Hank Williams Jr, Marty Stuart and songwriter Dean Dillon are the 2020 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The news was particularly sweet for Williams, whose legendary father, Hank Williams, was one of the three inaugural inductees in 1961, along with Jimmie Rodgers and Fred Rose.
Williams will be inducted in the veterans era artist category; Stuart in the modern era artist category and Dillon in the songwriter category, which is awarded every third year in rotation with the recording and/or touring musician and non-performer categories.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Dean, Marty and Hank Jr. into the unbroken circle…,” Sarah Trahern, CMA chief executive officer, said in a statement. “I’m sad we can’t toast this year’s class in person at the Country Music Hall of Fame, but I hope this news can bring some joy and cause for celebration… In particular, our hearts are with Hank and his family following the recent loss of his daughter, Katherine.”
(Katherine Williams-Dunning died on June 13 in a single-vehicle auto accident in Tennessee. She was just 27.)
“In this, the most exclusive of music halls of fame, we now have three new deserving members,” Kyle Young, chief executive officer of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. “…In a year of turmoil, strife and dissent, this announcement is something all of us can cheer.”
Traditionally, CMA hosts a press conference in the rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville to reveal the new class of inductees. That wasn’t possible this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Details regarding a formal induction ceremony will be released as information is available. Since 2007, the museum’s medallion ceremony, an annual reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, has served as the official rite of induction for new members.
Here is a capsule summary of this year’s three inductees:
Hank Williams Jr.: Williams, 71, was just three years old when his father died on New Year’s Day 1953, at age 29.
Williams amassed 10 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, from “All for the Love of Sunshine” (with the Mike Curb Congregation, 1970) to “Born to Boogie” (1987). He had some high-powered help on one of his No. 1s: Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty and Reverend Ike sang guest vocals on “Mind Your Own Business” (1986).
He had nine No. 1 albums on Top Country Albums, from Songs My Father Left Me (1969) to Greatest Hits III (1989). The latter album had his longest run on top—11 weeks.
Williams has won seven CMA Awards, including back-to-back awards for entertainer of the year in 1987-88. Williams also won album of the year in 1987 for Born to Boogie. Williams was one of the first country artists to capitalize on music videos. He’s a three-time winner for music video of the year—for “All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin’ Over Tonight” (1985), “My Name Is Bocephus” (1987) and “There’s a Tear in My Beer” (1989).
In a statement, Williams alluded both to his daughter’s death and to the difficulty of stepping out from his father’s shadow. “Bocephus has been eying this one for awhile. It’s a bright spot during a difficult year…I fell off a mountain and tried to reinvent myself as a truly individual artist and one who stepped out of the shadows of a very famous man–one of the greatest. I’ve got to thank all those rowdy friends who, year after year, still show up for me. It’s an honor to carry on this family tradition.”
Marty Stuart: Stuart, 61, had six top 10 hits on Hot Country Songs in the early ‘90s. Two were collabs with Travis Tritt—“The Whiskey Ain’t Workin” (No. 2) and “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For a Long, Long Time)” (No. 7).
The latter song also brought Stuart his only CMA Award—for vocal event of the year. He had six other CMA nominations, including two 1994 nods for album of the year for his contributions to two all-star albums, Asleep at the Wheel’s Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys and Rhythm, Country and Blues.
Stuart had three consecutive top 20 albums on Top Country Albums from 1989-92 with Hillbilly Rock, Tempted and This One’s Gonna Hurt You.
Dean Dillon: Dillon, 65, had 20 hits on Top Country Songs as an artist, the highest-charting being “Nobody in His Right Mind (Would’ve Left Her),” which reached No. 25 in 1980. He put three albums on Top Country Albums, two of them collabs with Gary Stewart. But his greatest legacy, of course, is as a songwriter.
Dillon received a 1997 CMA nod for song of the year for co-writing “All the Good Ones Are Gone” with Bob McDill. The song was a top five hit on Hot Country Songs that year for Pam Tillis.
Dillon is best known for the many songs he has written for George Strait (who was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2006). Among them: “Unwound,” “The Chair,” “Marina Del Rey” and “Ocean Front Property.”His other best-known songs include “Tennessee Whiskey,” which he co-wrote with Linda Hargrove. The song has been a hit on Hot Country Songs for such artists as David Allan Coe, George Jones and Chris Stapleton.