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Sunday, 30 March, 2008 1:13 PM

CMA Announces 2008 Members of Country Music Hall of Fame

Photo by John Russell / CMA

Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, The Statler Brothers and Ernest "Pop" Stoneman are announced as the 2008 inductees of the Country Music Hall of Fame at a press conference hosted by the Country Music Association on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. (l-r) (back) The Statler Brothers (Jimmy Fortune, Phil Balsley, Harold Reid, Don Reid); (front) Emmylou Harris and Tom T. Hall.

By Scott Stem
© 2008 CMA Close Up News Service

The Country Music Association announced Tuesday, Feb. 12 that Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, The Statler Brothers and the late Country Music pioneer Ernest "Pop" Stoneman will become the newest members of the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame.

Harris will be the fourth artist included in the "Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present" category, which was created in 2005. Due to a tie, both Hall and the Statler Brothers will be inducted in the "Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975" category. Stoneman will be inducted in the "Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II" category, which is awarded every third year in a rotation with the "Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980" and "Non-Performer" categories.

"It is truly fitting that these artists receive Country Music's biggest honor and become the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame," said Tammy Genovese, CMA Chief Executive Officer. "Emmylou possesses the voice of an angel. She is one of the most revered song interpreters on the planet, and has been instrumental in preserving Country Music's past while expanding Country Music's horizons throughout her career. Tom T. Hall's story-filled songs and keen observations of life have connected with audiences around the world. The harmonious Statler Brothers, whom Kurt Vonnegut once called 'America's Poets,' sang songs about life and love while often providing nostalgic looks at simpler times. And Pop Stoneman was not only the head of the Stoneman Family, but one of the patriarchs of Country Music."

Harris, Hall, the Statler Brothers and Stoneman will be officially inducted later this year during the traditional, invitation-only Country Music Hall of Fame Formal Induction and Medallion Ceremony presented by CMA and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

"This is so exciting," said Kyle Young, Director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "The 2008 Hall of Fame inductees represent a historical spectrum encompassing the earliest days of commercial Country Music recordings, the modern evolution of the Country gospel quartet tradition, the arrival of more complex themes and social consciousness in Country Music songs, and the advent of a vocalist who espoused the integrity of Country Music's root forms and transcended the genre in a way that few others have been able to do. That's a pretty complete spectrum. These artists have created a rich and enduring tapestry of music that will always recount the story of our homeland and its people over a period of almost 100 years. We applaud them and we congratulate them."

The announcements were made this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in a press conference hosted by Genovese. Hall was introduced by his good friend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Ralph Emery, Harris was introduced by her longtime friend and former Hot Band member Tony Brown and the Statler Brothers were introduced by their longtime representative Marshall Grant. Country Music historian Eddie Stubbs paid tribute to Stoneman, who passed away in 1968. Stoneman was represented onstage by his daughter, Patsy Stoneman Murphy.

CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize noteworthy individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format with Country Music's highest honor. All inductees are chosen by CMA's Hall of Fame Panel of Electors, which consists of more than 300 anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors. Harris, Hall, the Statler Brothers and Stoneman will increase membership in the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame from 101 to 105 inductees.

Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II

Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman was born May 25, 1893 in Carroll County, Va., near the communities of Iron Ridge, Monorat and Fries to a lay preacher and his wife. His mother passed away when he was just three years old, leaving the young Stoneman and his brothers to be raised by his father and three cousins.

The family bonded together through music, especially the traditional songs of the Blue Ridge Mountain inhabitants. Music was an important part of Stoneman's life, and he was always writing and performing songs. He learned to play every instrument on hand at family musical gatherings and became proficient on the harmonica, guitar, mouth harp and clawhammer banjo. The autoharp, however, was his best known instrument. When he couldn't afford to buy one out of the Montgomery Ward catalogue, the industrious Stoneman built his own with parts salvaged from an old piano.

While working as a sweeper at a cotton mill in Fries in 1914, Stoneman recorded a song on a home recording machine owned by a friend. This experience would be his first step toward a career in music.

In addition to being a sweeper, Stoneman worked a variety of odd jobs as a young man, including serving as a farm hand and carpenter, while also performing music at local dances. In 1918, he married Hattie Frost, who was also a musician and played both the banjo and fiddle. Through the course of their marriage, the Stonemans became the parents of 23 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood.

