The Country Music Association announced today that Hank Cochran, Ronnie Milsap, and Mac Wiseman will become the newest members of the revered Country Music Hall of Fame. Milsap will be inducted in the “Modern Era Artist” category, while Wiseman will be inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category. Cochran will be inducted in the “Songwriter” category, which is awarded every third year in a rotation with the “Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980” and “Non-Performer” categories. Cochran, Milsap, and Wiseman will increase membership in the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame from 121 to 124 members.
“Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the highest honor achievable for a Country Music artist, songwriter, or industry leader and this year’s inductees are all highly deserving,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Hank’s songs have been recorded by everyone from Burl Ives to Etta James, George Strait to Ella Fitzgerald. Mac is a revered figure in the world of bluegrass and a founding Board member of the Country Music Association. And Ronnie is an incredibly gifted pianist and performer who is also one of the most successful and versatile crossover artists in our genre.”
“When you start listening to the radio as a kid, you want to hear your songs on there, because songs are bits of people’s lives, including your own,” said Milsap. “Then you dream that your songs and your music will mean enough to the people that, one day, they’ll put you in the Hall of Fame. Not for you, exactly, but for all the songwriters and musicians and especially the fans who tell you their life is in your songs. To me, that’s what the Hall of Fame is all about: how many people’s lives were held in your music. So many people I admire and have heard my story in their songs are already in the Hall, and I love the idea that maybe my music meant – to others – what those artists have meant to me.”
“Being a founding member of CMA, I have always been proud of my role in helping make Country Music popular,” said Wiseman. “Being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the icing on the cake and certainly a highlight of my career.”
Induction ceremonies for Cochran (who passed away in 2010), Milsap, and Wiseman will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater later this year. Since 2007, the Museum’s Medallion Ceremony, an annual reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, has served as the official rite of induction for new members.
CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize noteworthy individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format with Country Music’s highest honor. “All these distinguished Southerners overcame serious hardship before finding the opportunity to hone their talents to professional levels and make the inspired Country Music that has led to this moment,” said Kyle Young, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Their indelible mark has earned them Country Music’s highest honor, membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Hank Cochran – Garland Perry “Hank” Cochran was born Aug. 2, 1935 in Isola, Miss. After his parents’ divorce when Cochran was nine, he moved to Memphis to live with his father. But post-Depression life proved to be difficult and Cochran’s father ended up placing him in St. Peter’s Orphan home. After Cochran’s third attempt at running away from the orphanage, his father took him back to Mississippi to be raised by his grandparents.
At the age of 10, Cochran was playing guitar and singing at church. At 12, he and his uncle Otis hitchhiked from Mississippi to Hobbs, N.M. to work in the oilfields. But work as a roughneck was not only physically demanding, but dangerous. So after spending two years in the oilfields, Cochran headed to Los Angeles. Once there he got a job at a Sears & Roebuck. The company insisted he return to school since he was not yet 16.
While in Los Angeles, Cochran entered various amateur talent contests in the area with much success, giving him the idea to form a group to play at clubs and local events. His search for a guitar player led him to Eddie Cochran (no relation) who shared his passion for music. The teens formed a rock ‘n’ roll duo called The Cochran Brothers, which had minor success.
After the duo disbanded, Cochran made the move to Nashville in January of 1960 and began working as a songwriter for Pamper Music. That year he penned “Make the World Go Away,” which was recorded by both Ray Price and Eddie Arnold.
In addition to writing songs for Pamper Music, he also helped the company sign other songwriters, as well as acquire songs and get them recorded. Among those he signed to the publishing company’s roster was Willie Nelson, whom Cochran discovered singing at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.
In April of 1961 Patsy Cline released Cochran’s “I Fall to Pieces” (co-written with Harlan Howard), which afforded Cochran the opportunity to give up his extra jobs and become a full time songwriter. Soon after, Cochran was playing guitar with Justin Tubb on the Grand Ole Opry, touring with Price, and scoring his first hit as a recording artist with the Top 20 single “Sally Was a Good Old Girl.” He also earned three BMI Awards for songs he had written on his own, and became a co-owner (along with Price) of Pamper Music.
