Country-rocker, songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam was honored with the career achievement award Wednesday night (June 24) at the 41st annual Country Radio Hall of Fame dinner held at Nashville’s Omni Hotel.
“I haven’t gotten a lot of awards,” Yoakam mused as he held his trophy. “I’ve had a great run, and one thing I did have was great support from country radio.”
R.J. Curtis, country editor for AllAcess.com, introduced the still slim and swiveling singer, crediting him in great part with lifting country music out of “its doldrums in the post-Urban Cowboy era” via his “unflinching, uncompromising belief” in his own music.
A brief video presentation summarized Yoakam’s many triumphs, including impressive record sales, memorable movie roles and rapturous reviews of his latest album, Second Hand Heart.
Yoakam first entered the charts in 1986 with “Honky Tonk Man,” a cover of Johnny Horton’s 1956 hit. Supported by a stylish video, then a relatively new promotional tool, Yoakam’s version went to No. 3, launching a career that would soon be adorned by such No. 1’s and Top 5’s as “Guitars, Cadillacs,” “Streets of Bakersfield” (with Buck Owens), “I Sang Dixie” and the Grammy-winning “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.”
Now that radio station ownership is more consolidated and more likely to work from common playlists, he said one thing he misses is the ability of individual stations to create regional hits.
Yoakam explained that when he goes into a market and finds that one of his “obscure” songs is as popular with the crowd as one of his national hits, he knows it’s because the local radio station did its own programming.
He thanked radio for being “that voice in my ear” and added, “Without country radio, I would not have sold 25 million albums.”
Curtis told the crowd that the Hall of Fame is looking for a Nashville location “least likely to be bulldozed” to display the plaques bearing the likeness of its members. Until recently the plaques were hung in the walkway between Nashville’s Renaissance Hotel and the city’s former and soon-to-be-renovated convention center.
AristoMedia Group founder and CEO Jeff Walker, a 35-year member of the Country Radio Broadcasters board — which oversees the Country Radio Hall of Fame — won the president’s award. He was praised particularly for his role in taking country music into international markets.
Inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame were Joel Raab, consultant and former air personality; Sammy George, former general manager of WUSY/Chattanooga; Mike Kennedy, program director and morning personality at KBEQ/Kansas City; Randy Carroll, morning co-host at KAJA/San Antonio and Karen Dalessandro, morning co-host at WMIL/Milwaukee.
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