After listening to a record by singer Henry Whitter in 1924, Stoneman was convinced he could deliver a better performance. Going to New York City that year, he cut two songs on the Okeh label. His first single "The Sinking of the Titanic," which he also wrote, charted at No. 3 on the Billboard and Variety charts and remained there for 10 weeks. The song was one of Country Music's earliest records to sell more than a million copies and became one of the biggest hits of the 1920s.

During this time producer and future Country Music Hall of Fame member Ralph Peer guided him through many studio sessions for several record labels, including Okeh and Victor. Between 1924 and 1929, he recorded more than 200 songs. In 1926, Stoneman added his wife and adult family members to his band, giving him a full string band sound and establishing a precedent of working with his family that would continue throughout his career.
Stoneman convinced Peer to travel to the Bristol, Tenn. area and audition talent in 1927. This led to the historic Bristol recording sessions, arguably the most important event in the history of Country Music. These sessions featured future Country Music Hall of Fame members Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family making their debut commercial recordings, which launched their careers on a national scale. Stoneman and his wife Hattie were the first artists to be recorded at these sessions.

When the Great Depression hit, Stoneman lost everything. In 1932, he and his wife moved their children (who were performing with their parents and in their own groups) to Washington, D.C., where Stoneman worked odd jobs while suffering extreme poverty. He eventually gained employment at the Naval Gun Factory in 1941 and bought a lot in Carmody Hills, Md., where he built a house for his family.

During this time he continued to perform as he worked to revive his musical career. After years of struggling, the Stoneman Family won a talent contest in 1947 hosted by local radio and television personality (and future Country Music Hall of Fame member) Connie B. Gay at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. First prize was six months of appearances on Gay's Country Music television program, which was broadcast in eight states in the region.

1956 proved to be the turning point. That year, Stoneman, known by then as "Pop," won $10,000 on the NBC television quiz show "The Big Surprise" and the producers allowed him to perform on the broadcast. Around the same time, the Blue Grass Champs (a band featuring three of his children: Scott, Donna and Jimmy) won "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" on CBS. After that, folk musician/folklorist Mike Seeger recorded Stoneman, his wife Hattie and their children for the Folkways label.

Stoneman's retirement from the Naval Gun Factory in the late '50s allowed him to be fully devoted to the music career he shared with his children. The Stoneman Family recorded several albums in the early '60s for the Starday and World Pacific labels. They toured extensively across the nation, including performances at folk festivals and Disneyland, while making occasional appearances on network television shows that included "The Jimmy Dean Show" and "The Hollywood Palace," both on ABC.

The Stoneman Family debuted on the Grand Ole Opry in 1962, and moved to Nashville in 1965. Soon after they signed with MGM Records and hosted a syndicated television series, "Those Stonemans." The group achieved their first Top 40 hit with "Tupelo County Jail" in 1966, followed one year later by the Top 30 hit "The Five Little Johnson Girls."

In 1967, the Stoneman Family was the first recipient of the CMA Vocal Group of the Year Award. That same year they also appeared in two movies: "The Road to Nashville," alongside other Country Music artists and personalities that included future Country Music Hall of Fame members Bill Anderson, Mother Maybelle Carter (of the Original Carter Family), Johnny Cash, Ralph Emery, Waylon Jennings, Webb Pierce, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, Kitty Wells and Faron Young; and "Hell on Wheels," again with Robbins.

In the middle of all this success, Stoneman's health began to fail. He continued to record and perform through the Spring of 1968, but passed away on June 14, 1968 at the age of 75.

Just as he would have wanted, his children continued his musical legacy. His daughter Patsy re-joined the Stoneman Family and the group carried on, charting a Top 50 hit with "Christopher Robin" in 1968. The band was nominated for the CMA Instrumental Group of the Year Award that same year. A few years later, the group recorded several songs for the soundtrack to "The Country Bear Jamboree" attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the Stoneman Family underwent several personnel changes before easing into retirement. Group member (and Stoneman's youngest daughter) Roni Stoneman also became well-known, as a banjo player and as a regular performer on the successful syndicated television series "Hee Haw." The remaining Stoneman children still perform individually and together on occasion. The Stoneman Family remains the longest continually performing family act in Country Music and the proud legacy of Ernest V. "Pop" and Hattie Stoneman.

Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975 (First of Two Acts in this Category)

Tom T. Hall was born May 25, 1936 in Olive Hill, Ky. He learned to play guitar at age 4. His father, Rev. Virgil L. Hall, who was a brick plant worker and an ordained Baptist minister, gave him his own guitar when he was eight. This encouraged the youngster to grow from writing poetry to writing music, and at age 9 he wrote his first song, "Haven't I Been Good to You." A local musician named Clayton Delaney taught Hall the musical technique that would serve him well in his career.

Hall's mother, Della, died when he was 11. Four years later, his father was shot in a hunting accident, which prevented him from working. Hall quit school and took a job in a local garment factory to support himself and his father. He also formed his first band, the Kentucky Travelers, and played Bluegrass at local schools as well as a radio station in Morehead, KY. Hall wrote a jingle for one of the radio stations sponsors, the Polar Bear Flour Company, and later became a D.J. at the station when the band broke up to serve their country. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1957 and was stationed in Germany where he finished high school and performed on the Armed Forces Radio Network, singing mostly his own original songs.

Following three years in the Army he returned to the U.S. where he studied journalism at Roanoke College and worked as a D.J. at a radio station in Salem, VA. A Nashville songwriter visiting the radio station, impressed after hearing Hall's songs, convinced publisher Jimmy Key of New Keys Publishing to sign him. Jimmy C. Newman reached No. 1 with Hall's "D.J. For A Day" in 1963, while Dave Dudley charted No. 10 with the Hall penned "Mad" in 1964. These successes convinced Hall to move to Nashville and pursue a career as a professional songwriter. Drawn by their strong narratives and detailed observations, additional artists started to record his songs, including Johnnie Wright who reached No. 1 with "Hello Vietnam" in 1965.

At a BMI banquet in Nashville that same year, Hall met United Kingdom native Iris Lawrence, better known as Miss Dixie, who was attending the event because she'd written the Dudley hit "Truck Drivin' Son-Of-A-Gun." Miss Dixie had moved to Nashville to work for Starday Records after successfully obtaining a record release for Tex Ritter in Great Britain. She was living with Mother Maybelle Carter, and was a member of the family. It wasn't long before Hall also was pulled into the loving circle. The new friends, who shared a love of songwriting and bluegrass, soon started dating and eventually married.

Hall signed with Mercury Records in 1967 and that summer released his first single "I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew." While this became a minor hit, his following two singles did not crack the Top 40. But in the summer of 1968, Jeannie C. Riley had a major hit with the Hall-penned "Harper Valley P.T. A." The song hit No. 1 on both the Country and pop charts, which inspired both a motion picture and television series.

The success of "Harper Valley P.T. A." put a spotlight on Hall, and his single "Ballad of Forty Dollars" rose to No. 4. After several additional hit singles, Hall charted at No. 1 in 1969 with "A Week in a Country Jail." A year later, he had two Top 10 hits with "Shoeshine Man" and "Salute to a Switchblade" before reaching No.1 again in 1971 with his biggest hit, a tribute to his musical mentor, "The Year that Clayton Delaney Died."

The '70s were successful for Hall on radio and as a touring act. He earned the nickname "The Storyteller," bestowed on him by Tex Ritter, because his songs contained strong and detailed narratives that revealed his observations on life. He had five additional No. 1 hits between 1971 and 1976: "(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine," "I Love," "Country Is," "I Care," and "Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet)." He also had hits with "Me and Jesus," "Ravishing Ruby," "That Song is Driving Me Crazy," "I Like Beer" and more. Blessed with a multi-generational following, Hall released the children's album Songs of Fox Hollow (For Children of All Ages) in 1974, which contained his much-loved song, "Sneaky Snake." He also produced a PBS television special on the history of bluegrass music.

Hall continued to enjoy success in the latter half of the '70s, including the No. 4 hit "Your Man Loves You, Honey" in 1977. He appeared in the 1979 television movie "Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol" and hosted the hit syndicated television series "Pop! Goes the Country" in 1980. By the early '80s, Hall's success at radio had begun to slow down. His final Top 10 hit was in 1984 with a cover of the Rudy Vallee hit "P.S. I Love You." In 1982, Columbia Records put out the classic Storyteller and the Banjoman by Hall and Earl Scruggs. Then, after releasing the album Song in a Seashell in 1985, he took a 10-year break from recording.

He wasn't recording, but Hall still had stories to tell. He had already published his autobiography; The Storyteller's Nashville, in 1979 and went on to write several novels, among them: The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove (1982), The Acts of Life (1986), Spring Hill, Tennessee: A Novel (1990) and What A Book!: A Novel (1996). He also wrote the children's book Christmas and the Old House in 1989, illustrated by Laura L. Seeley.

