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Entertainment News

Sunday, 3 May, 2009 9:05 PM

CMA Announces New Inductees into Country Music Hall of Fame

Photo by John Russell / CMA

2009 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees Roy Clark, Barbara Mandrell and Charlie McCoy.

 

By Bob Doerschuk
© 2009 CMA Close Up News Service

The doors to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville opened promptly at 9 AM Feb. 4. Visitors filed into the building, eager to take in the exhibits on display. Aside from the cold wind that whistled outside, this day was no different than most during these opening moments at the Museum - or so it seemed until greeters and guides began letting members of the crowd in on a secret.

"You folks are really lucky to be here today," one of them told the new arrivals. "In just half an hour, CMA will be announcing who will be inducted this year into the Country Music Hall of Fame."

As word spread through the lobby, three longtime friends stood together in the Hall of Fame Rotunda on the second floor, wrapping up their first photo session as designated members of the hallowed Hall.

"This is cool," said multi-instrumental virtuoso Charlie McCoy, who enters the Hall in the category of "Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980," which rotates every third year along with the "Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II" and "Non-Performer."

He nudged playfully toward Barbara Mandrell, who joins the Hall under "Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present." Her smile widened as McCoy joked, "And her husband is right there!"

"Hey, do you want me to leave?" asked Ken Dudney, grinning from outside of camera range. Mandrell, beaming back at her partner of nearly 42 years, then looked to McCoy and, to her left, Roy Clark, voted into the Hall in the "Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975" category, and said, "I like being between two men."

"A rose between the thorns," McCoy added, prompting all three to laugh.

These giants of Country Music have shared more than that through the years - "I don't think I've ever had a record that didn't have Charlie McCoy," Mandrell would marvel a short while later, during the press conference downstairs in the Ford Theater. And from this point, they will also be remembered as the Class of 2009, this year's honorees of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The media briefing began at 10 AM, with welcoming remarks from CMA CEO Tammy Genovese, who then introduced Liz Thiels, Senior VP of Public Relations, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Appearing on behalf of the Museum's Executive Director Kyle Young, who was out of town on business, Thiels said of the new members, "While their individual careers are unique, each one has nodded to tradition to create music that's very relevant to the first generation of the Space Age. Their music will be relevant for ages to come. All three have helped to extend the footprint of Country Music and American culture around the world."

Thiels described the event at which they would soon be officially inducted. "In a few weeks, the current members of the Hall of Fame will gather in this room for a Medallion Ceremony, underwritten by CMA and produced by this Museum. After some wonderful fellowship, storytelling and great music, a Hall of Fame member will conduct the official and formal life induction of each new member. Representing all of the membership, the presenting member will welcome each inductee as a peer Country Music master craftsman."

CMA Board Chairman Randy Goodman, President, Lyric Street and Carolwood Records, described CMA's ongoing support for the Museum, which CMA most recently honored with a $1 million endowment, to be paid over five years, to the organization's Words & Music educational program.

"The CMA Board recognizes the value of honoring this legacy while at the same time enhancing Country Music for the future," he observed.

Next, the identities of the three new members were revealed in sequence, beginning with McCoy.

Mel Tillis, who was inducted into the Hall in 2007, had been chosen by McCoy to provide his introduction.

"My name is Mel Tillis . I'm Pam's daddy," he began, and then he moved quickly to announcing McCoy's name and sharing stories of how they met more than 50 years ago, when Tillis heard the young musician performing at a club in Florida.

"He did the guitar playing to 'Detroit City,'" Tillis said, and then he replicated the famous lick that opened Bobby Bare's cover of that celebrated Tillis composition. "I didn't know that. I just found that out."

An ovation greeted McCoy as he walked onto the stage. He devoted his time to acknowledging a long list of people and, right at the top, one organization: "I'd like to thank CMA and the Hall of Fame for including musicians."

Apologizing for those names he might omit, McCoy paid homage to God, his family and to the Nashville stalwarts he had known: Chet Atkins, Harold and Owen Bradley, Jim Denny, Fred Foster, Neal Matthews of The Jordanaires, Harold "Pig" Robbins ("the greatest session player I've ever known"), former CMA Executive Director Jo Walker-Meador and many others, including "the 302 musicians, background singers and engineers who have contributed to my first 35 albums."

The next presenter, Hall of Fame member Carl Smith, towered over the podium as he introduced Clark. "We've had some times together - several times and many times," he mused. But he declined to elaborate, suggesting that if he were to speak too candidly, "they'd still put us in some damn big jail."

The laughter turned to an ovation as Clark came forward. He told a hilarious story of a show they'd played together at Buck Lake Ranch in Indiana, where Smith, impatient to leave with Clark for the airport, attempted to cut his act short first by firing off a cap gun on the stage. When that didn't work, he sneaked behind Clark and, one by one, cut each string of his guitar with a wire cutter until the final low E string snapped.

"And," Clark concluded, with perfect timing, "my show was complete."

"It makes you proud to be considered in this league," said Clark. "I never thought about being in the Hall of Fame before because you're busy working in your career. Then when you are selected it makes you stop and think. I'm now in a pretty exclusive club that includes Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and Little Jimmy Dickens, among many others. The proudest part of my induction is that I'm now associated with all of my friends and heroes."

As for Mandrell, the secret was out the moment her sister Louise walked into the spotlight. Her voice catching with emotion, she shared stories of Barbara's precocious musicianship, dating back to when she used a drinking glass instead of the missing steel bar to play a show on steel guitar at age 11.

And she drew smiles when, recalling their network TV show "Barbara Mandrell and The Mandrell Sisters," she declared, "I can't believe Barbara made me audition!"

When her older sister emerged to a sustained and emotional welcome, the mood of affection expanded into a series of reflections on friends, family, associates and even her experience on the CMA Board. "Believe me," she insisted, "I know how hard they work to promote and perpetuate the growth of Country Music."

Mandrell ended with a special appreciation for her parents, who were in attendance. "When I came to Nashville, the only reason I could afford to have beautiful clothes is that my mother made them," she said, directing her gaze to Mary Mandrell. Turning to her father Irby, she continued, "This guy is my partner. Dad started teaching me steel guitar, and he would play rhythm guitar for me so I could practice. And when he told me to sing, Daddy would say, 'Don't just sing here in the living room. Sing to them across the street.'" Sadly, Irby Green would pass away just one month later, with his family at his bedside.

"Barbara, Charlie and Roy are truly deserving of Country Music's biggest honor and the opportunity to join the legendary artists and musicians who are the Country Music Hall of Fame," Genovese said. "Barbara and Roy are among our format's greatest ambassadors due to their numerous hit singles, national TV series, versatile musicianship, live concert appearances, acting opportunities and mainstream recognition. And Charlie's musical talents have enriched every recording on which he has performed, making him an irreplaceable part of America's music."

Genovese then brought the press conference to its end by inviting photographers to take photos of the honorees and media crews to follow with questions on the same stage where, in May, their entry into the Hall would be sealed by their Medallion Ceremony.
CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format with Country Music's highest honor. Clark, Mandrell and McCoy will increase membership from 105 to 108 inductees.

AmericaJR.com is Detroit's exclusive media outlet for this syndicated weekly column!

 

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