Opinion: Who Should Next Be Inducted Into The Country Music Hall of Fame

Just like the Sports Hall of Fame nominations, the Country Music Hall of Fame's nominations are often met with heavy discussions when the time comes around every year. In this opinion piece, Chuck Dauphin discusses the biggest contenders in each category of this year.

In just a few weeks, the Country Music Hall of Fame will announce the new members for 2013. This – more so the last few years, thanks to social media, has been somewhat of a hot potato issue. I don’t think the discussions (for the most part) have as much to do with who has been inducted – but rather who hasn’t as of yet. With only three selections per year, one can make the argument that the Hall has gotten behind. Personally, I would love to see a year where twelve were inducted – similar to 2001, when the new Hall opened. Perhaps with the renovations to the Hall – and the future opening of the new Nashville Convention Center – which will include an annex to the Hall – that may be the case. Others say that takes away from the honor. Seriously? I don’t think anyone thinks less of Bill Anderson or the Louvin Brothers’ inductions that year. But, it’s time to offer thoughts on who should be inducted into that exclusive club this year. Some are going to agree with me. Some will passionately disagree. That’s ok. Passion is what makes this format great – and even if the Hall inducted each of these – there would still be ground to make up.....

Veterans’ Era (Eligible for induction in this category 45 years after they first achieve national prominence)

Dottie West

Many believe that the recent exhibit on West is a sign of what may come this year. I can’t disagree that Dorothy Marie Marsh deserves enshrinement here. Her trailblazing career includes being the first Nashville female vocalist to win a Grammy - “Here Comes My Baby,” being the first female singer to totally reinvent her sound and look, and also helping acts such as Larry Gatlin and Steve Wariner find their way. 

Johnny & Jack

One of the first successful duos in Country Music history, their omission is one that has long been argued by Nashville insiders. Just like deserving acts like Archie Campbell, the Wilburn Brothers, and others from that era – it’s probably a long shot. With the way the categories are broken down, there are probably others that get in first. Those names deserve it, but so do many acts from this era, as well.

The Browns / Jim Ed Brown

One of the primary components of “the Nashville Sound” was the family trio from Arkansas that defined the word harmony. “The Three Bells” was one of the biggest hits that ever came out of Nashville, and their sound inspired many. One can also make the case for brother Jim Ed as a solo artist. While his number of solo hits might not be as many as some, he wisely used his charm to become one of the genre’s biggest TV stars via such shows as “Nashville On The Road” and “Country Place.”

Hank Williams, Jr.

OK, here’s where the category gets a little blurry to me. “Bocephus” started his run of hit records in 1964 – almost five decades ago. But, his boom years were post-1980. So, where do you put him? Nashville has been asking that question for years, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. He did it his way – successfully, and revolutionized the art of the stage show. Abrasive? Cocky? Sure. But he is entitled to his rightful place in the Hall.

Archie Campbell

I mentioned him earlier, and while the average contemporary Country fan might not be familiar with “The Mayor Of Bulls Gap,” Campbell was the first comedian to shun the straw hats and hay bales when he took the Opry stage in 1958 in a suit and a tie. He did don overalls, however, for his 1969-1987 stint on “Hee Haw,” where he served as one of the main writers of the show. 

Modern Era (Eligible for induction in this category 20 years after they first achieve national prominence)

Kenny Rogers

This has been a battle cry of mine (and others) for years. And, he was chosen by the Hall as an Artist-In-Residence last year, a possible sign. The hits and the sales don’t lie, as well as the fact that he took Country Music to places it hadn’t been before. Along with Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Garth Brooks, few Country performers have translated their success as well on a worldwide level.

The Oak Ridge Boys

Another glaring omission is the Oaks. Along with the Statlers and Alabama, they defined the role of group in Country Music in the 1970s and 1980s. Two of the three are in, and the Oaks have continued promote their history yet have maintained their creative streak to this day.

Ronnie Milsap

One of the most versatile performers in the history of the format, his output on RCA from 1973-1991 stands as one of the most cohesive bodies of work that has ever come out of this town. 

Ricky Skaggs

An artist I feel very passionate about. Twice, he has taken music forms and made them “cool” to a younger demo. In the 1980s, he made traditional sounds like Webb Pierce and Carl Butler hip, and then in the 1990s, he helped to further the cause of Bluegrass – and he did both in such a manner that will never be equaled.

Alan Jackson

The Hall changed the category around to give some of 80s and 90s acts a quicker path in. Might there be others that deserve it before him? Sure. But, his induction is a no-brainer, if not this year – soon. Again, the success – and the influence tells the story.

Non-Perfomer, Songwriter, and / or Touring Musician active prior to 1980

--This is a rotating category, with 2013 set aside for a non-performer  who made contributions to the industry from a business standpoint.

Buddy Killen

There is NO reason that the man behind Tree Publishing is not included in the  Hall where many of the artists he signed to their first writers’ deals are enshrined. This needs to be taken care of soon. 

Joe Galante

One of the guiding forces behind RCA Records for four decades, his hand guided the careers of Alabama, The Judds, Keith Whitley, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, among many, many, others. His career ran the gamut, from working under Chet  Atkins at the label to “American Idol.” He was tough, but few have been as successful.

Fred Foster

As head of Monument Records, he signed Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, and Kris Kristofferson to label deals. He was also very instrumental in the further development of Larry Gatlin after the afore-mentioned Dottie West brought him to town.

Jimmy Bowen

Wherever he went, he was successful. Just like a free agent NFL QB, he drifted from team to team over the years, but he was definitely a game-changer. As a producer, he helped to usher in a new technology to Nashville, and he also encouraged artists to find their own style and sound like never before. 