During this time he also helped with his wife's humane shelter work in Tennessee and Florida, where they had a second home on St. George Island. He began to write songs again and played music for pleasure with a community of "swamp billies" who made him a lifetime member of the Sopchoppy Possum Club Recording Studio.

Mercury Records put out the 2-disc Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher box set in 1995, reigniting interest in Hall and his career. That same year they also released Country Songs for Children, featuring all the songs from Songs of Fox Hollow (For Children of All Ages) plus seven new songs recorded by Hall. These projects convinced Hall to record his first, all-new album in 11 years, Songs from Sopchoppy, released in 1996. That album, inspired by his "swamp billy" friends and their location, contained his song "Little Bitty," which Alan Jackson covered and took to the top of the charts that same year. Hall followed up with two albums in 1997: The Hits and Homegrown, which contained "Bill Monroe for Breakfast," the No. 1 and most played bluegrass song of the year. That year he also appeared in the TV movie "Miracle on Highway 31," which contained "There's A Miracle Everywhere You Go."

For the past decade, Hall and Miss Dixie have immersed themselves in a shared love of bluegrass music. They have extended a helping hand to fledging musicians and veterans alike, with many established artists taking a new Hall song up and over the bluegrass charts. On the rising tide of new music, the Halls created two new publishing companies, Good Home Grown Music (BMI) and More Good Home Grown Music (ASCAP). The couple also transformed a building at their Fox Hollow farm outside Nashville into a state-of-the-art acoustic recording studio. The Halls have jointly received the Songwriter of the Year Award from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association's (SPBGMA) for seven years in a row (including the Master's Gold). They have also received numerous awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), including the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Recently, Hall released a collection of songs he co-wrote with his wife, Tom T. Hall Sings Miss Dixie and Tom T., on their independent, multiple-award-winning bluegrass label, Blue Circle Records. The project has received more than 70 five-star rated reviews.

Throughout his career, Hall was nominated for seven CMA Awards, including Entertainer of the Year in 1973; received an RIAA Gold certification for his album, Greatest Hits Volume II for sales of 500,000 units; and received the Grammy Award for Best Album Notes in 1972 for Tom T. Hall's Greatest Hits. He also had 33 Top 20 singles on the Billboard Country Singles chart between 1967 and 1985. He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. He has an honorary degree at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas and has a Doctor of Musical Arts from Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky.

Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975 (Second of Two Acts in this Category)

The Statler Brothers achieved a familial sound well-suited for their catalog of songs reflecting everyday life and family values, even though only two of its members were true siblings.

As teenagers, baritone vocalist Phil Balsley (born Aug. 8, 1939), tenor vocalist Lew DeWitt (born Mar. 8, 1938) and bass vocalist Harold Reid (born Aug. 21, 1939) formed a church group in their hometown of Staunton, Va. in 1955. Don Reid (born June 5, 1945), Harold's younger brother, joined the group as lead singer in 1960 and they christened themselves the Kingsmen. The group began singing Country Music with their tight, gospel harmonies and built a following in the region. Because another group called the Kingsmen were popular around that time, the quartet changed its name to the Statler Brothers after a box of Statler tissues.

In August 1963 the group performed at an event headlined by Johnny Cash. Early the next year, Cash decided to add a male harmony vocal group to his touring ensemble and the Statler Brothers were invited to audition on March 9 in Canton, Ohio. Cash then asked them to perform with him that night and worked up several numbers with the group. The initial performance went well, so Cash invited them to join the tour and they remained with him through 1972, working all of his television shows, concert dates and recording sessions. Years later, Marshall Grant of the Tennessee Three would become the Statler Brothers' representative.

Signed to Cash's label home Columbia Records, the Statler Brothers had their first hit in 1965 with the DeWitt-penned hit that would become their signature smash, "Flowers on the Wall." Their performance of this song earned the quartet a Grammy Award in the all-genre category for Best Contemporary Performance - Group (Vocal or Instrumental), even beating The Beatles. They also won a second Grammy Award that same year for Best New Country & Western Group.

The quartet moved to Mercury Records in 1969, where they remained for more than two decades. Their first single for their new label home was 1970's "Bed of Rose's" written by Harold Reid, which became a Top 5 hit. This song was the first success in a long relationship between the Statler Brothers and their new producer, Mercury VP Jerry Kennedy. Kennedy would continue to produce the group throughout their career, even after he left Mercury Records to form his own production company.