In 1974 Cochran was unanimously voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 1996, Cochran topped the Americana chart as a recording artist with Desperate Men: The Legend and the Outlaw. In 2002 he released another album, Livin’ For a Song: A Songwriters Autobiography.
Cochran’s songs have been recorded by a wide variety of artists including Chet Atkins, Junior Brown, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, Bing Crosby, Vern Gosdin, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Tom Jones, Loretta Lynn, Dean Martin, Wayne Newton, Elvis Presley, Reba, Linda Ronstadt, George Strait, and Lee Ann Womack. He has penned some of music’s classic tunes including “She’s Got You,” “Set ‘Em Up Joe,” “The Chair,” “Is It Raining At Your House,” “Miami, My Amy,” “Ocean Front Property,” and “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me.”
His catalog has generated more than 36 million performances, which, if played back-to-back, would amount to more than 200 years of continuous airplay.
Cochran passed away on July 15, 2010 surrounded by friends, family, and music – Jamey Johnson, Billy Ray Cyrus, and producer/songwriter Buddy Cannon were passing a guitar around in Cochran’s bedroom, singing songs and telling tales.
Veterans Era Artist
Mac Wiseman – Malcolm B. “Mac” Wiseman was born May 23, 1925, in Crimora, Va. At six-months old, Wiseman contracted polio, which he felt was a blessing. Because of his illness, he was kept inside and was not subjected to the field work that most children of the rural Shenandoah Valley were expected to do. His father would set the phonograph up by the wood stove and Wiseman would listen to old records over and over. His mother would write the lyrics from songs she heard on the radio into composition books for young Mac.
In 1943, Wiseman applied for a job at the Merck and Co. chemical plant, but because of the polio damage to his leg, he was turned down. That was when he made the decision to pursue his music.
Wiseman attended the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Virginia with help from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which would later become the March of Dimes. There Wiseman excelled in a radio course and accepted a job offer from WSVA in Harrisonburg, Va., where he read the news and farm reports and spun pop and Country records.
In 1946, Wiseman joined Molly O’Day’s band, where he developed a love of classic Country.
In 1948, Wiseman made his first foray into what would become known as bluegrass music. He joined Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs as a member of the Foggy Mountain Boys, singing high harmonies and booking the band’s first concert dates. And in 1949, he joined Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys where he played the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. He also recorded the classics “Traveling This Lonesome Road” and “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’” with Monroe. He left the band in 1949 to set out on his own.
Wiseman soon attracted the attention of the independent label Dot Records and was offered a recording contract. In 1951, Dot released Wiseman’s first single, “Tis Sweet To Be Remembered,” which became a career-making song and earned him the nickname the “voice with a heart.” Wiseman went on to record other classics including “Love Letters in the Sand,” “Jimmy Brown, the Newsboy,” “Ballad of Davy Crockett,” and “Shackles and Chains.”
Wiseman became a record executive in 1957 when he was tapped to head the Country Division of Dot Records. And in 1958, Wiseman was instrumental in the founding of the Country Music Association, becoming the organization’s first Secretary/Treasurer, demonstrating the respect he had earned as both an artist and a record executive.
During the 1960s Wiseman was a staple on the folk festival circuit and on college campuses. But he also played Carnegie Hall in 1962 on a bill headlined by Johnny Cash, which garnered him rave reviews in The New York Times.
From 1966 to 1971, Wiseman was Program Producer and Talent Director for the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. During his tenure he stabilized the cast of performers and gave bluegrass prominence.
Most recently, Wiseman has released his music on his own Wise Records including a six-disc boxed set entitled The Mac Wiseman Story, featuring songs he recorded in the 1970s and a DVD collection called Mac Wiseman – An American Treasure. In 2007, he recorded a duet album with John Prine, Standard Songs for Average People, which was released by Oh Boy Records. He has also just completed an album with Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, and The Isaacs that will be released in 2014 and is also being interviewed for inclusion in the upcoming Ken Burns PBS documentary on Country Music. Wiseman will also be the first inductee into the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music Hall of Fame later this month.
