Bobby Karl Works The Country Radio Hall of Fame Induction

Pictured (L-R):

Pictured (L-R): CRB’s Bill Mayne, Randy Carroll, Mike Kennedy, Karen Dalessandro, Joel Raab, Sammy George, and Jeff Walker. Photo: Kristen England

2015 Country Radio Hall of Fame inductees: Joel Raab, Sammy George, Mike Kennedy, Randy Carroll, Karen Dalessandro
2015 CRB Artist Career Achievement Award: Dwight Yoakam
2015 CRB President’s Award: Jeff Walker

Chapter 498

The Country Radio Hall of Fame ceremony took a leap of faith this year.

Instead of being part of Country Radio Seminar, it was a stand-alone event. Instead of being housed in its longtime home of the Renaissance Hotel, it booked the new Omni Hotel adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Music City Center on Wednesday night (June 24). Unlike recent years, there was no live music.

The gambles seem to have worked. The Omni ballroom held a good crowd of about 300 people. An A-list group of 15 sponsors signed on. The inductees were worthy. The food was superb.

One thing has not changed. It is still a marathon evening. This year’s event clocked in at just under four hours. Most of the seven honorees’ acceptance speeches lasted between 10 and 15 minutes.

The first honoree was the widely beloved Jeff Walker, who was given the President’s Award. He has served on the Country Radio Seminar board for 35 consecutive years and is presently its treasurer.

“Thirty-five years later, I’m still here and still loving it,” said Walker. “When I first came to CRS, it was at the airport Hilton. I think you’re going to have an amazing experience here [at the Omni] next February.

“I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family,” he added, mentioning Terri, his wife of 37 years, his father and stepmother, Bill & Jeanine Walker, plus daughter Christy Watkins and son Jon Walker, both of whom work with him at AristoMedia.

The Career Achievement Award went to Dwight Yoakam. “He helped shake country out of its doldrums,” said R.J. Curtis.

“I’ve had a good run,” said Yoakam, “and one thing I did was have great support from country radio. Radio was and is, for me, magic in my ears….Without country radio, I couldn’t have sold the 25 million albums that I sold.”

Pictured (L-R): George Briner, Dwight Yoakam, Rick Moxley and Bill Mayne

Pictured (L-R): George Briner, Dwight Yoakam, Rick Moxley and Bill Mayne. Photo: Kristen England

Radio-exec honoree Joel Rabb worked at stations in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and New York before becoming a consultant 30 years ago. As such, he has worked with more than 200 stations and several national broadcast companies.

“I’m proud to be inducted,” he said. “I’ve loved country music and country radio since I was a kid. To me, they are inseparable.”

The first on-air personality honoree was Karen Dalessandro, who rose to prominence in Detroit. She switched to Milwaukee’s morning show in 1998, where she achieved stardom and remains.

“I was always the girl who talked too much in school, and who played my music too loud,” she said. “I never imagined this. We’re just really lucky to be part of this industry. I love to connect with people. Thank you for sharing this experience with me.”

The second radio-exec honoree was Sammy George, who has led WUSY in Chattanooga to No.1 and numerous awards.

“I loved being in country radio from Day One,” said George. His motto is, “Whoever has the most fun wins,” so he said his secret is, “having fun at all costs. Run toward the laughter. Attitude is everything…..Thank you for your friendship and music.”

On-air winner Randy Carroll won my heart for delivering a comparatively brief, five-minute acceptance speech. He also displayed the most humility of the radio folks. His daughters earned bonus points for introducing him equally succinctly. Carroll is highly unusual in his profession for having been at the same station for 32 years, KAJA in San Antonio.

“I do not deserve the career I’ve had,” he commented. “I do not deserve this recognition, but I’m gonna take it. It’s exciting to be in your company.”

John Rich hopped on stage to induct Kansas City radio honoree Mike Kennedy. “If there was ever the epitome of a guy who works hard and plays hard, it’s Mike Kennedy,” said Rich. “It’s the American Way!

“When I’d hit a slick spot or hit a wall, he’d always take my phone calls and always listen to my music. That’s a rare guy. You are one helluva friend. You’re an asset to country music. You’re an asset to country radio.”

Kennedy accepted wearing rhinestone boots that his buddy Rich had given him. “This is what it’s all about for me—the compadres and the special friends you make along the way,” said the honoree. Although long, his was the most personable and humorous of the acceptance speeches.

This was billed as the “41st annual” Country Radio Hall of Fame fiesta. Actually, there were no inductions in 1986, 1987 and 1997, but let’s not quibble.

The Hall’s physical location is currently in limbo. Its plaques originally were displayed in the Opryland Hotel. Then they were installed in the passageway between the Renaissance and the old convention center. They are now in storage, awaiting a suitable new home.

As usual, the event was a titanic schmoozathon. John Grady, John Zarling, John Marks, Jonathan Fricke, Jimmy Harnen, Jim Ed Norman, Ed Morris, Charlie Cook, Charlie Monk, Charlie Morgan, Chuck Aly, Chuck Chellman, Bill Mayne, Bill Payne, Bill Poindexter, Donna Hughes, Don Carpenter, Dan Hollander, Dan Halyburton, Mike Lynch and Mike Dungan worked the room.

So did several artists. Among them were The Swon Brothers, Logan Mize, Love & Theft, Dakota Bradley and Austin Webb.

The Omni ballroom is rather ordinary looking, compared with the rest of the sleek hotel. But there was nothing ordinary about the food. Dinner was oh-so-tender tenderloin with grilled shrimp, broccolini, mashed potatoes and braised tomato wedges, followed by cheesecake with strawberries and white-chocolate accents.

Enjoying it all were Rick Murray, Phyllis Stark, Scott Borchetta, David & Susana Ross, Tom Baldrica, Jerry Duncan, Travis Moon, Royce Risser, Craig Bann, Lon Helton, Bob Paxman, Ed Mascola, Vernell Hackett, Paul Allen, Clay Hunnicutt, Joe Ladd, Beverlee Brannigan, Neal Spielberg, Sherod Robertson and GAC’s Suzanne Alexander.

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