In 1970, the Statler Brothers also created one of their most loved events with their annual Happy Birthday U.S.A. Fourth of July concert, parade and community celebration. The event, held in their hometown of Staunton until it ended in 1995, was a top tourism draw for the area and always featured one of Country Music's top artists as a special guest performer. All proceeds from the event were given to local charitable organizations.

The early '70s was a successful time for the Statler Brothers as they hit the Top 40 repeatedly with songs such as "Carry Me Back," "Do You Remember These," and "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?," all written by Harold and Don Reid. Their hit "The Class of '57," another Reid brothers composition, which author Kurt Vonnegut once suggested should be considered as a new National Anthem, earned the group their third Grammy Award in 1972 as Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

The group challenged itself by creating several concept albums. The Statler Brothers Sing Country Symphonies in E Major, released in 1972, was structured like an orchestral performance complete with an "intermission." In 1974, they released the tongue-in-cheek Alive at the Johnny Mack Brown High School under their comic alias of Lester "Roadhog" Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys. And in 1975, they simultaneously released Holy Bible/Old Testament and Holy Bible/New Testament, fulfilling a long-time dream of recording a project celebrating their Christian beliefs.

The Best of the Statler Brothers was released in 1975, featuring their Top Five hit, the Don Reid-penned "I'll Go to My Grave Loving You." The quartet continued their streak during the next few years with Top 10 hits "The Movies" (written by DeWitt) and "I Was There" (written by Don Reid), before achieving their first No. 1 single with "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine" (written by the Reid brothers) from their 1978 album Entertainers...On & Off the Record.

The Statler Brothers celebrated 10 years with Mercury Records in 1980 with the release of 10th Anniversary. The album featured their hits "Charlotte's Web" (their song from the film "Smokey and the Bandit II," in which they also appeared), "Don't Forget Yourself" (written by Don Reid) and the autobiographical "We Got Paid By Cash" (written by the Reid brothers) that celebrated their history as well as their musical mentor.

By the early '80s, DeWitt, who had suffered with Crohn's Disease since his youth, was in failing health. Jimmy Fortune (born March 11, 1955 in Williamsburg, Va.) was asked to temporarily replace him on the road in late January 1982. DeWitt's health never improved enough for him to return to touring on a fulltime basis, so he departed the band with Fortune assuming his position fulltime in August of that year. After a few years out of the limelight, DeWitt released two solo albums, On My Own (1985) and Here to Stay (1986). While working on a third album, he passed away due to heart and kidney failure on Aug. 15, 1990 at the age of 52.

Fortune quickly lived up to his name. He wrote the group's second No. 1 hit "Elizabeth," on their 1983 album Today, and then followed that with two more No. 1 hits: "My Only Love" (from 1984's Atlanta Blue) and "Too Much On My Heart" (from 1985's Pardners in Rhyme). Fortune also wrote their Top 10 hit "Forever" from 1986's Four for the Show and co-wrote their last major hit, the No. 6 charting "More Than a Name on the Wall" from 1988's The Greatest Hits.

As the group continued to tour and record albums, they decided to expand their reach into television. The Statler Brothers were no stranger to the medium, having been regulars on ABC's "The Johnny Cash Show" from 1969-1971. During the '80s they had also hosted a string of successful, award-winning syndicated television specials including "An Evening with the Statler Brothers," "Another Evening with the Statler Brothers: Heroes, Legends and Friends" and "A Statlers Christmas Present." With that experience behind them, "The Statler Brothers Show" launched on TNN in 1991 as a weekly, hour-long variety series. It quickly became the most popular show on the network and ran for seven years, reconnecting them with longtime followers while building a new generation of fans. "The Statler Brothers Show" was a popular booking for the biggest Country artists of the day as well as legends.

In 2002, the Statler Brothers announced their retirement from the road and gave their farewell concert at the 10,000-seat Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va., not far from Staunton. One year later they released the concert on CD and DVD, as well as a new gospel album, Amen. The group then settled back to enjoy their well-earned retirement.

The RIAA has certified the Statler Brothers with 10 Gold albums (Atlanta Blue, Entertainers...On & Off The Record, Radio Gospel Favorites, Holy Bible/New Testament, Holy Bible/Old Testament, Pardners in Rhyme, 10th Anniversary, The Best of the Statler Brothers Rides Again Vol. 2, The Originals, and Today) signifying 500,000 sales each; one Platinum album (Christmas Card) signifying one million sales; and one triple Platinum album (The Best of the Statler Brothers) signifying three million sales.

