The Country Music Association announced today that Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare, and ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement will be the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Grand Ole Opry host and Hall of Fame member “Whisperin'” Bill Anderson presided over the announcement at a ceremony this morning in Nashville, along with the CMA president Steve Moore and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum director Kyle Young.
Considered the highest honor in the genre, the Hall of Fame includes such legends as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton. Last year’s inductees were Garth Brooks, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, and Connie Smith.
As Young noted during his introduction, all three of this year’s honorees were born in the 1930s during the Great Depression and country music’s formative years. They have seen the genre grow and develop quite a bit since then, from the honky-tonk era through “the birth or rock and roll” and on up to “the rise of sophisticated pop country” today.
From his first hit in 1966 with the psychedelic Mickey Newbury song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”–one of many he cut with his band the First Edition–on up to his ’70s and ’80s smashes like “The Gambler,” “Lucille,” and “Islands in the Stream” (with Dolly Parton), Kenny Rogers racked up dozens of hit songs and sold albums and songs by the millions. He’s easily one of the biggest and best-known artists, country or otherwise, of the past few decades.
Kenny was inducted as a “modern era artist,” while Bobby Bare was included as a “veteran era artist”–which is curious, since they both started their careers and had their first hits only a few years apart in the 1960s.
Bobby Bare is first known for hits such as “Detroit City” and “500 Miles,” which took influence from the then-popular folk movement as well as country (both the East and West Coast versions–Bobby first gained notoriety in California, where he met, hung out with, and worked alongside the likes of Harlan Howard, Wynn Stewart, Speedy West, and Cliffie Stone). It was when he moved to Nashville and hooked up with RCA producer Chet Atkins, though that, as he described it when taking the stage this morning, “I found my direction.”
“The first song I cut sold a million records,” Bobby said, refering to his first big single “Detroit City,” “which meant I was never ever dead to RCA.”
The artist nominated in the “non-performer” category (even though he has at various times in his career been a performer) is “Cowboy” Jack Clement. Cowboy got his early start at Sun Records in Memphis alongside Sam Phillips, where he met, worked with, and helped shape the sound and songs of such legends as Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. He wrote songs for Cash, too, including “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess Things Happen That Way.” Later, Cowboy settled in Nashville and worked with Chet Atkins at RCA. He convinced Chet to sign Charley Pride, and went on to produce or coproduce Pride’s first 13 RCA albums. He also worked with and helped fuel the careers of such legends as Townes Van Zandt, Don Williams, and Waylon Jennings. In the ’80s he even produced some tracks for U2’s Rattle & Hum.
The Country Music Hall of Fame was created in 1961 to recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to the genre. It is country music’s highest honor. Inductees are chosen by CMA’s Hall of Fame Panels of Electors, which consist of anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors.