Sunday, 6 July, 2008 7:43 PM
CMA Inducts Emmylou Harris and Pop Stoneman into
Hall of Fame
by John Russell / CMA
CEO Tammy Genovese congratulates Hall of Fame inductee Emmylou Harris.
2008 CMA Close Up News Service
The inductions on April
27 of Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman and Emmylou Harris into
the Country Music Hall of Fame began with the people and ended with
a vision of timelessness.
On this cool, sun-splashed
Sunday afternoon, lovers of Country Music gathered outside of the
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Downtown Nashville. Running
up the steps in the shade of a long white awning, a red carpet guided
the gathering dignitaries toward the reception inside.
Harris arrived with manager
Ken Levitan of Vector Management. Her appearance, blending beauty,
elegance and Western aesthetic, was a metaphor for her music, whose
grace in turn mirrored the patience she showed in greeting members
of the press, giving each so much of her attention that it took
her more than half an hour to make her way into the building.
Three of Pop Stoneman's
daughters - Patsy, Roni and Donna - emerged from a limousine and
stood together in an explosion of camera flashes, smiling radiantly,
proud and bound by faith in their father's legacy. Sons and daughters,
children and grandchildren, joined them inside - six generations
in all, according to Randy Stoneman, son of the late Van Stoneman
and one of Pop's grandsons.
For a couple of hours,
festive conversation, accompanied discretely by the recorded strains
of Chet Atkins' guitar, filled the Museum's lobby. Shortly after
7 PM, the lights dimmed and many of the attendees moved into the
intimate 213-seat Ford Theater to witness another night of history
The front row was reserved
for inductees and special guests, including Tom T. Hall and the
Statler Brothers, who will follow Harris and Stoneman into the Hall
of Fame in a ceremony June 29. The atmosphere was alive with the
mix of solemnity and celebration that's unique to this occasion.
Yet each Medallion and
Induction Ceremony is unlike any other, given the contributions
of the inductees.
On this evening, a recorded performance by steel guitarist Aubrey
Ghent, an ecstatic "sacred steel" rendition of "When
the Saints Go Marching In," fanned the heat of anticipation
before Kyle Young, Director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and
Museum, stepped forward and delivered his opening remarks.
"Over the course
of 10 years, the Museum has presented 12 Medallion Ceremonies,"
he said. "Music, storytelling, fellowship and the presentation
of a keepsake medal were the hallmarks of those celebrations. Last
year, at the invitation of CMA, we were honored to see the Medallion
Ceremony become the official rite of induction for new members."
Following witty yet respectful
reflections from business leader and arts activist Steve Turner,
who recently succeeded E. W. "Bud" Wendell as Chairman
of the Museum, Vince Gill provided a haunting benediction with the
hymn "Drifting Too Far From the Shore," which he recalled
singing in 1981 with Harris at Red Rocks, Colo., shortly after the
death of his grandfather.
Tammy Genovese, CMA CEO,
remembered her conversation with Harris prior to the public announcement
in February of the new Hall of Fame members chosen by CMA's anonymous
panel of electors. "She captured the essence of the moment
in one word: spiritual," she said. "It was clear in that
one moment, in that one word, why she has been revered for preserving
Country Music's past while expanding Country Music's horizons."
Noting as well the importance
of Stoneman and the "transparent joy" that his family
displayed at news of his election, Genovese yielded the podium back
to Young, who acknowledged the musical and community luminaries
in the audience before beginning his tribute to Stoneman, who enters
the Hall of Fame through the category of "Career Achieved National
Prominence Prior to World War II."
The next few hours flowed
as a stream of prepared and impromptu comments and unforgettable
performances. In the segment dedicated to Stoneman, some of Pop's
favorite tunes were given loving interpretations.
Old Crow Medicine Show
began with a stylistically authentic rendition of "Tell Mother
I Will Meet Her." Cowboy Jack Clement joined the Medallion
All-Star Band featuring Eddie Bayers, Paul Franklin, Tania Hancheroff,
Wes Hightower, John Hobbs, Brent Mason, Michael Rhodes, Deanie Richardson
and Biff Watson in a foot-tapping version of "Blue Ridge Mountain
Blues" that inspired Roni to enthusiastically conduct and,
on the last chorus, leap to her feet and clap along to the beat.