For more than 40 years, the Statler Brothers were among the most honored acts in Country Music. Among their awards are: nine CMA Awards for Vocal Group of the Year (1972-1977, 1979, 1980, 1984); three Grammy Awards (1965 Best New Country and Western Group, 1965 Best Contemporary Performance by a Group and 1972 Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group); three American Music Awards for Country Group of the Year (1979-1981); and 48 Music City News Awards, including 26 Vocal Group of the Year Awards (1971-1982, 1984-1994, 1996, 1997) and 3 Entertainer of the Year Awards (1985-1987). In 1994, a monument was presented to the Statler Brothers and installed in Gypsy Hill Park in appreciation by the Happy Birthday U.S.A. Committee and the City of Staunton. The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

The three surviving original Statler Brothers currently live in Staunton with their families. Balsley still goes to the Statler offices every day, remaining involved in the group's day-to-day operations. Don Reid has written a number of books: Heroes and Outlaws of the Bible, Sunday Morning Memories, and a book with his two sons Debo and Langdon, You Know It's Christmas When.... He and his brother Harold have collaborated on the group's memoir, The Statler Brothers: Random Memories, which will be released Feb. 19. The Reid family musical legacy has continued as Don's son Langdon and Harold's son Wil formed the Country Music duo Grandstaff. Meanwhile, Fortune moved to Nashville and released several solo albums, including When One Door Closes (2003), I Believe (2005), and Feels Like Christmas (2006). And while only two of the group are siblings, all of its members remain as close as brothers.

Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present

Emmylou Harris was born April 2, 1947 in Birmingham, Ala., to Walter and Eugenia Harris. Her father was a Marine Corps officer and the family moved as her father's position required. She spent much of her childhood in North Carolina before moving to Woodbridge, Va., while in her teens.

Harris took up guitar as a teenager inspired by the folk music of Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. Starving-artist stints in New York City and Nashville led to regular club work in Washington D.C. where Chris Hillman first saw her perform. Hillman and Country-rock visionary Gram Parsons had been band mates in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, but now Parsons was on his own doing solo material and had told his former band mate he was looking for "a chick singer" for his first solo record.

Hillman had seen Harris perform at a club in DC and told Parsons about her, but they didn't know how to get in touch with her. A chance encounter between Harris' babysitter, Hillman and Parsons led to Harris flying to Los Angeles in 1972 to sing on Parsons' first solo record. Harris went on to become his permanent duet partner setting a new standard for harmonies and duet vocals.

After Parsons' untimely death in 1973, Harris emerged as a solo star with Pieces of the Sky in 1975. The album electrified the Country Music world, becoming her first in a series of annual Gold or Platinum albums through the '70s.

Around the same time Harris created the Hot Band featuring many of the musicians from Pieces of the Sky. Among the first members were Elvis Presley's bassist Emory Gordy Jr., pianist Glen D. Hardin and lead guitarist James Burton. After nine months Burton left the band due to conflicts with Presley's schedule and was replaced by Albert Lee. Other original Hot Band members included pedal steel player Hank DeVito, drummer John Ware and a young singer/songwriter/guitarist named Rodney Crowell. With the Hot Band backing her, Harris opened shows for a diverse group of artists ranging from Elton John to Conway Twitty, James Taylor and more, and quickly gained a reputation for its superb musicianship on record and on the road.

Crowell would leave the band in 1978 for a solo career, though he would continue to perform with Harris as schedules allowed. For the next four years, Crowell's place in the Hot Band was filled by Ricky Skaggs. Skaggs also left for a solo career and was replaced by Barry Tashian. When Hardin left he was briefly replaced by another former Presley sideman, Tony Brown. In 1980, Brown, DeVito and Gordy left the Hot Band to tour behind Crowell as the Cherry Bombs.

Her next three releases (Elite Hotel, Luxury Liner and Quarter Moon in a Ten-Cent Town) made her a Country-rock leader, and since then Harris has been regarded as a key figure in the movement that united rock audiences with Country traditionalists. She was among the artists who made Country Music "hip" and brought it to a vast youth market. Then she led the way back to neo-traditionalist sounds with 1979's Blue Kentucky Girl. The following year, Roses In the Snow paved the road toward the bluegrass revival of the '80s. Harris rose to become the authentic voice of Country with these albums, as well as Evangeline, Cimarron and Bluebird.

