The Country Music Hall of Fame announced the names of their 2014 class on Tuesday morning (Apr. 22), and the inductees reflect the diversity of the format's rich and varied history – with one of the format's all-time biggest artists who mined country with pop and R&B, a bluegrass musician who has devoted his career to the business – on and off the stage, and a songwriter who penned classics for Hall members such as George Strait and Patsy Cline.
In the Songwriter category, the nod went to the late Garland Perry Cochran, who was better known as "Hank." A native of Mississippi, Cochran was raised by his grandparents. At the age of 12, the youngster and his uncle hitchhiked to New Mexico to work in the oil fields. After two years there, he started searching for a better way of life, and moved on to Los Angeles.
While there, he started playing in local talent shows, and soon met up with Eddie Cochran. The two – not related despite the same last name – formed The Cochran Brothers, and achieved minor success. Ever restless, Cochran soon found himself in Music City. In 1960, he penned the classic "Make The World Go Away," which eventually became a hit for Ray Price and then for Eddy Arnold in 1965. He co-wrote "I Fall To Pieces" for Cline in 1961 alongside Harlan Howard.
Other artists to record songs from the Cochran pen included Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, and Strait, who turned "The Chair" and "Ocean Front Property" into classics. Cochran also placed seven titles on the charts himself, with the biggest being 1962's "Sally Was A Good Old Girl," which peaked at No. 20. Cochran passed away on July 15, 2010. In 2012, Universal released the Jamey Johnson tribute record "Living For A Song," which contained cover versions of Cochran classics with artists such as Ronnie Dunn and Lee Ann Womack.
Selected in the "Veterans" category was Mac Wiseman. Born on May 23, 1925 in Crimora, Va., Wiseman was diagnosed with polio at only six months old. Due to his diagnosis, Wiseman was kept inside as a child – where he discovered the world of music via his father's phonograph. He attended the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, thanks to help from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later the March of Dimes). His career would take him to WSVA in Harrisburg, VA, where he started a radio career. He played in the band of Molly O'Day, and then in 1948, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and in 1949 – Bill Monroe.
By the early 1950s, Wiseman signed with Dot, and released his first single "Tis' So Sweet To Be Remembered." The emotional delivery of the song led to his being given the nickname "The Voice With A Heart." By the end of the decade, his business acumen was rewarded when he was tapped to head the country division of the label. He also served as the first secretary / treasurer of the CMA in 1958.
Over the years, Wiseman has continued to record – collaborating with John Prine in 2007 on the disc Standard Songs for Average People. He has just finished a new album which includes Vince Gill, the Isaacs, and Merle Haggard.
In the "Modern" category, Ronnie Milsap was celebrated as the 2014 inductee. Raised by his grandmother, Milsap was sent to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, NC at age five. He developed an interest in music of all kinds – country, classical, and rock and roll. A one-time member of J.J. Cale's band, the young performer signed with Scepter in 1965, and scored a hit with "Never Had It So Good" (written by Ashford & Simpson). By the end of the decade, he would make the move to Tennessee, but not to Nashville at first. A stint in Memphis led to Milsap becoming a studio musician, where he played on such hits as "Kentucky Rain" and "Don't Cry Daddy" for Elvis Presley.
A chance meeting with Charley Pride in 1972 led to a move to Nashville, where he signed with Pride's manager, Jack Johnson. He inked a deal with RCA the next year, and was on the charts by years' end with "I Hate You."
His first Billboard chart-topper, "Pure Love," came in 1974 – the first of 35 number one singles. His hit tally included "Only One Love In My Life," "Daydreams About Night Things," and "It Was Almost Like A Song," which topped the charts in 1977 – the year he was awarded the CMA's Entertainer of the Year award.
The hits continued for Milsap through the 1980s and into the early part of the 1990s. His hits from that era included "Inside," "Smoky Mountain Rain," and "Stranger Things Have Happened." He left RCA in 1993, but returned to the label in 2006 for the release of My Life. Just last month, the Grand Ole Opry member released Summer Number Seventeen on Legacy.
Cochran, Wiseman, and Milsap will be formally inducted into the Hall at an invitation-only ceremony later this year.