his remarks last night at the 2013 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony, but Kenny Rogers might have summed up the lasting power of being inducted into the exclusive club. As he was talking about the pride he took in sharing the moment with wife Wanda and his family, he said ‘Music comes and goes. Records come and go. But, the Hall of Fame is forever, baby."
For three of the format's most diverse artists, it was a forever kind of night. The first ever event to be held at the posh new CMA Theater, Rogers was formally inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Bobby Bare and Cowboy Jack Clement.
Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young welcomed the crowd, then introduced Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters' 1944 hit version of the classic "Pistol Packin' Mama" (The first number one on Billboard's Juke Box Folk Records chart, which was later known as Hot Country Songs). He then spoke the lasting influence of Gospel music on the country genre, and brought 2012 inductee Connie Smith to the stage, who performed Hank Williams' classic "(I'm Gonna) Sing, Sing, Sing."
The first inductee to be recognized was Clement. Young detailed his life and career, praising his "lifetime of creativity." First paying tribute to Clement in song was John Prine, who spoke of meeting the entertainer in the 1970s. Then, he dusted off the 1958 chestnut "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen," which was a chart-topper for Johnny Cash. Next was Kris Kristofferson, who performed "Big River," one of many Cash hits produced by Clement. Former Cash band member Marty Stuart appeared on stage next, sharing anecdotes about meeting Clement at the infamous Cowboy Arms Recording Studio and Spa before launching into "I Know One" with the Fabulous Superlatives. Rounding out the musical tribute to Clement was Emmylou Harris, who performed a touching version of "When I Dream," one of many hits Clement published.
Charley Pride -- a Clement protege -- was selected to officially introduce his former producer as a member of the Hall. Accepting for him was his daughter Alison, who entertained the audience with a humorous story about her father speaking to her in a dream giving her advice on how to accept the honor. It truly summed up the unique spirit of one of Nashville's all-time greatest characters. Clement passed away August 8, but was present for the announcement of his selection in April.
The next artist in the spotlight would be Bobby Bare. Young spoke of the Ohio native's love of the Grand Ole Opry, as well as big band music of the 1940s. He also mentioned the story of "The All American Boy," a song that Bare recorded, but was credited to his friend Bill Parsons. However, after signing with RCA Victor in 1962, Bare got his name on plenty of credits, starting with his top-20 debut for the label, "Shame On Me." However, his third single for Nipper would prove to be the one that pushed him to the front of the line career-wise – Mel Tillis's "Detroit City." Rodney Crowell performed the song in honor of Bare, with some sterling harmonies from Harris. Young then spoke of Bare as a friend and supporter to young songwriters, such as Tom T. Hall, giving way to Buddy Miller's soulful croon through Hall's "That's How I Got To Memphis." Other tunesmiths that Bare supported was Kristofferson, who re-appeared to perform "Come Sundown," and the legendary Shel Silverstein. Bare recorded many works of the latter, including 1974's "Marie Laveau" - his only Billboard chart-topper. Showing up to perform the classic was John Anderson. Hall was then announced to induct his longtime friend. "The Storyteller," as he is known, shared many humorous stories about Bare before bringing him to the stage. In his remarks, Bare thanked wife Jeannie and family, the songwriters he worked with, and credited Chet Atkins for signing him to RCA - stating that if he hadn't signed him to the label, he wouldn't be going into the Hall.
The final inductee of the night was Rogers. Young spoke of the singers' immense crossover appeal before telling of his early years growing up in the projects of Houston. His forays into jazz (The Bobby Doyle Trio) and folk (The New Christy Minstrels) were mentioned, as well as his top-40 days as a member of Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. Darius Rucker appeared on stage to perform "Lucille," his breakthrough country hit from 1977. Another Rogers signature, "The Gambler," was featured – from the man who gave the song life, writer Don Schlitz. His success with duets was also mentioned, with Barry Gibb and Kelly Lang performing the biggest - "Islands In The Stream," a 1983 classic with Dolly Parton. Gibb (along with brothers Maurice and Robin) wrote the song for the duo. Alison Krauss rounded out the Rogers tribute with a captivating take on "Sweet Music Man" - one of a handful of his hits that he wrote. Stepping up to the stage to introduce Rogers as a member was Garth Brooks, who spoke warmly of opening for the singer during his early days. In accepting the honor, Rogers thanked former manager Ken Kragen, current manager Ken Levitan, and longtime producer Larry Butler – who was at the helm of many of his biggest hits. He also spoke of his relationship with his late brother Lelan, who was a guiding force in his career and life.
With their inductions complete, Rogers and Bare lent their voices to the traditional closing performance of the Carter Family's "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," along with a group of fellow Hall members that included Brooks, Smith, Bobby Braddock, Sonny James, and Brenda Lee.