Awards

You Won't Believe These 30 Artists Aren't Already in the Country Music Hall of Fame

Tim McGraw, Crystal Gayle and Tanya Tucker
Getty Image; Designed by Tracy Alison

Tim McGraw, Crystal Gayle and Tanya Tucker.

The list of potential honorees is long, and gets longer every year.

While the Country Music Hall of Fame’s medallion ceremony to honor this year’s three inductees -- Hank Williams Jr., Marty Stuart and songwriter Dean Dillon -- is on hold, due to the COVID-19 pandemic (“The museum will host a medallion ceremony…as soon as we are able to gather safely,” a spokesman told Billboard), it’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s inductions.

With all of these honorary awards, also including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Recording Academy’s special merit awards, the list of potential honorees is long, and gets longer every year. The list of artists who have yet to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame includes some artists you probably just assumed were already in there, such as Freddy Fender, Tanya Tucker and The Judds.

As Peter Cooper, senior director, producer and writer for the Country Music Hall of Fame, explains in this informative video, each year three individuals or groups are elected into the Hall -- one in each of three categories. The veterans era category is for artists who first achieved national prominence 40 or more years ago. The modern-era artist category is open to any artist who first achieved national prominence 20 or more years ago.  Then there’s a rotating category: a non-performer one year, a songwriter the next year and a recording or touring musician the year after that.

Here are 30 artists who are eligible for the Country Music Hall of Fame in one of the two artist categories -- 15 in each -- but have yet to get that coveted call. Many will, in time. But as the sheer volume of worthy choices shows, it may take a while. The Country Music Hall of Fame had a “catch-up” year in 2001, in which they had 12 honorees (rather than the usual three). They may need to have another catch-up year.

As noted, the Country Music Hall of Fame will consider an act after just 20 years. The Hall should consider changing that restriction to 25 years, which would bring it in line with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame. (For the record, the Songwriters Hall of Fame uses a 20-year standard.) Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, The Chicks, Lee Ann Womack and LeAnn Rimes all qualify for the Country Music Hall of Fame -- they all debuted between 20 and 25 years ago -- but they all seem too current to really be considered.

After each artist’s name we show the month and year they first cracked Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart to give you a rough idea of when they first achieved national prominence. We also show how many No. 1 hits they have amassed on that chart (or, if they have yet to reach No. 1, the peak position of their highest-charting hit) and how many CMA Awards they have won.

Veteran artist category

John Anderson: First charted: December 1977. Five No. 1 hits. 3 CMA Awards, including single of the year for “Swingin’” (1983).

Rosanne Cash: First charted: September 1979. 11 No. 1 hits. No CMA Awards, but 11 nominations, including single of the year for “Tennessee Flat Top Box” (1988). Her legendary father, Johnny Cash, was inducted in 1980. The Cashes would be the first father and daughter to each be inducted. (Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan could also achieve this distinction if they join their already inducted fathers Mel Tillis and George Morgan.)

Jessi Colter: First charted: November 1970. One CMA Award: album of the year for Wanted! The Outlaws, a collab with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser. That album, on which Colter held her own with three male stars, made Colter the first woman to win a CMA Award for album of the year.

Rodney Crowell: First charted: September 1978. Five No. 1 hits, including one collab with Rosanne Cash. Eight CMA nominations, including single, song and music video of the year for “After All This Time” (1989).

Mac Davis: First charted: April 1970. Highest-charting hit: “Hooked on Music” (No. 2). One CMA nomination, for entertainer of the year (1974). Davis, who died in September, co-hosted the CMA Awards three times.

John Denver: First charted: June 1971. Three No. 1 hits. Two CMA Awards, including entertainer of the year (1975). Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was one of three country classics that comprised the all-star 2016 smash “Forever Country,” which was created to mark the 50th anniversary of the CMA. So there goes the “he wasn’t country enough” argument!

Eagles: First charted: October 1975. Highest-charting hit: “Lyin’ Eyes” (No. 8). Four CMA nominations, all for vocal group of the year. The all-star tribute album Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles also won a CMA Award for album of the year. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: What Eagles and such other pop/rock acts as Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger and Jimmy Buffett were doing in the ‘70s helped shape and define modern country. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Freddy Fender: First charted: January 1975. Four No. 1 hits. One CMA Award: single of the year for “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” (1975).

Janie Fricke: First charted:  September 1977. Nine No. 1 hits. Two CMA Awards: back-to-back awards for female vocalist of the year (1982-83).

Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers: First charted: October 1973. Three No. 1 hits. Seven CMA nominations (plus three more for Larry Gatlin as male vocalist of the year). The Gatlins would become the fourth all-brother group or duo to be inducted, following The Delmore Brothers, The Everly Brothers and The Louvin Brothers.

Crystal Gayle: First charted: September 1970. 18 No. 1 hits. Two CMA Awards: back-to-back awards as female vocalist of the year in 1977-78. Gayle’s sister, Loretta Lynn, was inducted in 1988. They would be just the third set of sisters in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Original Carter Family included sisters Sara and Maybelle Carter. The Browns included sisters Maxine and Bonnie Brown.

Jerry Lee Lewis: First charted: June 1957. Six No. 1 hits. No nominations. Lewis was one of the 10 inaugural inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Elvis Presley and The Everly Brothers (both of whom have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame).

Anne Murray: First charted: July 1970. Ten No. 1 hits. Three CMA Awards, including album of the year for A Little Good News and single of the year for its title track (1984). Three-time co-host of the CMA Awards.

Charlie Rich: First charted: March 1968. Nine No. 1 hits. Five CMA Awards, including album of the year for Behind Closed Doors and single of the year for its title track (1973).

Tanya Tucker: First charted: May 1972. 10 No. 1 hits. Two CMA Awards, including one award for female vocalist of the year (1991).

Modern-era artist category

Note: All of these artists listed debuted at least 25 years ago, so they would qualify even if the Country Music Hall of Fame tightened its eligibility restriction.

Clint Black: First charted: February 1989. 13 No. 1 hits. Four CMA Awards, including the 1990 award for male vocalist of the year. Co-hosted the CMA Awards in 1993 with Vince Gill.

Kenny Chesney: First charted: December 1993. 24 No. 1 hits. Nine CMA Awards, including four awards for entertainer of the year -- but, surprisingly, no awards for male vocalist of the year.

Lee Greenwood: First charted: September 1981. Seven No. 1 hits. Three CMA Awards, including back-to-back awards for male vocalist of the year (1983-84).

Faith Hill: First charted: October 1993. Nine No. 1 hits. Three CMA Awards, including female vocalist of the year (2000).

The Judds: First charted: December 1983. 14 No. 1 hits. Nine CMA Awards, including seven consecutive awards for vocal group or duo of the year. The Judds would be the first mother and child to each earn induction into the Hall -- as a unit or separately. Wynonna has also had a big career as a solo artist.

Toby Keith: First charted: March 1993. 20 No. 1 hits. Three CMA Awards, including male vocalist of the year (2001).

Alison Krauss: First charted: September 1991. One No. 1 hit. Seven CMA Awards, including female vocalist of the year (1995).

Patty Loveless: First charted: December 1985. Five No. 1 hits. Five CMA Awards, including the 1995 award for album of the year for When Fallen Angels Fly.

Kathy Mattea: First charted: October 1983. Four No. 1 hits. Four CMA Awards, including single of the year for “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” (1988).

Martina McBride: First charted: May 1992. Five No. 1 hits. Five CMA Awards, including four awards for female vocalist of the year.

Tim McGraw: First charted: October 1992. 27 No. 1 hits. 11 CMA Awards, including the 2001 award for entertainer of the year and back-to-back awards for male vocalist of the year (1999-2000).

Travis Tritt: First charted: September 1989. Five No. 1 hits. Four CMA Awards, including the Horizon award (1991). As noted above, Tritt’s occasional duet partner, Marty Stuart, will get the nod this year.

Shania Twain: First charted: March 1993. Seven No. 1 hits. One CMA Award: the 1999 award for entertainer of the year. Come On Over is one of only two albums in the 56-year history of Top Country Albums to log 50 weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums.

Trisha Yearwood: First charted: May 1991. Five No. 1 hits. Three CMA Awards, including back-to-back awards for female vocalist of the year (1997-98). Yearwood’s husband, Garth Brooks, got the nod in 2012. Yearwood and Brooks (and/or Tim McGraw & Faith Hill) would join a select list of husbands-and-wives in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Just two married couples are in now: songwriters Boudleaux & Felice Bryant and Sara and A.P. Carter (of the original Carter Family).

Dwight Yoakam: First charted: March 1986. Two No. 1 hits: “Streets of Bakersfield” (a collab with Buck Owens) and “I Sang Dixie.” Eight CMA nominations, including single of the year for “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” (1993).

Hank Williams, Jr. on Why His New Album 'It's About Time' Is About Coming 'Full Circle'