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?