Tony Brown

He played with Elvis and Emmylou – both Hall of Famers. He then was responsible for the bulk of Vince Gill’s hits – Another Hall of Famer. Reba. George Strait, you get the idea. There’s no denying his credentials. 

What do you think? Who should be included in the next class of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees?


  • Dianne Trammell

    Donna is classic country! The Hall of Fame needs to recognize gifted singers and writers like Donna. The "new" country singers are talented in their own right but Donna epitomizes what "country" has been for years. It is sad she hasn't been awarded this before now.

  • Reath Bryant

    EXCELLENT CANDIDATE: Our Lady Donna Fargo such be the next to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame!

  • Jerry Jackson

    Please do not forget DONNA FARGO.!!!! She needs to be the next Inducted!

  • Everett Drake

    There is no one that writes songs that touch the heart like DONNA FARGO!!! She was a TRAILBLAZER for female Country Stars, opening doors for major recording deals and acceptance of women in a world mostly dominated by men! Her GIANT CROSSOVER HITS, "Happiest Girl" and "Funny Face", along with other OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS, are groundbreaking signatures that make her an EXCELLENT CANDIDATE for induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame!!! DONNA FARGO really is "SOMEBODY SPECIAL"!

  • Bruce Jones

    So many peoples lives have been touched by Donna Fargo's music. She is such a gifted songwriter, singer & author. I truly believe that Donna belongs in The Country Music Hall of Fame because of the many contributions she has made to the Country Music World. As noted by many people and many awards she became the first female country artiest to have back to back million selling singles from her million selling album. She crossed over to the pop music charts with a #5 single "Funny Face" and brought a lot of new folks to listen to the country music genre. Donna cares about her fans and her peers. It is about time that her body of work be recognized by inducting her into The Country Music Hall of Fame!!

  • Linda Cottingham

    Dear Mr. Dauphin: I hope you can answer a question regarding how country music artists are inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Specifically, I would like to know how my favorite country music singer/songwriter, Donna Fargo, can receive this prestigious honor. What are the rules or qualifications? Is there ANYTHING I and other loyal/devoted fans can do to help make this become a reality? It seems to me that Donna would be more than eligible to meet whatever criteria exists. Donna’s uniqueness shows in the positive and inspirational nature of her songs, which add depth, dimension and variety to the popular cheating and drinking themes that we also love and which have often been associated with country music, especially back in the early 70s when her career began. Her songs were and are different – like a breath of fresh air. In fact, I recently saw an article on the Billboard website that in February 2014, Billboard voted Donna’s signature song, “The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA” in the “Top 20 ‘Happy’ Songs of All Time.” After looking at the top 20 “happy” songs, it occurred to me that Donna’s song was the only country song on that list. I just feel the time has come for Donna to be recognized for her great success as an artist and songwriter. I have been blessed to attend many of her concerts. She’s such a humble, talented and beautiful lady - inside and out – and she’s one of the most respected women in country music. I read in the back of one of her books that “Donna became known to the general public in 1972, when a song she wrote called “The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A”. began playing constantly on country, pop, and easy listening radio. The song was followed by the equally popular “Funny Face.” Both songs reached gold and platinum status in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Donna became the first woman in country music history to have back-to-back million-selling singles, with both songs being written by the artist.” According to one article I read, Donna's first two singles were from the album, The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A., which stayed on the national Billboard charts for one year, achieved platinum status, and earned her a Grammy. As time proved, other hit songs were to follow: “Superman,” “Little Girl Gone,” “You Were Always There,” “Don’t Be Angry,” “You Can’t Be A Beacon (If Your Light Don’t Shine),” “Do I Love You,” “U.S. of A.,” “It Do Feel Good,” “Somebody Special,” “Whatever I Say Means I Love You,” and “Daddy” to name a few. She also was one of the few women ever to release a recitation record, a song she wrote called “That Was Yesterday,” and see it hit #1 on the radio charts…..and a song that struck a chord with sooooo many people!!! In my research, I also found out that her credits include seven Academy of Country Music awards, five Billboard awards, fifteen Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) writing awards, and two National Association of Recording Merchandisers awards for best-selling artist. She has also been honored by the Country Music Association, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and the Music Operators of America, and she was the first inductee into the North America Country Music Association's International Hall of Fame. In 2010, Donna was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. As a writer and publisher, her most coveted awards, in addition to the Robert J. Burton Award that she won for "Most Performed Song of the Year 1972," are her Million-Aires Awards, presented to writers of songs that achieve the blockbuster status of one million or more performances. Donna was also the first female country artist to have her own television variety show: “The Donna Fargo Show,” which I could hardly wait for each episode to be shown. A few years back, Donna revealed her patriotic spirit in her self-penned song called “U.S. of A.,” a song which became the bicentennial song for the state of Nevada and is a favorite of veterans everywhere. And recently I heard another very thought-provoking song she wrote called “We Can Do Better In America.” The message in this song reflects the troubled times we’re having in our nation now. I think her latest single, “I Love You More,” is one of the best love songs I have ever heard. It is our loss as fans that radio has become so youth-oriented that it leaves out new, thoughtful, insightful songs like Donna’s that would appeal to all ages. Thankfully, her fans can still buy her music on her website, and we are still loyal to her. I am writing this letter for all the many fans who want Donna Fargo to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. We believe the time is now to recognize Donna as the exemplary country music artist that she is, for the ambassador of good will representative that she is, and for the writer who has the ability to put into words and music the songs we love, and relate to, and remember. And like that little kid in the back of the classroom, I have been far too passive in not vocalizing until now how I feel about this treasure we have in our midst. So, Mr. Dauphin, tell me what we need to do to make this dream come true for all of the many fans who want to get Donna Fargo into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Thank you for reading my letter. Sincerely, Linda Cottingham