In part one of our look at country music artists who do, or don’t belong in the Hall of Fame, we looked at a list published by the country music website, TheBoot.com. If you haven’t read that part of the article, you can see it, here.
Here’s a quick refresher. I said yes on Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Hank Williams Jr., and Jerry Reed. Borderline on Dottie West, Rosanne Cash, and Dwight Yoakam. No to John Denver and Gram Parsons.
In this article, I will, in no particular order, give you my list of artists who should be enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame. This is in addition to those I agreed with on their list.
Tanya Tucker- She was only thirteen when her debut single, “Delta Dawn” became a top ten hit. It started what turned out to be an incredible, if sometimes rocky, hit-making career that ran into the 21st Century. Between 1972 and 2002, Tanya Tucker scored fifty-eight appearance on the Billboard country chart. Thirty-six were top ten hits, and ten were number ones. I categorize her with Hank Williams Jr., she should already be in the Hall. Perhaps it’s because she is another who hasn’t always gone in the direction others think she should have, and maybe angered some folks in power? Whatever the reason, fans readily accepted her music, forty-five years ago, and still love her music. She’s well overdue for enshrinement.
Crystal Gayle- It’s just a matter of time until she joins her big sister, Loretta Lynn in the Hall. Crystal enjoyed an outstanding career during the seventies and eighties. She scored thirty-four top ten hits and eighteen number one hits. She also made an appearance on the Pop top ten in 1977 with her classic “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”. Crystal Gayle was one of the cornerstones of 1980’s pop-country, which matched her beautifully smooth vocals, perfectly.
Eddie Rabbitt- Like Crystal Gayle, Eddie Rabbitt was also a cornerstone of the seventies and eighties pop-country stylings. But he proved he could handle traditional sounds like “Two Dollars in The Jukebox” and “On Second Thought”. He also scored crossover success (including the Crystal Gayle duet “You and I”). Eddie actually had five less Country top forty appearances than Crystal Gayle (45-40), but wound up with one more top ten hit, with thirty-five, total. Once an Eddie Rabbitt single entered the Country top forty, it was almost automatic for it to reach the top ten, or get very close. In fact, of the five that failed to make the top ten, three peaked at eleven or twelve. Eddie was a master songwriter, as well, writing or co-writing several of his own hits, plus hits for others, most notably Elvis’s classic “Kentucky Rain” and Ronnie Milsap’s “Pure Love”.
Jerry Lee Lewis- My including Jerry Lee might surprise you. But, as great as he was in Rock ‘n’ Roll, where his
style highly influenced many later Rock stars and legends, his greatest success was in country music. And if there is such a thing as the perfect blend of Rock and Country, then it surely must be Jerry Lee Lewis. His style, whether handling a Rock ‘n’ Roll or a country music standard, was a style that fit both equally well, and whichever he was singing, he still had a mix of the other in his vocals.
And when he did a ballad, he did it in such a way that no one else could possibly copy. Jerry Lee singing a ballad is completely different than say, Eddy Arnold or Ray Price. The way he did it had just an incredibly authentic feel to it. Listen to “Middle Aged Crazy” or “Think About It, Darlin” and you’ll understand what I’m saying. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire” are considered classics of early Rock ‘n’ Roll, but they also both hit number one on the country charts. In all, Jerry Lee topped the country music charts six times, while making twenty-eight appearances on the top ten.
Bellamy Brothers- Howard and David stormed onto the scene in 1976 with “Let Your Love Flow”, a song that performed better on the pop charts (#1), than it did on the country charts (#21). Tt turned out their destiny was country music. There, they scored twenty-six top tens and ten number ones. Much like Eddie Rabbitt, their records were almost automatic top tens, once they reached the Country top forty. Only nine failed to climb that high.
Anne Murray- Country music has always enjoyed popularity, north of the border, thanks in large part to Hank Snow and Anne Murray. Anne first gained fame in 1970, with “Snowbird”. In the minds of many, particularly early in her career, was looked at as more pop, than country. Several of her hits did cross over to the pop side (plus a few,
notably “You Won’t See Me”, that were strictly aimed for that market). Anne’s vocals were the kind that were pop in origin, but could handle straight country fare with equal ease. She showed this with “He Thinks I Still Care” and “Could I Have This Dance”. Twenty-five of her records appeared on the Country top ten, and ten climbed all the way to the top.
Earl Thomas Conley- Another staple of 1980’s country radio, Earl Thomas Conley had a run of sixteen consecutive number one hits between 1983 and 1989. That tied him for the most consecutive, all-time, with Sonny James, until Alabama broke the mark. He had eighteen number ones, overall, plus another eight that appeared in the top ten. Those hits included duets with the late Gus Hardin, Anita Pointer of The Pointer Sisters, and the late Keith Whitley.
Travis Tritt- How about Travis Tritt? He’s an artist that some might put in the borderline category, but I think he has the credentials. He’s appeared on the Country top forty exactly forty times, since 1989, and twenty of those went to the top ten. His number one tally is a little lower than others on my list, only five. On the other hand, ten of his albums were top ten sellers. It’s All About to Change sold over three million copies, while two more albums sold over two million, and another three sold over one million.
Ricky Skaggs- Ricky was one of the artists who kept the traditional style alive, during the early and mid-1980’s, when the pop-country sounds were dominating the air waves. In addition to his Country success, he’s also been one of the top Bluegrass performers over the past forty years. Between 1981 and 1986, he had sixteen consecutive top ten hits, and nineteen, overall. Plus, eleven of those hit number one. Ricky Skaggs not only made traditional country, cool, he made Bluegrass cool, as well.
There are several more artists we could make good arguments for, as well. Steve Wariner, Larry Gatlin and The
Gatlin Brothers, David Houston, Janie Fricke, Lynn Anderson, and Mickey Gilley, among others. These artists, all enjoyed significant success in the field for several years. Two other names that are more difficult to really say a definite yes to, Johnny Horton and Keith Whitley. Sadly, both were taken, just as their careers were hitting full stride. Would they have been artists who’d have been scoring top tens and number ones for many years? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. No doubt, they influenced the genre, though, during their too brief time on Earth.
As always, you are welcome to leave a comment and/or opinion in the in the comment section, below. Would love to know what you think.
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.