Alabama, DeFord Bailey and Glen Campbell have been announced as this year’s inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Campbell, Alabama’s band members and the late Bailey’s family are expected to accept the honors during the formal induction ceremonies at the upcoming CMA Awards show.
Bailey, who died in 1982 at age 82, was the Grand Ole Opry’s first African-American star. A harmonica virtuoso who also played guitar and banjo, Bailey recorded for the Columbia and Brunswick companies before his 1928 recordings for the Victor label that were among the very first recording sessions in Nashville. Bailey’s radio career began in 1925 on Nashville station WDAD, but he soon moved to WSM’s radio and was a regular on the show when the WSM Barn Dance was renamed the Grand Ole Opry in 1927.
Performing Saturdays on the Opry, Bailey frequently toured with Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe, the Delmore Brothers and Roy Acuff. Opry founder George D. Hay, who had nicknamed him the “Harmonica Wizard,” fired Bailey from the show in 1941. David C. Morton, co-author of DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music, wrote in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s book, The Encyclopedia of Country Music, that Bailey’s firing stemmed from a performance rights licensing conflict that prohibited him from performing his favorite songs on the air. Hay contended that Bailey was unwilling to learn new songs.
After being fired, Bailey left the entertainment business and spent the next four decades shining shoes and operating a barbecue stand. Although he continued playing harmonica, he seldom performed in public. He returned to the stage in 1974 for the Opry’s first annual old timers show.
Campbell, 69, transcended stylistic categorization to become one of the biggest pop stars of the late ’60s. In addition to his lengthy string of pop crossover hits, his CBS-TV variety series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, brought country music — and country artists — to a primetime audience in the days before cable television.
Campbell was just 14 when he began performing in country bands touring in Texas, New Mexico and his native Arkansas. At age 22, he moved to Los Angeles and became one of the West Coast’s most successful session guitarists of the early ’60s, playing and singing on many of Merle Haggard’s classic recordings. He also worked as a touring member of the rock band, the Champs, and later toured briefly as Brian Wilson’s replacement in the Beach Boys. His session work included recordings with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, the Monkees, the Association and many others.
Although his 1967 recording of “Gentle on My Mind” was the spark that helped catapult him to superstardom, his recording of the John Hartford composition only peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard country singles chart. Another classic single from 1967, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” hit No. 2, and Campbell finally scored his first No. 1 country hit in 1968 with “I Want to Live.” His other No. 1 singles include “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.” In all, Campbell placed more than 75 singles on the country chart, with almost half of them crossing over to the pop chart. In 1968, he received his only two CMA Awards — for entertainer and male vocalist of the year.
The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour featured a wide array of musical guests, including Haggard, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Anne Murray and many others. As regulars on the show, Hartford and Jerry Reed built their own careers through the weekly television exposure. Campbell also called additional attention to country music by acting in several feature films, most notably True Grit, a 1968 Western starring John Wayne.
Although other bands had previously blended country and rock, Alabama eventually sold 65 million albums to become the best-selling group in the history of country music. They are also among the Top 5 best-selling country acts of all time and among the 20 best-selling recording acts of all time in the U.S. Formed in Fort Payne, Ala., the band features lead vocalist-guitarist Randy Owen, 55, bassist-vocalist Teddy Gentry, 53; guitarist-vocalist Jeff Cook, 56; and drummer Mark Herndon, 50. Herndon will become the youngest living member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The band charted two singles on independent record labels in the late ’70s before signing to RCA Records and scoring the signature hit, “My Home’s in Alabama,” that peaked at No. 17 in 1980. Later that year, “Tennessee River” became their first No. 1 single. In all, the band has recorded some 42 singles that hit No. 1 in Billboard and/or Radio & Records. Among them are classics such as “Old Flame,” “Love in the First Degree,” “Close Enough to Perfect,” “The Closer You Get,” Jukebox in My Mind” and “Take Me Down.”
Alabama’s nine CMA wins include the first-ever three consecutive victories as entertainer of the year in 1982-84. The band’s other CMA wins include an album of the year prize for The Closer You Get (1983), vocal group of the year (1981-83) and instrumental group of the year (1981-82). Alabama retired from touring in 2004. A boxed set commemorating the band’s 25-year recording career will be released early next year.
The inductions will take place Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City during the 39th annual CMA Award show. The show is being produced outside Nashville for one year only.