The newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame were presented medallions Sunday (May 5) in ceremonies held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville. Dolly Parton , Eddy Arnold , Brenda Lee , Little Jimmy Dickens and Emmylou Harris were among the many music business insiders who turned out to cheer the “newcomers” on.
Honorees — all of whom were officially inducted into the Hall last October -– were Bill Anderson , the Delmore Brothers , the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers , Don Gibson , Homer & Jethro , Waylon Jennings , the Jordanaires , Don Law, Ken Nelson, Sam Phillips and Webb Pierce . Of these, only Anderson, Charlie Louvin , Nelson, Phillips and the Jordanaires’ Gordon Stoker and Ray Walker were present to accept their awards.
Bobbi Gibson accepted for her husband, Don Gibson; Lee for the Everly Brothers; Gail Delmore-Wymer, daughter of Alton Delmore, for the late Delmore Brothers; Henry “Homer” Haynes’ daughter, Tracy Vrab, and Kenneth “Jethro” Burns’ son, Johnny Burns, for the late Homer & Jethro; Nikki Mitchell, his assistant, for the late Waylon Jennings; Audrey Pierce, his wife, for the late Webb Pierce; Dot Hawkins and Charlsie Matthews for their late husbands, Hoyt Hawkins and Neal Matthews of the Jordanaires; and Dickens for the late Don Law.
The ceremonies were held in the capacious second-floor rotunda that houses the Country Music Hall of Fame plaques. WSM-AM (650) carried the proceedings live. With the familial lightheartedness that marked the entire occasion, Hall member E. W. “Bud” Wendell introduced the diminutive Dickens and Lee, who presented the medallions, as “the two most-beloved bookends in the field of country music.”
“I didn’t bring my box and neither did you,” Lee said to Dickens as the two peered narrrowly over the podium, “so all they can see is my hair and your hat.” “I’ve wanted all my life to work with someone shorter than me,” her 4-foot-11-inch co-host countered. “She was so little when she was born that her daddy passed out cigar butts.”
Parton, who stopped traffic from the moment she entered the building, came in for her share of ribbing. Lee told the crowd that the cleavage-prone singer had approached her before the ceremonies exclaiming, “Hey, look here! I’ve got my medallion on.” To which, Lee said she responded, “Yeah, and yours shows up better than anybody else’s.”
Parton was escorted by her long-time producer, Steve Buckingham. Before the presentations started, she congratulated Louvin, who mentioned her recent incursions into bluegrass music. “I wish bluegrass paid more money, don’t you?” she giggled.
There was a distinct bluegrass tinge to the music the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band performed just before and after the medallions were handed out. The band played “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” from its landmark 1972 album of that name, as the crowd assembled. Following introductory remarks by Country Music Foundation director Kyle Young, John McEuen, the Dirt Band’s banjoist, invited Jimmy Martin and his band, the Sunny Mountain Boys, to the stage. He proclaimed Martin to be “definitely the best [bluegrass] vocalist of them all.”
Martin, who was also featured on the 1972 album (recently reissued by Capitol Records in a 30th anniversary edition), lived up to McEuen’s billing. He led the group in a raucous, stomping version of “Grand Ole Opry Song,” a name-by-name tribute to many stars from the Opry’s glory days. The combined bands followed with “I Saw the Light.” McEuen then called Randy Scruggs from the audience, noting that Scruggs had both performed on the original “Circle” album and produced its 1989 sequel.
Scruggs explained that his father, Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs , was unable to attend the ceremonies because “he’s come down with a case of bronchitis or something. But he sends his best wishes.” Scruggs played lead guitar on the mile-a-minute closing tune, “Earl’s Breakdown.” After the presentations were over, the musicians and Hall of Fame members gathered on stage to sing and lead the audience in “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” “Let’s go eat,” Parton shouted, as the music died away.
The Hall of Fame hosted a cocktail party before and a dinner after the main event. Guitarist David Andersen entertained at the party with songs written or made famous by members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ace fiddler Buddy Spicher and his band provided the jazz and swing dinner music.
Prominent guests spotted in the crowd included songwriters Jim Lauderdale , Paul Kennerley and Matraca Berg ; Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist and his wife, Martha; Ed Benson, executive director of the Country Music Association; former MCA and Capitol Records president Jim Foglesong; WSM-AM (650) DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs; record executive Shelby Singleton; and music publisher David Conrad.