Every so often in my various social media feeds, I get an article that comes up from TheBoot.com, about 10 Artists Who Should Be in The Country Music Hall of Fame. If curious, you can read their article, here.
I admit, whenever these articles appear, or for that matter, anything related to classic country music appears, be it on any country music website, I tend to cringe if I read it. I do so, because often, these articles seem to compose by people whose writing shows off a lack of knowledge about the subject matter. So, it was with some degree of trepidation; okay, I opened the link, figure they completely screwed it up with people that either no one knows who they are, or else a bunch of bro-country hacks like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.
I must say that, for the most part, I was somewhat surprised at what I saw. Yes, there were a couple of names on the list that I had to shake my head over, verifying my point about a lack of country music history knowledge; at least anything older than twenty-five years. But overall, the list wasn’t too bad. From time to time, I thought about making my own list, on the old Ultimate Twang Blog, and even had a poll asking who others thought deserved recognition, on a now-defunct Squidoo site (remember them?).
So now, I am going to give you my thoughts about who should, and in a couple of cases, who shouldn’t be enshrined into The Country Music Hall of Fame. And if they shouldn’t, I’ll state my case on why. In this post, we’ll look at the list from The Boot website, and dissect it. On my next post, I’ll give you my list of those deserving induction.
The Boot’s list:
- Brooks and Dunn
- Rosanne Cash
- John Denver
- Gram Parsons
- Alan Jackson
- Jerry Reed
- Dottie West
- Hank Williams Jr.
- Dwight Yoakam
- Clint Black
Now before we get into dissecting the list, let’s remember the Hall of Fame’s induction criteria. One each from the
Modern and Veteran’s eras. I want to note that of the various sites I checked, most said one from each category, including The Boot’s own article. Unfortunately, the CMA’s pages about Hall of Fame induction appear to be gone, so I was unable to 100% verify it is only one. Modern covers artists who achieved national prominence at least twenty years prior. Veterans category is for artists at least forty-five years prior. Three other categories rotate, each year. Non-Performers, Songwriters, and Recording/Touring musicians. It is important to know these, as we break down the lists.
To begin with, let’s talk about Clint Black, Alan Jackson, as well as Brooks and Dunn. I don’t think anyone can realistically argue against their bodies of work, when it comes to the Hall of Fame. These three will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But The Boot’s article calls them “ignored”. That’s a completely inaccurate statement, and here’s why. Based on when each first achieved national prominence, one would surmise that Clint Black became eligible in 2009; Alan Jackson in 2010, with Brooks and Dunn joining in 2011.
Looking at the Modern era acts who’ve been inducted since 2010, they are: Don Williams, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Randy Travis. So, out of this group, who would you drop in exchange? The real issue, here, is that there is a wealth of worthy candidates to choose from.
Two other artists that would currently fall into the Modern category listed by The Boot are Rosanne Cash and Dwight Yoakam. In both cases, you can make a good argument, but an argument can also be made the other way. Rosanne Cash appeared twenty-two times on the Billboard Country charts, between 1979 and 1990. Sixteen of those singles reached the top ten and out of those, eleven hit number one. Seven of her albums made the Billboard top ten. Both Rhythm and Romance, as well as Seven Year Ache hit number one. Five of her albums also performed well enough to break into the top half of Billboard’s all-encompassing Top 200 chart. And she continues to sell well, as two of her top ten albums have come since 2010, despite little to no airplay on mainstream country radio.
Fourteen of Dwight Yoakam’s twenty-six Billboard Country top forty appearances made the top ten, and two went to number one. Not bad numbers, but perhaps not quite Hall of Fame numbers. On the other hand, where Dwight really excelled has been album sales. He achieved seventeen top ten albums, with three hitting number one. Three are certified platinum, while four others achieved gold status. While radio may have not always warmed to his music, the fans have, and that may be enough to justify future enshrinement.
John Denver, Gram Parsons, Jerry Reed, Dottie West, and Hank Williams Jr. would all fall into the Veterans category. Let’s look at each one.
I have to admit to being somewhat mystified on why Hank Williams Jr. is not yet inducted. Here’s a guy, who according to Joel Whitburn, scored eighty-one Country top forty singles between 1964 and 2004, including collaborations. Forty-two were top ten hits, and ten were number ones. And his album performance was even more impressive. He scored thirty-two top ten albums, with seven topping Billboard’s album list. At one point in 1982, nine of his albums were charting simultaneously. He is also a two-time CMA Entertainer Of The Year, as well. My guess on why he has yet to be inducted is likely more political than anything.
