Sunday night's Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame saw three very diverse musical legends inducted into one of music's most exclusive clubs, as Mac Wiseman, Hank Cochran and Ronnie Milsap were each celebrated for their wide array of musical accomplishments on and off the stage.
After opening announcements, Hall of Fame director Kyle Young opened the ceremony by recognizing the current members in attendance, including Bill Anderson, Emmylou Harris, Connie Smith and legendary WSM radio announcer Ralph Emery. A moment of silence was then held for members Ray Price and Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, both of whom passed away since last October's ceremony.
Young proceeded to introduce the life and accomplishments of Malcom E. "Mac" Wiseman, along with many songs the rural Virginia-native helped to popularize, including "Shackles and Chains" and "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight." Wiseman then was celebrated in song by Jim Lauderdale with "Goin' Like Wildfire," Vince Gill with "Tis' Sweet To Be Remembered," and Charlie Daniels, who recalled buying many of Wiseman's releases on Dot Records, such as "Jimmy Brown The Newsboy," which he performed.
Fellow Hall-member Jo Walker-Meador was next on stage, sharing memories about Wiseman's off-the-stage contributions like being an early board member of the CMA upon its establishment in 1958. Wiseman then accepted the medallion from Meador, saying that the music he has performed is "a slice of life. There's things going on today that have been going on since the beginning of time." He ended his acceptance speech by saying the induction meant "more to me than anything that has happened in my career."
Next up was a video tribute to the late Cochran, inducted in the revolving "Non-Performer" category as a songwriter. Young relayed some of the classic lyrics of his songs over the years, ranging from "She's Got You" to "The Chair." Alison Krauss then took to the stage to perform enchanting versions of two of his classics "Make The World Go Away" and "Don't Touch Me" -- a hit for Cochran's former wife, Jeannie Seely. Traditional-based singer Gene Watson also joined in the tribute, offering a solid version of "Don't You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me."
Longtime friend (and 2013-inductee) Bobby Bare presided over Cochran's induction, calling him "an icon, a good friend and a good songwriter." Cochran's widow, Suzi, accepted the medallion while sharing stories concerning her husband, including a letter he wrote to his ex-wife in the winter of 1960, saying "I guess things weren't meant to be -- at least it seems that way and I just don't care anymore. I've had just about all I can take. I just want to run off some place and hide." The next year, Patsy Cline would soar to the top with "I Fall To Pieces."
The final inductee of the night was Milsap, who was celebrated in song by Sam Moore of Sam & Dave. Moore offered a soaring version of "Lost In The Fifties Tonight" with the assistance of Vince Gill's pristine harmonies. Before the song, Moore recalled that Milsap opened a show for Sam & Dave in 1965, when Milsap was recording R&B for Scepter.
"He was singing 'Never Had It So Good.' I remember telling Dave, 'He's a white boy, and he ain't gonna make it," he said to a huge response.
Milsap protege Hunter Hayes was next, delivering a grooving version of the 1981 classic "There's No Gettin' Over Me." And to end the Milsap tribute, Martina McBride gave an angelic performance of "I'd Be A Legend In My Time." Brenda Lee did the induction honors, recalling a trip she took with Jack Johnson to Nashville's King of the Road Hotel to see Milsap play before he signed with RCA in early 1973. The singer thanked producers such as Tom Collins and Rob Galbraith, former RCA exec Jerry Bradley, and his family for their support and unwavering love over the years.
Holding true to tradition, the closing number was a soulful take on "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," led my Milsap on the piano, featuring some nice closing bass notes from Ray Walker of the Jordanaires and Charley Pride.