At this year’s Medallion Ceremony inducting its newest members, several existing Country Music Hall of Famers shared the spotlight.
Staged on Sunday evening (Oct. 22), at the Hall’s CMA Theater, the event saluted Tanya Tucker, Patty Loveless and Bob McDill as the inductees. Among the highlights of the ceremony were the contributions of Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Charlie McCoy, Don Schlitz, Connie Smith, Dean Dillon and Brenda Lee, all of whom are previous inductees.
“We’re thrilled to be in the presence of country-music royalty,” said the Hall of Fame’s CEO Kyle Young. “This event is devoted to joy and celebration.”
First up was Texas native Bob McDill, who is already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was honored for a stunning song catalog that includes “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” “Amanda,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold),” “Come Early Morning,” “Why Don’t You Spend the Night,” “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” “Gone Country,” ‘Song of the South,” “(Turn Out the Lights and) Love Me Tonight,” “Say It Again,” “Catfish John,” “It Must Be Love,” “Big Wheels in the Moonlight,” “I May Be Used (But Baby I Ain’t Used Up),” “I’ll Do It All Over Again,” “I’ve Been Around Enough to Know,” “Nobody Likes Sad Songs,” “I’ve Been Loved By the Best,” “Rake and a Rambling Man,” “The Door Is Always Open,” “We Believe in Happy Endings,” “You Never Miss a Real Good Thing,” “She Never Knew Me,” “In a Different Light,” “If Hollywood Don’t Need You,” “What She Is (Is a Woman in Love),” “Why Didn’t I Think of That” and “Red Necks White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer.”
“They joked on Music Row that BMI stood for ‘Bob McDill Incorporated,’” commented Young. “For 30 years, no songwriter in Nashville was more meticulous about crafting country songs.” He related that the songwriter’s mentors and collaborators Allen Reynolds, Dickey Lee, Jack Clement and Bill Hall brought him to Music City in 1970. He also described McDill as “a songwriter’s songwriter” who maintained a nine-to-five office songwriting schedule until his retirement in 2000.
A video bio reminded everyone about the circumstances of McDill’s life. “He elevated the craft of country songwriting into an art and that is why we are inducting him into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Texas honky-tonker Charley Crockett saluted McDill with a jaunty, drawling rendition of “Louisiana Saturday Night.” Dean Dillon offered his meditative version of “All the Good Ones Are Gone,” which he co-wrote with McDill. Jamey Johnson hushed the crowd with an eloquent performance of “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” which left many attendees misty-eyed and earned a standing ovation.
Kyle Young introduced the members of the superb Medallion All-Star Band — Biff Watson, Jeff White, Jen Gunderman, Deanie Richardson, Brent Mason, Jerry Pentecost, Carmella Ramsey, Richard Loy and Paul Franklin — and then brought on Don Schlitz to do McDill’s induction honors.
Schlitz saluted McDill with a cleverly written reflection on his fellow songwriter’s influence. “Thank you for the great example you’ve given me, and all of us,” Schlitz said.
McDill noted that he realized he was in an elite group of Hall of Fame members who are non-performing songwriters — Schlitz, Dillon, Harlan Howard, Bobby Braddock, Cindy Walker, Boudleaux & Felice Bryant, Fred Rose, Hank Cochran. “What a great honor this is,” he said. Schlitz put the medallion around his neck. Young unveiled McDill’s official Hall of Fame plaque.
The video bio for Kentucky’s Patty Loveless noted that she first came to town to attend Fan Fair. She stood in line to get Vince Gill’s autograph, who was a new and fairly unknown artist at the time. “One day, we’re going to sing together,” she told the budding star.
As a teenager, Loveless returned to town with a tape of her original songs and was befriended by Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, The Wilburn Brothers and her distant cousin Loretta Lynn. But she married, moved away and sang in rock bands for a decade. When she tried Nashville again in 1985, Tony Brown signed her to MCA and co-produced her records alongside Emory Gordy Jr., whom she married in 1989. That led to 20 top 10 hits in 1988-97, five CMA Awards, two Grammys and Opry membership.
“Patty Loveless has the ability to harken back to tradition and to move that tradition forward,” said Young. “Her voice is transcendent. She wanted to sing like her heroes. Today, artists say they want to sing like Patty Loveless. And that is why today she is joining the Hall of Fame.”
Medallion band member Deanie Richardson played in Loveless’s band for years (as did Ramsey). She and her all-female bluegrass group Sister Sadie gave tight harmony vocals to “Sounds of Loneliness.” Rock star Bob Seger got a standing ovation for his hearty rendition of “She Drew a Broken Heart.”
