Bobby Karl Works The 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony

Pictured (L-R): Sarah Trahern, Kyle Young, Lottie Zavala, Seidina Hubbard, Don Schlitz, Alan Jackson, Sally Williams and Steve Turner. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum [Click photo to enlarge]

BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM

Chapter 575

It might not rank as the party of the year, but the 2017 Medallion Ceremony inducting the new Country Music Hall of Fame members was tops in both musical and emotional quality.

Staged at the CMA Theater in the museum on Sunday evening (Oct. 22), the event saluted inductees Don Schlitz, Alan Jackson and the late Jerry Reed. The show had so many highlights that the audience rose for standing ovations more than 15 times.

“This is the most perfect night in the country-music year,” said the Hall of Fame’s Kyle Young. “These men believed in the enduring power of country music.”

Board chairman Steve Turner also offered greetings. The CMA’s Sarah Trahern eulogized the late Jo Walker-Meador and noted the passings of Jo’s fellow Hall of Famers Don Williams and Glen Campbell during the past year.

Each of the inductions began with a video bio, followed by remarks from Kyle. Here’s the fun part: We are not told in advance which stars will salute the inductees with music, so each performance is a surprise.

What is never a surprise to me is the excellence of the accompaniment. The annual Medallion All-Star Band features such titanic talents as Paul Franklin, Eddie Bayers Jr., Jeff White, Glenn Worf, Brent Mason, Deanie Richardson, Gary Prim, Thom Flora, Tania Hancheroff and Carmella Ramsey, guided by bandleader Biff Watson.

“From the beginning, music was Jerry Reed’s waking dream,” said Kyle in discussing the night’s first inductee. “He was a delight and a treasure.”

Pictured (L-R): Jimmy Melton, Jamey Johnson and Brent Mason perform onstage at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Medallion Ceremony to celebrate 2017 hall of fame inductees Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed And Don Schlitz. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum [Click photo to enlarge]

Steve Wariner, Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles teamed up to execute Reed’s challenging instrumental “The Claw.” Ray Stevens did Reed’s 1971 Grammy-winning hit “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” Jamey Johnson romped through 1977’s “East Bound and Down,” backed by Jimmy Melton on banjo and Reed acolyte Brent Mason doing the guitar honors, plus the rest of the Medallion All-Star Band.

Each honoree is officially inducted into the Hall by an existing Hall of Fame member. Bobby Bare did the honors for his long-time fishing buddy.

“Jerry Reed was and still is a true American icon,” said Bobby. “He wasn’t the wild man you saw on stage and TV. Jerry Reed was serious about everything he did.”

Daughter Seidina Hubbard tearfully accepted, saying, “We all want to thank you so much for honoring our father. He said, ‘If my life isn’t proof of the Good Lord at work, I don’t know what is….Every dream I had has come true.’

“Daddy, I wish you could have seen what the world sees in you – an incomparable talent who inspired so many. It’s an honor to stand here for you tonight.”

“For the first time in his life, he would be truly speechless,” added Jerry’s daughter Lottie Zavala.

Kyle related that Don Schlitz has, to date, written 50 top-10 hit singles and 24 No. 1’s. In 1985, Don created the now-standard “in the round” songwriter performance format when he and Medallion Ceremony attendees Paul Overstreet, Thom Schuyler and Fred Knobloch joined forces at The Bluebird Café.

Mary Chapin Carpenter shares a moment with songwriter Don Schlitz. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Pictured (L-R): Aloe Blacc and Vince Gill. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Mary Chapin Carpenter, with whom Schlitz wrote such hits as “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “I Feel Lucky,” presented a lovely, reverent alto reading of “When You Say Nothing at All.” Charlie Worsham, joined by Schuyler, Knobloch and Jelly Roll Johnson gave us the moving “Oscar the Angel.”

International pop star Aloe Blacc (Egbert Nathanial Dawkins III) was up next. Noted for such pop hits as “The Man,” “I Need a Dollar” and “Wake Me Up” Blacc was a revelation on “The Gambler” in a duet with Vince Gill.

Vince then inducted his old friend Don: “This is a big thrill to get to do this for you, Don,” he began. “I’m just so proud that we’re friends. At the end of the day, if we don’t have each other, we don’t have very much of all.”

On a lighter note, Vince referred to the notoriously ugly bronze “portraits” on the Hall of Fame plaques. “The scariest part of being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is not your speech; it’s not who’s going to sing your songs. It’s your plaque!”

“We celebrate each other,” reflected Don during his acceptance remarks. “Look around: This is what we call an unbroken circle. This honor is for all of us. No one does this alone. In your life, be part of something bigger than yourself.

“I’ve lived for 40 years within parentheses,” he added, referring to the way songwriter credits are written on records. “This is an honor beyond my comprehension.”

