Country Music Hall of Fame: Who’s Next?

Alan Jackson, Ronnie Milsap, Hank Williams Jr. Eligible for Induction

Country fans can get caught up in predicting new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Who should get in next? We’ll keep our predictions to ourselves, but we are happy to share the qualifications and a brief list of who is eligible, from Alan Jackson to Hank Williams Jr.

Artists can be inducted in one of five categories. Each year, one inductee in the modern era category and another in the veterans era category are chosen. In addition, there’s a rotating category for recording and/or touring musician, songwriter and non-performer, with each one recognized every third year. An anonymous panel overseen by the Country Music Association selects the inductees.

In the modern era category, a 2013 inductee would have become famous between 1968 and 1993. (The rules read: “Eligible 20 years after first achieving national prominence. Eligible in this category for 25 years.”) Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Ronnie Milsap and Ricky Skaggs are living eligible artists who have also won the CMA entertainer of the year award.

John Denver and Charlie Rich are possibilities for posthumous induction in this category. Both are CMA entertainer of the year winners who approached the genre differently, yet adherence to traditional country isn’t necessarily part of the qualifications. The Hall of Fame leaves its definition of “outstanding contributions” to the format open to interpretation.

As for more recent CMA entertainer of the year winners, Tim McGraw first reached the Top 10 in 1994 with “Indian Outlaw,” so he has to bide his time. Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain both scored their first big hits in 1995, thus will be eligible in 2015. The Dixie Chicks, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban must wait even longer for consideration because they arrived on the scene later.

Meanwhile, Toby Keith will be eligible in 2013 because “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” broke his career in 1993. Martina McBride also arrived that year with a Top 10 hit, “My Baby Loves Me,” along with Faith Hill and her No. 1 debut smash, “Wild One.”

Looking farther back, Crystal Gayle, the Judds and Randy Travis are also eligible in the modern era category. Clint Black, Mickey Gilley and Tanya Tucker are possibilities, too.

In the veterans era category, an artist is eligible 45 years after achieving national prominence. For the class of 2013, that means popularity prior to 1968. Kenny Rogers and former CMA entertainer of the year Hank Williams Jr. could wind up in this spot over the next few years, as could Lynn Anderson, Bobby Bare and Jerry Lee Lewis. Posthumous possibilities over the next few years include Johnny Horton, Gram Parsons (who toured and recorded with the Byrds in 1968) and Dottie West.

The recording and/or touring musician will be the next rotating category to be announced in 2013. Famed session guitarist Grady Martin and steel guitar legend Pete Drake are possibilities. The songwriter category, created in 2009, may welcome the likes of Jerry Chesnut, Dean Dillon, Bob McDill, Curly Putman or the late Hank Cochran in 2014. Looking ahead, the non-performer inductee in 2015 could potentially be music publisher Bob Beckham or producers Fred Foster and Tony Brown.

Or maybe not.

Readers, what are your predictions?