Hank Williams Jr. wasn’t part of the country music establishment, choosing to do things his way. Often, those in the establishment did not like that, and they can have long memories. My understanding is this is what also kept Webb Pierce and Faron Young out longer than they should have been.
It is a surprise that Jerry Reed is not yet in the Hall. He had a great, long career as a singer, songwriter, and musician. As a singer, his hit list isn’t as impressive; only six of his forty-one Country Top 40 appearances made the top ten. But he was much more than a singer.
He was also an impressive songwriter, as well as one of country music’s greatest guitarists, ever. Jerry Reed wrote “Amos Moses”, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot”, “East Bound and Down” (co-written with Dick Feller), and “She Got The Goldmine”. He also penned hits such as Brenda Lee’s “That’s All You Gotta Do”; Johnny Cash’s “A Thing Called Love”; “Misery Loves Company” which hit for both Porter Wagoner and Ronnie Milsap. Plus, he wrote a couple of songs that Elvis made famous, “Guitar Man” and “U. S. Male”. And as mentioned, he was one of the greatest country guitarists, ever. Were you to make an all-time top 10 list, he would be there on the list.
Dottie West is a little more borderline. On one hand, she didn’t have the most impressive chart run, with only fifteen top ten hits (six were collaborations with Jim Reeves, Don Gibson, and Kenny Rogers), and only two number ones (plus two more with Kenny Rogers); but she was consistently charting singles from 1964 through 1984, with forty-five Country top forty records. And during that period, only in 1972 did she fail to score at least one appearance on the Country top forty. There’s success, there; enough for induction? I’m not sure.
The only two acts I have a strong opinion on against enshrinement, are John Denver and Gram Parsons.
Gram Parsons is a name often mentioned. Supporters say he started Country-Rock, and was very influential. Actually, I’d argue that Country-Rock started well before Gram Parsons; Remember Rockabilly? Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Gene Vincent were on that train while Gram was still a kid.
If you want discount that earlier period and talk about the 60’s – 70’s era, to be technical, he didn’t even start that. That was arguably started with Rick Nelson’s mid-60’s work, including the LP Bright Lights & Country Music, which some of the more famous country-rockers of that time have credited as an influence. His body of work, is limited, as he passed away at the age of 26. Gram Parsons failed to have a commercially successful solo recording during his lifetime. Grievous Angel performed best, barely charting on the Billboard 200 (#195). Sweetheart Of The Rodeo entered the market during Gram’s time with The Byrds, many consider a classic, but in 1968, not too many listeners considered it country. It did sell enough copies to peak at seventy-seven. And some would even argue that his mixing of Country and Rock ultimately did the format more harm, than good. Did he have some influence? Sure. After all, he did introduce a young lady named Emmylou Harris to country music, and no doubt, some others, too. But are his achievements Hall of Fame worthy? I don’t see it.
And I can’t say I see it for John Denver, either. I like John Denver’s music, especially the 1970’s classics; they’re still great. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a song that I don’t listen to, I crank it up, loud. But John was a pop singer, during much of his peak period. Most of his biggest hits actually had little or no impact in Country Music. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Sunshine On My Shoulders” both fell short of the Country top forty. And “Rocky Mountain High” didn’t even chart. He did have success, but only seven country music top tens. Three went to number one; “Back Home Again”, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”, and “I’m Sorry”. The latter wasn’t even country, but still got enough airplay to climb to the top. Several artists had much longer hit lists in the genre.
So, in summation, here’s my opinion of The Boot’s list. Gram Parsons and John Denver, no. Rosanne Cash, Dwight Yoakam, and Dottie West are borderline. But you can make valid points both for and against the three. Jerry Reed and Hank Williams Jr. will be there, and especially in the case of Hank Jr., should have been, already. Brooks and Dunn, Clint Black, and Alan Jackson will be there, but they have been in a category that has had a large group of worthy candidates, many of which were on the scene prior to them.
So, who should get consideration? In part two of this conversation, I’ll give you a list of artists who are especially worthy.
Your opinions are always welcome! Please leave comments and opinions, below, in the comment section.
About Thy Author
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He actually convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig. He hosts the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. You can listen Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LPFM/AshevilleFM, at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, and online at ashevillefm.org. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.