Joining with The Jordanaires,
Jim Lauderdale recalled watching "Those Stonemans," the
television series that The Stoneman Family had hosted in the mid
'60s. "I just couldn't take my eyes off of these beautiful
women that were playing so masterfully," he said, as Pop's
daughters beamed back at him. "And there was such a dignified
gentleman onstage, your dad. . He just looked like the happiest
man in the world, and I know how proud he was of y'all and how joyful
he felt to be able to hear you play and to make music with you,
As breathtaking as their
performance was of "Are You Washed in the Blood," the
emotional peak came when the Stoneman sisters took to the stage
- Donna on mandolin, Patsy on autoharp and Roni on banjo - with
Clement and bassist Stu Geisbert. Assisted by Gill to her seat,
Patsy, the eldest of the three, held the spotlight, with the vigor
of her playing on autoharp and the feisty spirit of her speech.
"I guess you can see that I need help getting around,"
she began. "But I want to tell you something: You don't grow
old because you play music. You grow old because you stop playing
music. And I ain't gonna quit!"
Their reading of their
father's immortal song "The Titanic" triggered a long
ovation. The music was equally moving as other artists extolled
Harris for her induction into the category for "Career Achieving
National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present." It began
with a stunning version of The Everly Brothers classic "Love
Hurts," later recorded by Harris, in which Patty Griffin harmonized
with Buddy Miller. (In the audience, as the last chord rang through
the deep tremolo of Miller's electric guitar, Marty Stuart laughed
with delight, exclaimed "what a song!" and reached over
to shake the hand of Phil Everly.)
Guy Clark, with a vocal timbre as scuffed and comfortable as his
shoes, performed "Bang the Drum Slowly," which he had
written with Harris in memory of her father. ("I must confess,
I don't think I wrote any of it," he said. "I sat there
and listened to Emmy come up with these lines and verses, and I
was like 'Yes! Yes!' I was the cheerleader for this song.")
Lucinda Williams, her
voice a weathered and eloquent vessel, sang "Boulder to Birmingham,"
her eyes closed, swaying gently in communion to the music.
And when Griffin, Gill,
Miller, Sam Bush and Jon Randall joined their voices on "Green
Pastures," the sound wafted through the room like love borne
on a gentle breeze.
All of which prefaced
the moments of induction, the first when Frances Preston, former
President/CEO of BMI, presented the Medallion to Patsy on her father's
behalf. Deeply affected, her voice quivering, Patsy whispered, "I
didn't think I'd ever get to wear that." Not missing a beat,
her sister Roni added, with a laugh, "It's my turn now!"
Later, after thanking
Harris for "introducing new generations of fans to Louvin Brothers
music" on her early albums, Charlie Louvin brought her forward
to receive her Medallion. While admitting to not having "the
good sense to appreciate" Country Music as a teenager, Harris
credited the Johnny Cash album Bitter Tears and the late Gram Parsons
for enlightening her on its power and beauty. But the moment that
stirred the greatest laughter and applause came when, on impulse,
she smiled toward the front row and proclaimed, "Patsy Stoneman,
you are the bomb!"
From the roots represented
by Stoneman to the innovations introduced through the work of Harris,
the circle once again closed, unbroken, as the assembled Hall of
Fame members took to the stage. Everly and Ralph Emery, their arms
around each other's shoulders, Little Jimmy Dickens snapping his
finger and smiling, Gill clapping his hands over his head in the
back row, and Jim Foglesong, Louvin, Preston, Earl Scruggs, Jo Walker-Meador
and The Jordanaires' Louis Nunley, Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker and
Curtis Young all joined in singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken,"
knowing that like the music it evokes, it will surely endure.
The event was taped for
future broadcast by the Great American Country (GAC) cable network
and WSM-AM 650.
by John Russell / CMA
Stoneman Murphy accepts her father, V. "Pop" Stoneman's
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