BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Kudos to whoever booked the talent for this year’s Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Staged at the Hall on Sunday evening (Oct. 20), the event marked the official inductions of Ray Stevens, Jerry Bradley and Brooks & Dunn. The performers celebrating them were uniformly awesome.
Doing the honors for Ray were The McCrary Sisters, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Bilbrey with James Gregory. Singing for Jerry were Marty Stuart & Travis Tritt, Yola and Old Crow Medicine Show. Brooks & Dunn were saluted by Brothers Osborne, Luke Bryan and Trisha Yearwood. Almost all of them drew standing ovations.
The evening began with the gathering of the Circle Guard, Steve Turner, Mary Ann McCready, David Conrad, Seab Tuck and Bill Denny. They had celebrated the Hall’s annual gala via ceremonial readings of the bios of the 136 members of the Hall during the two weeks leading up to Sunday’s new inductions.
“The Circle Guard is here to see that the Circle will be unbroken,” explained Hall CEO Kyle Young. “We are temporary guardians of an enduring public trust.”
The opening also included an entrance march by attending Hall of Fame members, which this year included Skaggs, Bill Anderson, Charlie Daniels, Reba McEntire, Randy Owen (of Alabama), Ralph Emery, Garth Brooks, Connie Smith, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jimmy Fortune (of The Statler Brothers), Charlie McCoy, Charley Pride, Bud Wendell, Bobby Braddock, Don Schlitz and Randy Travis.
“Tonight, we celebrate country music’s sacred occasion,” said Kyle.
“Welcome, and enjoy this magical evening,” added the CMA’s Sarah Trahern.
The induction routine consisted of a video bio of the honoree, followed by Kyle reciting essentially the same information in more flowery language. Do the people who script these two things not talk to one another? Then, for each inductee, three entertainers performed songs to salute them.
Ray Stevens was up first. Skaggs was joined by award-winning bluegrass banjo player Justin Moses for a spirited rendition of Ray’s Grammy-winning arrangement of “Misty.”
Gregory and Bilbrey were delightful on “The Streak.” But the real show stopper of this induction was the thrilling gospel treatment of Ray’s Grammy-winning “Everything Is Beautiful” by The McCrarys. Everyone in the audience was standing and cheering after their first chorus. As young girls, they had sung on Ray’s 1970 original recording.
Emery did the official induction, following the tradition of an existing Hall of Famer placing the Medallion around the neck of the newcomer.
“You can’t plan on this,” said Ray. “You have to be chosen. How sweet it is to be chosen to be here tonight. This is Nashville. And anything can happen in Nashville. Thank you Nashville, Music City, the CMA and all of you wonderful people here tonight. It don’t get no better than this, folks.”
While at RCA, Jerry Bradley produced Pride, Dottie West, Eddy Arnold, Dave & Sugar, Nat Stuckey and more. He signed Ronnie Milsap, Sylvia and Alabama and marketed Wanted! The Outlaws as country’s first Platinum Record.
Old Crow Medicine Show was a blast on Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight.” Stuart & Tritt became Waylon & Willie for “Good Hearted Woman.” Yola sang “Jolene,” which was a hit for Dolly on RCA the year Bradley became the label’s boss.
Bud Wendell inducted Bradley: “I don’t know how I got here, but I sure as hell ain’t leavin,” said Jerry. He thanked wife Connie Bradley (who was dazzling in sequins), son Clay Bradley, Cecile Light, Michael Sales, David Briggs and Bill Harris. His late father and uncle also received shout outs — Owen Bradley and Harold Bradley are already in the Hall of Fame, which makes this family unique as triple recipients of country’s highest accolade.
“This business has given me a wonderful life,” Jerry concluded. “I’m grateful for the people I’ve met, the songs I’ve heard….Thank you.”
Brothers Osborne romped through “Brand New Man.” Luke Bryan reminded us of what a splendid song “Red Dirt Road.” Then Trisha Yearwood burned the place down with a searing, soulful “Believe.” Reba inducted Kix and Ronnie.
“This whole thing has been just…weird,” said Kix. “I don’t understand it, but I’m gonna go with it. This is hallowed ground. We realize how lucky we are.”
“I saw all of you Hall of Fame members comin’ in, and I tear-ed up,” said Ronnie. “I’m trying not to cry. I’ve never been so proud and humbled. And if you don’t believe that, just step inside my heart right now. Thank you.”
Reba and the McCrarys were the ceremony’s finale, singing a rafter-raising “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” A round of applause, please, for the All-Star Medallion Band who backed ‘em all – Biff Watson, Eddie Bayers, Brent Mason, Bruce Bouton, Mike Rojas, Alison Prestwood, Deanie Richardson, Carmella Ramsey, Thom Flora and Tania Hancheroff.
Following the inductions, we went upstairs from the CMA Theater into the Hall’s event space for a cocktail supper. A who’s-who of Music City attended, including politicians Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander and former Mayor Bill Purcell, academics such as Belmont’s Don Cusic, MTSU’s Beverly Keel and Ken Paulson and Nashville Public Library’s Kent Oliver, plus label chiefs John Esposito and Mike Dungan and top producers such as Scott Hendricks, James Stroud, Norbert Putnam, Tom Collins and Harold Shedd.
The Nashville songwriting community was well represented. Spotted schmoozing in the throng were Bruce Channel, Sharon Vaughn, Luke Laird, Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman, Terry McBride, Suzi Ragsdale, Margie Singleton, Mark D. Sanders, Don Cook and Deborah Allen.
You could have put on a dandy Dan Rogers Opry show with the entertainers in the crowd – The Whites, Mandy Barnett, Donna Stoneman, Doug Green (of Riders in the Sky), Desi Smith, Jody Maphis, Rose Lee Maphis, Richie McDonald (of Lonestar), John Carter Cash & Anna Christina Cash, Steve Gibson, Bergen White Robyn Young and Curtis Young with Eddie Stubbs to emcee.
We dined on pear Waldorf salad, anti-pasto cups, cheese puffs, salmon & cream cheese toast points and three kinds of mac & cheese – duck & gouda, crawfish & pepper jack or truffles & cheddar. The Korean main fare included shredded hot chicken, pork belly and stir-fry veggies on bao buns.
The fabulons working the room included Troy Tomlinson, Sally Williams, Anita Hogin, Bebe Evans, Stacy Schlitz, Amy Smart, Brian Mansfield, Bob Titley, Clarence Spalding, Diane Pearson, Mike Vaden, Randy Talmadge & Trav Livingston, David M. Ross, Lori Badgett, Debbie Fleischer, Jerry Williams, Ken Levitan, Woody Bomar, Suzanne Lee, Suzanne Kessler, Katie Gillon, Tom Roland, Bruce Hinton, Lon Helton, Drew Alexander, Don Murray Grubbs and brave soldier Joe Galante.