Over the next few years, Harris released several solo projects, but her most successful album during this time was 1987's Trio, with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. The three singers had talked of recording an album together for more than a decade, and it was worth the wait. The critically-acclaimed project was certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales of one million units and reached No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart. The trio would also win the 1988 CMA Vocal Event of the Year Award. Eleven years later, the women reunited to release Trio II, which earned the three singers a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for their performance on "After the Gold Rush" and a Gold certification from the RIAA.

By the early 1990s Harris changed her sound again with the acoustic band The Nash Ramblers, featuring Larry Atamanuik, Sam Bush, Roy Huskey Jr., Al Perkins and Jon Randall. Together, they honored Country Music's most legendary concert hall with the At the Ryman album, winning the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.

Three years later, Harris took a leading role in yet another musical revolution-the Americana movement that gave Country Music its "alternative" wing. Continuing to expand boundaries, this time she paired with producer Daniel Lanois and reinvented her sound. The result was her 1995 watershed album, Wrecking Ball, for which she earned another Grammy Award. The album was hailed by critics as a masterpiece and portrayed a new side of Harris - spiritual yet sexual, and a woman with very eclectic tastes. She followed Wrecking Ball with the live album Spyboy and closed the decade with a powerful album of duets with Ronstadt, Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions.

Harris performed "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby" with Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch for the O Brother, Where Art Thou? movie soundtrack album, which became a phenomenon in 2000. The album was named the 2001 CMA Album of the Year, the 2001 Grammy Album of the Year and the 2001 Grammy Soundtrack Album of the Year, among other honors.

With 2000's Red Dirt Girl, she released the first album of her career that was nearly entirely comprised of Harris-penned songs. The album, and its follow-up, 2003's Stumble Into Grace, revealed her remarkable songwriting talent, and further demonstrated Harris' diverse musical influences, mixing world music instrumentation and rock rhythms into her Country and folk confidence and verve.

In 2006, she teamed with guitar virtuoso Mark Knopfler to release the album All the Roadrunning, which had been recorded over seven years. Also that year, she was a featured performer in the documentary Neil Young: Heart of Gold.

In 2007, Rhino Records celebrated Harris' distinguished career by releasing Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems, a DVD and 4-CD box set featuring previously unreleased material, demos, studio tracks, collaborative work with other artists, and a collection of videos and performances beginning with the Hot Band in the 1970s. Her forthcoming studio album will be released on Nonesuch Records in the spring.

The wide range of Harris' repertoire is mirrored by the musicians who have sought her out as a collaborator. She has recorded with artists from diverse points on the musical compass including The Band, Bright Eyes, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Vince Gill, George Jones, Little Feat, Lyle Lovett, Bill Monroe, Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Don Williams, Lucinda Williams, Tammy Wynette, Neil Young, and many others.

Harris has received three CMA Awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year in 1980. She has received 12 Grammy Awards, including four for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (1976, 1979, 1984, 2005) and two for Best Contemporary Folk Album (1995 for Wrecking Ball and 2000 for Red Dirt Girl). She is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and serves as Trustee Emeritus of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1999, Billboard honored her with its prestigious Century Award, aptly calling her a "truly venturesome, genre-transcending pathfinder." Los Angeles Times praised the unfaltering quality of her work, saying, Harris "has made consistently outstanding musical choices over her 35-plus-year career." But perhaps even more outstanding than her accolades is her beautifully crystalline voice, about which New York Times says, it "inhabits her songs like a wraith, intangible but omnipresent."

Quotes from Hall of Fame announcement are below:


What does the Country Music Hall of Fame represent to you?

The Hall of Fame was made for our heroes. All of our heroes are in there. We watched most of them go in. That's how we think of them. We just never put ourselves in that particular realm. It's nice if somebody else did. We're very honored. But these are people we look up to and learned from.

How did you get the news of your induction?

A lady from CMA called. I had our attorney, who is here in Nashville, on the other line. Well, they had told me to hang around because CMA had to call me. And I thought I was behind in my dues [laughter], so I didn't know whether to take the call or not. So I was a little nervous when it came. Believe me, after I talked to her, I was a little more nervous. It has an impact. No matter what anybody tells you, when you get through with that phone call, and they tell you and it's official, it will cause your knees to get a little jelly-like.

