Garth Brooks: The superstar who took country to a whole new level won the horizon award in 1990 and was voted into the Hall in 2012—just 22 years later. It really can’t be done much faster than that. He beat Alan Jackson, Kentucky Headhunters, Lorrie Morgan and Travis Tritt for the horizon award. (Tritt nabbed the horizon award the following year. CMA rules allow artists two tries at the award.)
Randy Travis: The country and gospel singer won the horizon award in 1986 and was voted into the Hall in 2016—30 years later. He beat the Forester Sisters, Kathy Mattea, Dan Seals and Dwight Yoakam for the horizon award.
Ricky Skaggs: The country and bluegrass musician won the horizon award in 1982 and was voted into the Hall in 2018—36 years later. He beat John Anderson, Rosanne Cash, David Frizzell and Lee Greenwood for the horizon award. (Anderson nabbed the horizon award the following year.)
The Judds: The mother-daughter duo won the horizon award in 1984 and was voted into the Hall in 2021—37 years later. They beat Deborah Allen, Earl Thomas Conley, Vern Gosdin and Michael Martin Murphey for the horizon award.
Who will be the next horizon award winner to be inducted into the Hall? That’s anybody’s guess, but the name could come from this list of seven notable horizon award winners – Ricky Van Shelton, Clint Black, Alison Krauss, LeAnn Rimes, Dixie Chicks, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban. (All have been nationally prominent for 20 years, a Hall of Fame requirement.)
What was the most competitive year ever for the horizon award? Twice, two future Hall of Famers competed for the horizon award.
In 1983, Reba McEntire and George Strait vied for the horizon award, which wound up going to John Anderson, who had a big hit that year with “Swingin’.” Strait went into the Hall of Fame in 2006, followed by McEntire five years later.
As noted above, in 1990, Brooks bested Alan Jackson for the horizon award. Brooks went into the Hall of Fame in 2012, followed by Jackson five years later.
McEntire, Strait and Jackson aren't the only future Hall of Famers who lost the horizon award. Brooks & Dunn lost the horizon award in 1992 to Suzy Bogguss. And Ray Charles, already a legend, lost the horizon award in 1985 to Sawyer Brown. (Charles' nomination for a horizon award in 1985, perhaps a shade too clever, was keyed to the success of his country duets album Friendship.)
Brooks & Dunn went into the Hall in 2019. Charles was voted in this year.