Hall of Fame Inducts Sherrill, Husky

BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Chapter 337

There are three things you can count on at Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
First and foremost, your ears are going to be treated to absolutely extraordinary music. Plus, your taste buds are going to be delighted by the food. Plus-plus, your eyes will be dazzled by celebrities.

The Sunday evening event (5/23) was staged in the Hall of Fame’s Conservatory lobby, since its Ford Theater has been water inundated in the Great Flood of 2010. Appropriately, the first music we heard was Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising” from 1959. The Hall’s Kyle Young praised Alan Valentine of the Nashville Symphony and attendee Steve Buchanan of the Grand Ole Opry because, “with courage and valor, they kept the music playing without missing a beat” after both were flooded.

“We hold you in the highest esteem,” said Steve Turner to inductees Ferlin Husky and Billy Sherrill. “We salute you.”

Vince Gill kicked the spirit-lifting music performances off with “Oh Happy Day,” assisted by the Settles Connection Choir. “We need a happy day, after all this rain,” said Vinnie earlier on the red carpet.
Kyle told Ferlin’s story, which began on St. Louis radio, flourished in Bakersfield and rose to prominence on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s TV show. Ernie got Ferlin on Capitol Records. “A Dear John Letter” made stars of both Ferlin and Jean Shepard in 1953. In 1955, Ferlin scored his first solo hit with the light-hearted swing tune “I Feel Better All Over.” We were delighted by Webb Wilder’s performance of it.

(l-r) Opry President Steve Buchanan, CMA Chairman of the Board Steve Moore, Country Music Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young, Ferlin Husky and Billy Sherrill (photo by Donn Jones)

Often cited as the first “Nashville Sound” recording is Ferlin’s 1956 masterpiece “Gone.” Backed by The Jordanaires and an astounding soprano by 87-year-old Millie Kirkham, Ronnie McDowell did an outstanding job on the classic. He walked into the audience and sang it right to Ferliin.

Ricky Skaggs and The Whites encouraged us to sing along to Ferlin’s 1960 classic “Wings of a Dove.” After singing, they came down from the stage to greet Ferlin and his family. The eternally lovable Dallas Frazier sang “Freckles and Polliwog Days,” a single he co-wrote for Ferlin in 1974. It was done Dixieland style, with Larry Paxton joining the Medallion All Star Band on tuba. Speaking of the band, can I get a witness for John Hobbs, Paul Franklin, Biff Watson, Michael Rhodes, Steve Gibson, Deanie Richardson, Jeff White and Dawn Sears? They made everybody sound great.

Anyway, after Dallas finished, Charley Pride took the stage to formally induct Ferlin into the Hall of Fame. “It’s a privilege and an honor to do this for someone I dearly love,” said Charley. The ceremonial gesture includes unveiling a bronze plaque and placing a medallion around the inductee’s neck. ‘God bless anybody who had anything to do with bringing me here,” said Ferlin. At age 84, he is frail after nine heart bypass surgeries and uses oxygen and a wheel chair.

Kyle lauded Billy Sherrill, 73, as “a controversial genius who created immortal country music.” Billy’s journey includes helping to create the Muscle Shoals music scene, working with Sam Phillips and being hired by Epic Records in 1963 to produce The Staple Singers, Barry & The Remains and other left-field artists. Moving into country music, he produced and co-wrote dozens of genre-defining hits.

The evening’s amazing music continued with Craig Morgan’s performance of Billy’s co-written “Almost Persuaded” 1966 David Houston hit. I just love to listen to that man sing. George Jones led the standing ovation. By the way, all the performances were greeted by standing ovations and Sharon White’s shouts of encouragement.

That included Shelby Lynne’s rendition of “Stand By Your Man.” “Don’t put me after Shelby Lynne!” protested Ronnie Milsap. “What a great singer she is.” Don’t worry. Ronnie’s version of Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl” (also co-written and produced by Billy) was also greeted by a standing o.
Billy signed Jones in 1972 and produced his masterpiece “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” This time, Lee Ann Womack did the goosebump-raising honors, backed by Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy with the Medallion All Star Band.

Frances Preston inducted Billy. “There is not a more miserable person in Nashville, Tennessee, tonight than Billy Sherrill,” she said. “He hates notoriety.” She added, “Your work has made stars of many people, but tonight you are the star.”

“There are no more words—everything’s been said,” said the famously shy and dry Billy. He thanked Tom Stafford, Sam Phillips, Clive Davis and Al Gallico: “You have to have a lot of help to get this, and I had it.” Billy and Charlene Sherrill will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Jan. 30, 2011, by the way.
The music concluded with the annual train-wreck performance of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” by all the stars. As noted above, this is a gig that is saturated with them. Mel Tillis, Barbara Mandrell, Joe Stampley, Roni Stoneman, Norro Wilson, Melanie Howard, Gary Scruggs, Mayor Karl Dean, Bobby Braddock, Jim Foglesong, Two Foot Fred, Bud Wendell, Dianne Sherrill, red-carpet host Bill Cody, John Seigenthaler, Harold Bradley, Bill Denny, Sherry Bond, Robin Young, Jo Walker-Meador, Charlie Dick, Weldon Myrick, Bill Anderson, Earl Scruggs and Sonny James sparkled a-plenty.

As for the food, you had your choice of peach-glazed pork loin, smoked turkey, fried okra, garlic grits, Cajun shrimp, fried green tomatoes, burger sliders, cheesy cucumber slices, tossed salad with hot wings, three-bean salad, cucumber-and-onion salad and a variety of cheeses and fruits. The full bar featured a dry white wine from Kix Brooks’s Arrington Vineyards, which is quite good. And don’t get me started on the post-show desserts.

This year’s second Hall of Fame induction ceremony will spotlight Don Williams and Jimmy Dean on October 24.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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