By Annie Reuter
In a ceremony held this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Rotunda in Nashville, Tenn., Kix Brooks introduced the induction as “the most important day in country music and something everyone looks forward to.” And for Cochran, Wiseman and Milsap it would be a career-altering day.
Bobby Bare, one of last year’s three Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, introduced the late Hank Cochran, who is the 2014 inductee in the songwriter category. Known by many simply as The Legend, Bare talked of first meeting Cochran and his impact on country music.
“This guy was a great songwriter,” Bare said. “He called himself The Legend long before he was ever a legend. I’ve been his friend for 60 years. When I hitchhiked to L.A.. the first person I met was The Legend. He could break your heart with a set of lyrics. He fell in love at least once a month, and he would marry ’em. Most of us guys would fall in love, and it didn’t work out and we’d split, but he would marry ’em.”
Cochran’s wife of 21 years, Suzi, went to the podium to talk on his behalf. Cochran died in 2010 in Nashville at the age of 74.
“I never dreamt it would be me and not Hank standing here,” she said. “I’m so proud of Hank and I’m so thrilled for our family. It’s hard for me to picture Hank without a pen and paper in hand. He would have loved to be here today to thank the nominating committee, CMA members and all of his friends. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Songs Cochran wrote or cowrote include “Make the World Go Away,” the George Strait hits “The Chair” and “Ocean Front Property,” It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad),” and the Patsy Cline classic “I Fall to Pieces.”
Wiseman was inducted next and acknowledged as a “veterans era” artist. Appearing side-stage in a wheelchair, the bluegrass legend talked of his appreciation at being inducted the same year as his friend Cochran.
“What a pleasure it is to visit with you folks today. This is the height of things that have happened for me in the 70 years I’ve been in music,” he said. “I hope I will prove worthy of the honor. I can’t say how pleased I am [to be inducted] in the same year as Hank Cochran. I remember the first time he came to California, he was just an old country boy. He got a job at the ballpark to make a living.”
He then apologized for not standing to accept the honor, blaming post-Polio Syndrome, asserting that he is healthy.
“I have not had a stroke. I’m in good health. My mind works pretty good sometimes. I just wrote a book. I find a loss for words to tell you how important this is to me. Thank you ladies and gentleman.”
“The music from this legend, this unbelievable hero of mine, has changed my music, has changed my life,” Hayes said. “I know that pales in comparison of the amount of lives he’s changed. When I was first introduced to his music my whole perception on music changed.”
Milsap then took the stage to celebrate and thank the country music community, his family and his friends.
“I’ve wanted to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I did not get to Nashville until I was 30. I’ve often thought if I got here earlier things would have turned out different. You just never know.”
He added: “I certainly want to thank my friends who have been pulling for me for a long time. Nashville is a wonderful place to live. This town…it’s perfect. You’ve got studios, you’ve got places to write. You’ve got all kinds of things to do with making a record, and I love making records. We keep doing these things year after year. To finally be recognized, I thank you. I’m so grateful and honored. I want to do things continually to make you proud of the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Milsap was one of country’s most popular artists in the 1970s and ’80s, earning 40 No. 1 hits and multiple GRAMMY and ACM awards. Hits of his include “Lost in the Fifties Tonight,” “Daydreams about Night Things,” “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends” and “Smoky Mountain Rain.”
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.