Vince Gill and Loveless have been singing on each others’ records for years. He’s on her “Timber I’m Falling in Love” and she’s on his “When I Call Your Name,” to mention just two examples. He offered a magnificent, swooningly beautiful rendition of her hit ballad “Lonely Too Long.”
“Blood harmony, that’s what we sound like together,” Gill said. “We have such a deep and respectful friendship. I think Patty probably represents the most authentic voice I’ve ever heard.” He put the medallion around his old friend’s neck and posed with her as her plaque was unveiled.
“I’m trying to hold it together,” said Loveless. “The one person I truly wish could be here tonight is my brother Roger. He passed away in June of last year, but this was always a dream of his… It’s amazing to me that I have been honored to live this life that I have lived. Forgive me: I’m a little bit taken aback by this. I can get so emotional. Thank you so much.”
The video bio for Tanya Tucker included rare footage of her as a child performer, described her hard-scrabble background and emphasized the unstoppable dedication of her father, Beau Tucker, into making her a star. Young noted that Tucker is just behind Dolly, Reba, Loretta and Tammy as the woman with the most top 10 hits in country-music history. She has 40 of them, plus a 1991 CMA Female Vocalist trophy and two Grammys.
“She sang with authenticity and grit,” Young said. “Nobody sounded like Tanya Tucker then and nobody has yet. She’s a survivor: She’s Tucker tough.”
Wynonna honored Tucker with a bluesy treatment of “Delta Dawn.” Accompanying her on eloquent harmonica was Charlie McCoy, her fellow Hall of Famer. Jessi Colter and Margo Price romped through “It’s a Little Too Late.” Colter beckoned for Tucker to join them on stage, and she did, to the crowd’s delight. Brandi Carlile and Colter’s son Shooter Jennings produced Tucker’s Grammy-winning 2019 comeback album. Carlile lauded the legend by saying, “You have carved out an ass-kicking path for all women in music, including me.” Then she sang Tucker’s favorite “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” a title that is on her parents’ tombstone. Another standing ovation ensued.
Connie Smith and Brenda Lee inducted Tucker. Smith recalled the times “The Texas Tornado” rode her horse down Lower Broadway and onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. ‘“She’s so real,” said Smith. “She is one of us, and I’m so proud that she is.” Lee brought down the house with her riotously funny speech. On a more serious note, she told the crowd that Tucker is “one of the most giving, loving, kind hearted people I know. If she is your friend, she is your friend.” Smith put on Tucker’s medallion, and Young unveiled the plaque while all three women held their medallions and beamed.
“It’s so surreal,” Tucker said. “It’s really overwhelming to me…. Thank you for not giving up on me… I look back on those 52 years [since “Delta Dawn” made her a star], and it’s hard to make sense of it all. She thanked her late parents and brother, as well as her older sister LaCosta, and introduced the crowd to her children Presley, Beau Grayson and Layla. She added, “I think of my fans, who have always, always stood by my side.”
Addressing the crowd, she concluded by saying, “I’ll live out my days trying to thank you.” Whistles and screams accompanied her standing ovation.
The evening began with the sound of one of the discs in the Bob Pinson Recorded Sound Archive of the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. It was the 1978 George Jones classic “Bartender’s Blues.” After opening greetings from Kyle Young, the institution’s board chair Mary Ann McCready introduced the members of the ceremonial Circle Guard, Steve Turner, David Conrad, Bill Denny, Ken Levitan, Mike Milom, Ken Roberts, Seab Tuck and Jerry Williams. Loud cheers and a standing ovation greeted the procession of Hall of Fame members Gill, Judd, Smith, Lee, McCoy, Schlitz, Dillon, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Stevens, William Lee Golden, Emmylou Harris, Bill Anderson, Jimmy Fortune, Randy Travis, Kix Brooks, Joe Galante, Ricky Skaggs and more.
CMA chief Sarah Trahern offered welcoming remarks. Her organization conducts the Hall of Fame balloting and underwrites the Medallion Ceremony. Kyle Young noted the passing of three Hall of Famers during the past year — Jerry Bradley, Jeff Cook and Jerry Lee Lewis — and asked for a moment of silence to honor them.
As is the tradition, the ceremony ended with the entire assembly singing The Carter Family’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” This year’s sing-along was particularly memorable since the powerful voice of Wynonna Judd led the way. Following the induction celebration, attendees gathered for a cocktail supper where McDill, Loveless and Tucker mixed and mingled, as did the evening’s performers.
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