2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: 5 Unforgettable Moments
On Sunday evening (Oct. 20), the Country Music Hall of Fame celebrated its newest class of inductees during its annual Medallion Ceremony at Nashville's CMA Theater. Ray Stevens, Jerry Bradley and Brooks & Dunn officially became the 137th, 138th and 139th members of the Hall of Fame.
Over the course of the special evening, an unbeatable lineup of performers took the stage to pay tribute to each inductee, showcasing a selection of hits that highlighted exactly what it is that makes each honoree's legacy so special. Yola, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Brothers Osborne and Luke Bryan were all among those on hand to celebrate the there three honorees' contributions to country music. Additionally, each new member received their medallion from a Hall of Famer of their choosing.
Stevens, the country artist and comedian elected to join the Hall of Fame in the Veterans Era category, was inducted by country music DJ and longtime television host Ralph Emery. From the podium, Emery admitted that he'd long been an advocate for Stevens' induction into the hallowed hall.
"I have lobbied for four years for this. Charlie Daniels mentioned to me tonight back in the party, how I approached him last year to vote for Ray Stevens to become a member of the Hall of Fame. Ray, you weren't the only one," Emery quipped.
During his acceptance speech, Stevens -- ever the comedian -- riffed on Emery's point about how much lobbying had gone into his induction. "When word got out I was being inducted into the Hall of Fame, people would come up to me and say, 'Well, it's about time.' And I would say, 'Anytime's a good time to be inducted into the Hall of Fame!'
"But I've been thinking about that. If you guys would have gotten me in a little sooner, I could've upped my price on booking dates, you know?" he continued, drawing a laugh from the crowd.
Next up was Jerry Bradley, 2019's Non-Performer Inductee (this category rotates every three years, along with Songwriter and Touring Artist categories). The son of legendary producer and fellow HoF member Owen Bradley, he got his start as a publisher for his family's Forest Hills Music. Bradley went on to RCA Records, where he worked as assistant to the legendary Chet Atkins, ultimately moving up to succeed Atkins as head of the label from 1973 until 1982. He signed artists such as Alabama, and was also part of the team behind the iconic Wanted! The Outlaws album.
Country music executive Bud Wendell, who served as the CEO and president of Gaylord Entertainment until his retirement in 1997, presented Bradley with his medallion. Onstage, Wendell recalled meeting Bradley in the lates '60s, when the two of them were tasked to work on a then-nascent festival known as Fan Fair (which has since become CMA Fest).
"He threatened my life! That's how we met, actually," Wendell recalled with a chuckle. At the time, he was managing audience attendance for the fledgling event. "I was really having difficulty getting a crowd. It was new, and unfortunately, we started this event at the wrong time of year. It was when school was still in session ... but at any rate, I was really having trouble attracting a crowd, and Jerry was quite upset about it. He had Charley Pride booked to come play the show, and he was afraid he was going to be embarrassed because I couldn't deliver a crowd for Charley, so he just threatened me!"
Fortunately, he added, everything worked out in the end, and Pride's show turned out to be well-attended. However, the experience taught him about Bradley's potential as a major player in the music industry. "I knew many, many years ago that he was gonna be a real leader," Wendell added.
The medallion ceremony concluded with a tribute to the Hall of Fame's newest Modern Era inductees, superstar duo Brooks & Dunn. The best-selling duo in country music history, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn began their career in 1991, and have since gone on to notch a massive catalog of hits that includes "Boot Scootin' Boogie," "Red Dirt Road" and many more.
Fittingly, Brooks & Dunn were inducted by their long-time friend and collaborator Reba McEntire, who kept her remarks brief and mischievous. "Oh, paybacks are hell!" the singer said gleefully, explaining that she was excited to finally have a microphone to get the duo back for all the good-natured grief they've given her over the years. "Do you remember when we started touring together in the '90s and y'all were pulling all those pranks? And I said, 'No pranks,' and they said, 'Uh huh!' real cute.
"Y'all know Kix and Ronnie very well, or you wouldn't be here -- part of you wouldn't be here tonight. They're wonderful people, they're like my ... older brothers," she added, pausing for emphasis on the world "old." "We toured for years in the '90s. We'll be in Vegas -- this is our fourth year -- and we're having a great time. We fight, we bicker, I tell them what they're gonna do and they never do it. They make fun of me onstage. Crowd loves it, I hate it."
All jokes aside, McEntire brought up the duo to receive their honor, joking that she was "knighting" them as she placed the medallions around Brooks' and Dunn's necks. "Alright! There y'all are," she said matter-of-factly, in a loving, humor-filled celebration of her two longtime friends.
Read on to learn more about the highlights of the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony.
Here's the Full List of Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees