It’s also quite possibly one of the more debatable arguments in country music. Each time a column is posted here, omissions are complained about and oversights are pleaded. And as we turn the page, let’s start the debate on who will be selected for this year’s class- traditionally announced in early Spring.
In 2009, the Hall changed the way it categorizes its selectees. Three new members will continue to be inducted every year, with one each coming from the new categories, which will be renamed and defined as follows:
Modern Era: An artist becomes eligible for induction in this category 20 years after they first achieve national prominence. They will remain eligible for that category for the next 25 years. This replaces the former “Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present” category.
Veterans Era: An artist becomes eligible for induction in this category 45 years after they first achieve national prominence. This combines the former “Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975″ (which was voted on annually) and “Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II” (which was voted on every third year in rotation) categories into one.These are the ones that I believe should be inducted- and hopefully not posthumously for those still alive on this list.
Rotating Categories: The third slot will continue to be a rotating category, with each group in the spotlight every third year. The Recording and/or Touring Musician and Non Performer slots will remain, joined by a new Songwriter category. 2016’s selection will come from the non-performer category.
10. John Denver- Might as well start with the most controversial first. In 1975, previous Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Charlie Rich set fire to Denver’s winning envelope rather than announce the win. Some considered it a statement against country pop and the Music Row-controlled Nashville Sound. But looking closer, he was one of the top album sellers in the 70’s, won several country music awards, 2 Grammys, and his hits “Take Me Home”, “Rocky Mountain High” and “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” are sing-along standards.
9. Jerry Reed- The CMHOF has a history of inviting comedians and actors (Minnie Pearl) and Jerry Reed belongs in. Jerry Reed, was an country music singer, country guitarist, session musician, songwriter and actor who appeared in over a dozen films. As a singer, he may be best known for Amos Moses, and When You're Hot, You're Hot, for which he received a Grammy in 1972 and East Bound and Down, the theme song to the film Smokey and the Bandit in which he portrayed the "Snowman", Cledus Snow.
8. Kenny Chesney- It's hard to imagine that he's old enough to qualify for the Country Music Hall of Fame, but it was 20 years ago that Kenny Chesney released his first major label album with BNA. Chesney has been country music’s biggest and most-active stadium draw for the last decade or so, sold 30 million albums and has had over 30 Top 10 singles.
7. Charlie Daniels- The man who made southern country/rock a new genre, he should be in for his fiddling ability alone. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” is quite possibly the most recognizable country song ever recorded- he’s been a music hero for close to 40 years.
6. The Judds- As one of the most successful acts in country music history, Wynonna and Naomi Judd won five Grammy Awards for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and eight Country Music Association awards. The duo also charted twenty-five singles on the country music charts between 1983 and 2000, fourteen of which went to Number One and six more of which made Top Ten on the same chart.
5. Randy Travis- Travis has recorded more than a dozen important studio albums and single-handedly started the neo-traditionalist movement in the 80’s. He charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, of which sixteen have reached Number One. He's gone through some significant health issues over the past couple of years which could influence the sentimental vote or mentally cause the voters to wait a couple more years as he continues to heal.
4. Dallas Frazier - Frazier is the songwriter’s songwriter. His tunes were recorded by George Jones (who recorded an entire album of Frazier's songs in 1968), Engelbert Humperdinck, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jack Greene, Connie Smith (who also recorded an entire album of Frazier's songs in 1972), Willie Nelson, Brenda Lee, Carola, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Gene Watson, Elvis Presley, Moe Bandy, Roy Head, Rodney Crowell, Dan McCafferty, and Ronnie Hawkins. Many of the songs became hits into the 1980s; examples include the Oak Ridge Boys cover of "Elvira" and Emmylou Harris's version of "Beneath Still Waters". Anne Murray with Glen Campbell, George Strait, Randy Travis, and Patty Loveless have all also recorded Frazier tunes.
3. Sydney Nathan - Who, you say? My friend, author and country music historian KF Raizor says it best: "In the early 40's the hotbed of country music wasn't Nashville, it was Cincinnati. While publishing companies and record labels pooh-poohed the idea of signing "hillbilly" singers or, worse, publishing their songs, Syd Nathan used his keen businessman's sense and noticed that "hillbilly" records were selling very, very well in his Cincinnati record store. With a deep well of talent to draw from in the area (including future hall of famers Merle Travis, Grandpa Jones, Homer & Jethro, and the Delmore Brothers, and should-be hall of famers such as Moon Mullican and Cowboy Copas), Sydney Nathan founded the nation's first all-hillbilly music label in 1943, King Records. Nathan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the label's work with pioneering R&B acts such as James Brown, and into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame because of the presence of the Stanley Brothers and Reno & Smiley. He did much more for country music than either of those genres, and yet he continues to be ignored by the genre of music he helped popularize thanks to easy access to recordings." With this being the non-performer category, it could be Nathan's turn.
2. Alan Jackson- An accomplished songwriter, Jackson wrote much of his first album, which remained on the U.S. country charts for more than a year. His next two albums, Don't Rock the Jukebox (1991) and A Lot About Livin' (and a Little 'Bout Love) (1992) were even bigger hits, spawning five No.1 singles each. Notable among these hits were "Love's Got a Hold on You," "Midnight in Montgomery" (Jackson's tribute to the legendary country star Hank Williams), and "Chattahoochee." With the 1994 release of his fifth album, Who I Am, Jackson's record sales reached a total of over 10 million. Throughout the course of his career, Jackson has been honored with over 45 awards from organizations like the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and the Country Music Association (CMA). He released his Greatest Hits album in 1995 and won eight major awards, including CMA Entertainer of the Year.
1. Hank Williams, Jr.- He is another long overdue selection. He had two careers, each of them probably worthy of induction. His early standards Eleven Roses are just as HOF-worthy as his later standards like Family Tradition. His discography consists of fifty-six studio albums and twenty-two compilation albums. He has released 106 singles and twenty-four music videos. Eleven of his singles have reached Number One in either the United States or Canada. Hank Williams Jr. has sold more than 70 million albums world-wide. Put him in with a plaque right next to his father.
Consideration should also be given to June Carter Cash, Dottie West, Dwight Yoakam, the Wilburn Brothers, Paul Overstreet, Linda Ronstadt, Larry Gatlin, the Stanley Brothers, Johnny Horton, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss & Union Station (someday), Crystal Gayle, Charlie Rich, Rose Maddox, Tanya Tucker, Anne Murray, Crystal Gayle and Brooks and Dunn. Hopefully, all will eventually be elected.