“They just stood there and stared at us for about 30 seconds,” Dunn tells Billboard with a laugh. “We [didn’t] know how to take it.”
“We just slumped back in our chairs,” Brooks interjects. “It’s real big ... you think about how you started playing music. Your whole life leads up to something like this that’ll never happen. When you get a pat on the back like this, you just don’t know what to say. You don’t know how to digest it because it’s the culmination of everything you’ve done as far as country music goes.”
For many of the inductees, the love of country music ran in their families. Dunn confesses that his father, a musician himself, would be in shock of his invitation. Bradley also followed in his family's footsteps as his father and uncle were both previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“My father dreamed of becoming a country music star, and that’s what he was doing when I was born, in Abilene, Texas,” Dunn recalls. “I can just imagine him standing here right now going, ‘What the hell!’ A lot of your perspective comes from that vantage point.”
Bradley, meanwhile, became visibly emotional when mentioning his dad and uncle during the press conference. He admits this is something he won’t outgrow anytime soon. While discussing the evolution of country music, the former RCA Records executive cites being a big believer in what his dad did for the country genre as far as embracing the Nashville sound with acts like Conway Twitty and Patsy Cline. The newest inductee credits his father for finding his path in country music, as he went from dreaming of a career in rock ‘n’ roll to working with country heavyweights Ronnie Milsap, Dolly Parton, Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Jessi Colter, among others.
“When I first started, I thought I liked rock 'n' roll, and I was trying to find rock 'n' roll songs and he came to me one day and said, 'How many studios are there in town?’ That time there were three. He says, 'How many songs do they do in a session?' I said, 'Well, four,' and he said, ‘OK, how many songs did they do?’ and I said, 'Well they do about a hundred a week.' He said, 'How many of those were rock 'n' roll?' I said, 'One or two.' He said, 'Why don't you go with the odds?' That changed my life right there,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I'm going to get country quick.’ As you can tell, I still respect him. It's hard to talk about him in a crowd. I can sit here and talk to y'all, but you get a bunch of people, I just can't do it.”
Stevens, who is well known for combining comedy with country music, admits that it doesn’t get much better than being invited to become a member of the Hall of Fame. “This is the payoff for years and years of doing what you like to do. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into that,” he shares. “If you’re committed, you have to pay the price. Although, I must say, you happily pay the price. This is the payoff and it’s great.”
Hall of Fame members are elected annually by an anonymous panel of industry leaders chosen by the Country Music Association. The Hall of Fame class was first created in 1961 by the CMA to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of country music by individuals in the creative and business communities. The Class of 2019 will be formally inducted later this year in a ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.