Did you ever allow yourself to think you might be in the Hall of Fame someday?

You hope it might happen. The Statler Brothers were together for 18 years before I came along. Lew DeWitt was there before me. I always thought the Statler Brothers belonged in the Hall of Fame and that one day they'd be in there, for sure. Even if they were in there without me, that was fine with me, because they deserved it. I never dreamed that I'd be a part of that too.

So there will be five Statler Brothers on the plaque?

There will be five of us, which is very appropriate. Lew DeWitt was one of my all-time favorite singers. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been with the Statler Brothers. He's the one that got me to come over and fill in for him for a while, while he was sick. If it wasn't for Lew DeWitt, I wouldn't be here today. I'm thankful for that.

What does it mean to the group that all five of you are on the plaque [along with deceased founding member Lew DeWitt]?

That's the way it ought to be. Lew was an integral part of the Statler Brothers. He was with us from the start. He was an integral part for 20-some years. Jimmy was here for 20 or 21 years. I think it's only fitting. That's the way it should be.

On induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame

You don't think of it as an award. It's a very spiritual thing, you know. It makes you feel old. But I found out, it turned out to be spiritual, the nature of the thing. All these people I've worked with and traveled with and visited with and hunted and fished with.

Tom T. Hall said that induction is almost a spiritual experience. Has it been for you as well?

It will now. It's still got to sink in a little bit. There's that aspect of it, where you feel honored. What an amazing thing it is to be a part of that tradition, especially for somebody who didn't come to it naturally. I wasn't raised in Country Music, even though I'm from the South. We moved around a lot, and music wasn't a big part of my life until I discovered folk music. That's where my musical passion was until I started working with Gram [Parsons], and then I became this almost obnoxious convert.

Everything about Country Music, there is a certain reverence, so I would use that word as well as what he said, "spiritual." There's a reverence about the music because to me it's not just music that was played a long time ago. The good stuff is always resonant. For me, it always fuels my passion for Country Music moving forward, obviously not trying to just recreate what the early artists did. But you're infused with it, and you go on to hopefully add something to it.

How do you feel about being part of this Class of '08, with all that it reflects about Country Music?
Oh, well, it's great. Of course, I never met Pop Stoneman, but he's a part of that education for me. Also, the D.C. area, there's that connection, even though we were there at different times.

I was telling the Statlers that in that arrogant period of my youth, when I disdained Country Music, my brother was a huge Country Music fan way before it was cool in certain circles. I loved the Statler Brothers in spite of myself. You can't but smile when you hear "counting flowers on the wall."

And, of course, Tom T. Yes, you had the songwriting of Bob Dylan, which infused me and still does. But Tom T., cutting to the chase with simplicity of lyrics and storytelling that goes back to folk and the best of Country. So, I'm a huge fan of Tom T. Hall. When the original Hot Band was out, our motto was: "Faster Horses!" Rodney and I used to warm up with "Negatory Romance." And now, of course, Buddy Miller has recorded "That's How I Got to Memphis" with Solomon Burke. It's great to be a part of this class.

PATSY STONEMAN (eldest daughter of Ernest "Pop" Stoneman)
Had you always suspected your father would be inducted?

Not suspected - I'd prayed that it would. Daddy never gave up. In fact, the day before he died, he was playing in Texas and had to be flown home because he was in such bad pain. They took him to Vanderbilt Hospital, and they said he wasn't going to make it. You could see he wasn't. I said, "Daddy, you've got to hang in there, because you're going to go into the Hall of Fame." And his eyes lit up like the stars. You know what he said? He said, "Patsy, they don't recognize you 'til you die."

Well, my husband passed away three and a half years ago. He was always telling me, "Don't give up. It's going to happen." And I just went to his preacher and said, "It happened." And I prepared myself for it. And a friend of mine is going by the cemetery to tell Daddy. And then I'm going to go to the cemetery.


Photo by John Russell / CMA

Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, The Statler Brothers and Ernest "Pop" Stoneman are announced as the 2008 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees at a press conference hosted by the Country Music Association on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Downtown Nashville. (l-r) Patsy Stoneman Murphy (daughter of Ernest "Pop" Stoneman); CMA Chief Executive Officer Tammy Genovese; Emmylou Harris; Tom T. Hall; and Don Reid, Harold Reid, Jimmy Fortune and Phil Balsley of The Statler Brothers. is Detroit's exclusive media outlet for this syndicated weekly column!



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