For years, the possible induction of Dottie West into the Country Music Hall of Fame has been a rallying cry for fans and fellow artists alike. Tuesday morning (Mar. 27), the name of Dottie West was announced as one of three new inductees into Country Music’s most exclusive club.
The announcement of West as the honoree in the Hall’s Veteran Performer category comes after years of lobbying by many from within the industry to see the performer inducted – such as longtime duet partner Kenny Rogers and Larry Gatlin (whom West befriended and supported in his career), as well as Steve Wariner, who once played bass in West’s band. In a December 2014 op-ed for Billboard, Wariner claimed that West was an artist ahead of her time.
“You can’t imagine the doors Dottie West knocked down so scores of young female singer/songwriters could walk through behind her,” he wrote. “She did it in a ‘good ole boy’ era that wasn’t readily going to let the girls in, but Dottie would have none of it… She was a brilliant songwriter, gifted singer and entertainer with a sharp, keen eye for young, upcoming talent. Among other things, she is credited as discovering several young artists who went on to be stars in their own right.”
West began her career climb in the late 1950s, signing a recording contract with Starday in 1959. It would be her songwriting that would gain her prominence initially – Jim Reeves took her reflective “Is This Me” ballad to No. 3 on the Country Songs chart in the spring of 1963. The success of the song would help earn her a contract with RCA Victor, where she would soon tally her first hit as a recording artist – “Let Me Off At The Corner,” hit No. 29.
A top ten hit with Reeves, “Love Is No Excuse,” soon followed, and West was on her way to stardom throughout the 1960s. “Here Comes My Baby,” from 1964, would help her earn the distinction of becoming the first female artist in Country Music history to win a Grammy Award. Later hits on RCA included “Would You Hold It Against Me” and “Paper Mansions.” Two of West’s hits for RCA Victor — “Country Girl” and “Country Sunshine” — were featured in television campaigns for Coca-Cola, with the latter winning a coveted Cilo Award for television advertising.
In 1976, West left RCA for United Artists, where she would tally some of the biggest hits of her career — including several classic recordings with Rogers, such as “Every Time Two Fools Collide” and “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,” for which the two would take home the vocal duo of the year prize at the CMA Awards in 1978 and 1979. West last charted with 1985’s “We Know Better Now” (No.53), but continued to tour through the late 1980s. The singer was injured in an automobile accident en route to the Grand Ole Opry in August of 1991. Despite three surgeries, and a valiant fight for her life, she succumbed to her injuries on the morning of September 4, 1991, at the age of 58.
Joining West as a member of the Hall of Fame’s 2018 class is fellow Grand Ole Opry star Ricky Skaggs. A native of the hills of Eastern Kentucky, the singer-instrumentalist was a childhood prodigy — playing a mandolin given to him by his father, Hobert, at age five. By the age of ten, he had already shared the stage with heroes Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, and would hone his skills as a player and as a singer in many bands around the area.
It was in one of those bands where Skaggs would meet Keith Whitley, and the two would form a lifelong friendship. Their musical chemistry together impressed Ralph Stanley, who selected the two teenagers to play and sing in his Clinch Mountain Boys. Throughout the 1970s, Skaggs continued to develop his chops, playing with The Country Gentlemen and J.D. Crowe before launching his own musical troupe, Boone Creek (which featured Jerry Douglas and future Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill). Skaggs then came to the attention of Emmylou Harris, who invited him to join her Hot Band — where his musical talents continued to gain a following.
By the early 1980s, Skaggs was recording on his own, with a contract with Epic. His first single for the label was a rollicking cover of Flatt and Scruggs’ “Don’t Get Above Your Raising,” which hit No. 16. For the rest of the decade, Skaggs raced up and down the Billboard Country Songs chart with a mix of classic country songs from artists such as Ray Price, Mel Tillis, and Webb Pierce – as well as fresh and innovative new sounds such as “Highway 40 Blues” and albums such as Highways & Heartaches and Live In London that qualified as artistic statements. In 1985, Skaggs was named as the Entertainer of the Year from the CMA – one of eight awards he would win from on the yearly show. Though his final Top-20 hit as a Country artist came in 1992 (“Same Ol’ Love”), Skaggs re-invented himself in the 1990s, returning to his first love of Bluegrass Music – establishing Skaggs Family Records, and continuing to plow new musical ground in collaborations with artists such as Jack White and Bruce Hornsby.
Skaggs was announced as the recipient in this year’s “Modern Category” distinction — an induction that one of his fellow Hall of Famers thinks is overdue. In 2017, Garth Brooks — who announced the names of this years’ inductees with wife Trisha Yearwood, told Billboard of Skaggs, “I would proudly trade my being in the Hall Of Fame for Ricky Skaggs being in the Hall Of Fame. Ricky is one of the main reasons I play music. Skaggs is everything good music stands for.”
West and Skaggs will be formally inducted into the Hall during the annual Medallion Ceremony, which will take place this fall. Also being inducted into the Hall will be legendary fiddle player Johnny Gimble. A one-time member of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, Gimble’s work graced records by artists such as Connie Smith, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, and George Strait. Gimble won five CMA trophies for instrumentalist / musician of the year and a pair of Grammy Awards for his work over the years.