Country Music Hall Of Fame Names Inaugural Class Of Circle Guard Honorees

Pictured (L-R): E.W. “Bud” Wendell, Member, Country Music Hall of Fame; Kyle Young, Commander General, Circle Guard; J. William Denny; Steve Turner, Founder, Circle Guard; David Conrad; Mary Ann McCready; Seab Tuck; Emmylou Harris, Member, Country Music Hall of Fame. Photo: Carissa Riccardi for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

During an intimate luncheon Wednesday (July 25) on the stage of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater, Emmylou Harris and Bud Wendell unveiled the museum’s Circle Guard honor and the inaugural class of honorees. Harris and Wendell are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Trustees Emeriti of the museum’s Board of Officers and Trustees.

The Circle Guard unites and celebrates individuals whose highest-level contributions of time, talent, and treasure to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum safeguard the integrity of country music and make it accessible to a global audience through the museum. The Circle Guard designation ranks as the grandest distinction afforded those who exhibit an unwavering commitment to the museum and its mission.

“Through the efforts of Circle Guard initiates,” said Harris, “the legacies of the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and, by extension, the achievements of all who are part of the country music story, are honored in perpetuity at the museum.”

In recognition of their significant contributions to the museum, the following are the inaugural class of Circle Guard initiates:

David Conrad, for serving on the museum board for 32 years; generously supporting the museum’s capital campaign, education council and annual fundraising efforts; enlisting the help of countless high profile friends—from Chet Atkins and Marty Stuart to Cowboy Jack Clement and Kimmie Rhodes—to facilitate exhibitions, programs and fundraising activities.

Bill Denny, for investing personally in campaigns for the original museum, the move downtown, and the recent expansion; serving on the museum board for 53 years—a tenure longer than that of any other board member, past or present; loyally promoting fiscal discipline, robust preservation and the serious study of country music; donating his family’s Denny-Cedarwood Music Collection to the museum.

Mary Ann McCready, for helping to advance the vision for arena shows in the series of All for the Hall fundraising concerts, which have netted more than three million dollars for the museum; spearheading a fundraising campaign to recognize the museum’s two chairmen of the twenty-first century with the naming of the Bud Wendell and Steve Turner Boardroom in their honor; tirelessly uniting the music business and the broader business community for the museum’s common good.

Seab Tuck, for designing the museum’s iconic building—marrying form, function, and meaning in his work to design a structure that welcomes more than 1.2 million people each year; faithfully supporting the museum as a passionate lover of country music and its story; and designing the Circle Guard logo and related recognitions.

Steve Turner, for demonstrating overwhelming support and leadership as chairman of the museum’s board for the last decade—including spearheading the recent capital campaign and 210,000-square-foot museum expansion; leading numerous charges that have helped connect the museum to its community—from the String City puppet show to an admission program that welcomes Middle Tennessee youth at no cost; serving as an active visionary for the museum and the city of Nashville.

Kyle Young, for receiving the appointment as the Circle Guard’s first Commander General, in recognition of 42 years of service— starting as a ticket-taker and now leading the museum as CEO; consistently upholding the institution’s mission and the music at the heart of it; helping to establish the museum as a downtown linchpin and a cultural touchstone.

In weeks to come, Circle Guard initiates will carry forward the legacies of those celebrated in the Hall of Fame Rotunda, as well as those who make up the broader country music story, by leading the “Road to the Country Music Hall of Fame: Rite of Remembrance and Salute.” This new, annual ritual, open to all museum visitors, will pay tribute to all of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s yearly classes and their inducted members. For the two weeks leading up to the annual Medallion Ceremony, at 1 p.m. daily, Circle Guard initiates will conduct this ritual by reading Country Music Hall of Fame members’ biographies in the museum’s Rotunda, from 1961 to present day.


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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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