Modern Era Artist
Ronnie Milsap – Ronnie Lee Milsap was born Jan. 16, 1943, in Robbinsville, N.C. A congenital disorder left him almost blind, and he was raised by his grandmother in the Smoky Mountains until the age of five, when he was sent to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, N.C.
Showing an interest in music early on, at the age of seven his teachers recognized that he had considerable musical talent. He began studying classical music and learned several instruments, eventually mastering the piano.
His youthful passion for rock music led him to form a band with some high school classmates called The Apparitions. Briefly attending Young Harris College on a full scholarship, Milsap left before graduating to pursue a career in music.
In the early 1960s, Milsap played his first professional gigs as a member of J.J. Cale’s band. In 1965, he released “Total Disaster,” his first single as a solo artist, which achieved some local success in the Atlanta area.
In 1965, Milsap signed with New York-based Scepter Records where he scored an R&B Top 5 with the Ashford and Simpson-penned “Never Had It So Good.” While at Scepter, Milsap shared concert stages with James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles, who encouraged the young man to apply himself to music.
In 1969, Milsap moved to Memphis to become a session musician. Working with the legendary Chips Moman, he played keyboards on Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” and can be heard singing background on “Don’t Cry Daddy.” When not doing session work, Milsap and his ensemble served as the house band at the local music hotspot T.J.’s Club.
In 1970, Milsap found success on the pop charts with “Loving You Is a Natural Thing.” He recorded and released his eponymous debut album – produced by Dan Penn – in 1971.
In 1972, Milsap was performing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go where Charley Pride happened to be in the audience. Impressed with his soulful singing style, Pride encouraged Milsap to focus on Country Music. Moving to Nashville later that year, he began working with Pride’s manager, Jack D. Johnson. A year later, he signed with RCA Records and later that same year released his first Country single, the Top 10 “I Hate You.”
In 1974, Milsap scored two No. 1s: “Pure Love” and “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends,” which won his first Grammy. Another No. 1 followed the next year with “Daydreams About Night Things.”
In 1976, Milsap solidly established himself as one of Country Music’s biggest stars. A string of seven No. 1 hits in a row, including “(I’m a) Stand By My Woman Man,” “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life,” and “It Was Almost Like a Song,” which was the most successful single of the 1970s. “Song” was the singer’s first crossover hit, peaking No. 7 on the adult contemporary chart and paving the way for Milsap to be named Billboard’s Artist of the Year (in any genre) in 1976.
This string of hits also kicked off a remarkable run in American pop music. With songs “(There’s) No Getting Over Me,” “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For the World,” “Any Day Now,” “Stranger In My House,” “Lost in the Fifties Tonight,” “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning,” “Snap Your Fingers,” and “Where Do the Nights Go,” Milsap did not leave the Top 10 for 16 years.
Milsap also received myriad awards and accolades during this period. He won four CMA Album of the Year Awards (1975, 1977, 1978, and 1986), three CMA Male Vocalist of the Year trophies (1974, 1976, and 1977), and the coveted CMA Entertainer of the Year Award (1977). In addition, he won five Grammys for Best Male Country Vocal performance (1974, 1976, 1981, 1985, and 1986) and one Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 1988 for the Kenny Rogers duet “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine.”
In 1993, Milsap left RCA and signed with Liberty Records and released the album True Believer. In 2000, he released the two-CD set, 40 No. 1 Hits.
In 2004, Milsap recorded Just For a Thrill, a collection of American popular/jazz standards, which was nominated for a Grammy. Returning to Country in 2006 at his original home of RCA Records, he released My Life. It was followed in 2009 with Then Sings My Soul, a two-CD set collection of hymns and gospel songs.
On March 18 of this year, Milsap released Summer #17, his 31st album, which he describes as an homage to the music that inspired him. Hailed by USA Today, The Tennessean and NPR: National Public Radio, the set pays tribute to the influences that shaped Milsap’s singular brand of soul-steeped Country.
With 40 No. 1 hits and more than 35 million albums sold, Milsap remains one of Country’ Music’s most successful and beloved crossover artists. At 71, he continues to tour the country, playing his music for multiple generations of music lovers.