By the way, the plaque’s bronze portrait looks nothing like him. They never do. Vince says that his looks like Lon Chaney.

Moving on, Kyle cited Alan Jackson’s 60 million in sales as placing him among the top-10 solo record sellers, regardless of genre. Alan, he added, has 50 top-10 hits and 35 No. 1’s.

“He was able to reflect on the ways that real people live their lives. Alan’s songs are marvels of distinctiveness and individuality. He is one for the Ages.”

PIctured (L-R):Singer Alison Krauss and guitarist Tommy Emmanuel perform onstage at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Medallion Ceremony. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Lee Ann Womack performed Alan’s career-launching 1990 chart topper “Here in the Real World.” Alison Krauss offered a pristine performance of 1991’s “Someday,” backed by Emmanuel on guitar and featuring her own fiddle coda. George Strait’s resonant rendition of 2003’s “Remember When” was superb.

One of the event’s emotional highlights was the surprise appearance of Loretta Lynn to induct Alan. She has been recovering from a debilitating stroke she suffered on May 5, and this was her first appearance in Nashville since then. Needless to say, she received the longest and loudest of all of the evening’s many standing ovations as she was helped to the podium by George and her daughter Patsy Lynn.

“This is the first time I’ve been out,” said Loretta to the honoree. “You’re the only thing that could’ve brought me out.

“Alan, I love you. I said you’re gonna be one of the greatest singers in country music. He hasn’t let me down….Hey, you should be here.”

“Loretta Lynn said I should be in here – that’s all I needed to hear,” said Alan. “Nashville’s a really special place for music. I’ve been so blessed.

“I write what I know about. I write stuff for my fans. I just write and sing from the heart. Like I wrote in the song [2001’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”], ‘I’m just a singer of simple songs.’ That’s all that I am. I’m just so humbled by this.”

Pictured (L-R): George Strait, Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith and Alan Jackson. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Connie Smith and George Strait came out of the wings, supporting Loretta between them, with Alan close behind. Connie led everyone in singing the traditional Medallion Ceremony finale, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

The warblers included such illustrious names as Randy Owen, Randy Travis, Jimmy Capps, Jimmy Fortune, Jim Horn, Charlie Daniels, Charlie McCoy, Charlie Cook, Suzy Bogguss & Doug Crider, Marty Stuart, Donna Stoneman, Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman, Lee Thomas Miller, Tony Brown, Kyle Lehning, Lane Brody, Jan Howard, Dickey Lee, The Whites, William Lee Golden and Buddy Cannon.

We retired to the event space upstairs for the second part of the celebration, a gracious cocktail supper. Fare included super-tender roast beef, mac & cheese, romaine salad, prosciutto, salami, cheeses, pasta salad, wilted kale, crostini, flat breads and desserts.

This, of course, also featured massive schmoozing by such industry fabulons as Mike Dungan, Michael Martin, Mike Sistad, Mike Milom, John Huie, John Marks, John Lomax III, David & Karen Conrad, David & Susana Ross, Bill Mayne, Billy Paul, Bill & Janine Walker, Gerry House, Jerry Crutchfield, Jerry & Ernie Williams, Jody Williams and Scott Borchetta.

Not to mention such lovely divinities as Mary Ann McCready, Erin Enderlin, Shannon Hatch, Diane Pearson, Amy Kurland, Denise Stiff, Martha Sharp, Suzi Ragsdale, Sherry Bond, Melanie Howard and Eria Wollam Nichols, plus her equally lovely husband Roger Nichols, sporting a stylish new silver forelock.

Which leaves us to conclude our story with representatives of the hairy-legged contingent – Buck Ford, Les Kerr, Ron Cox, George Gruhn, Rod Essig, Tony Conway, Horton Frank, Pat Higdon, Ed Benson, Gary Overton, Chris Horsnell, Bobby Rymer, Lon Helton, Bruce Hinton and Keith Bilbrey.

Many judged it to be the best Medallion Ceremony to date.

Charlie Worsham performs onstage at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Medallion Ceremony. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Pictured (L-R): Don Schlitz and Randy Travis. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Pictured (L-R): Kris Kristofferson and Bobby Bare. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Pictured (front row, L-R): Alan Jackson, Don Schlitz, Seidina Hubbard, Lottie Zabala, Loretta Lynn, Harold Bradley, Fred Foster, Randy Travis and Charlie Daniels; (middle row, L-R): Kris Kristofferson, Bill Anderson, Bobby Bare, Bobby Braddock, Charlie McCoy, Jimmy Fortune, Connie Smith and George Strait; (back row L-R): Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban, Randy Owen, Vince Gill, Kyle Young, Steve Turner, Sarah Trahern and Sally Williams. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum [Click photo to enlarge]

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