Accepting an award for career achievement from the Country Radio Broadcasters, Loretta Lynn recalled the early days of her career, when she made personal visits to deejays to convince them to play her records.
With a new single, "Country in My Genes," about to be released, Lynn told the audience she will take the same approach to promotion this time around.
"I'm gonna come visit you at your station, just like we used to," she said in her inimitable Kentucky accent. "Keep the day open, 'cause I'm gonna spend the whole day with you, and then we'll go eat."
Dressed in a striking red suit, Lynn received her award during a dinner, held at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville, to induct six new members into the Country DJ Hall of Fame. Honorees included Dave Donahue, Bob Grayson, Lee Moore, Smokey Stover, Romeo Sullivan and Johnny Western. Gaylon Christie, who spearheaded the launch of CRB-produced regional radio seminars, received the President's Award.
Chely Wright and Pam Tillis, two singers who credit Lynn as a primary career influence, paid tribute to her before the presentation of her award. Wright performed "You Ain't Woman Enough." Tillis did "Somebody Somewhere (Don't Know What He's Missin' Tonight)." Together they did "Coal Miner's Daughter," in which Wright copied Lynn's rhyming pronunciation of "tired" and "hard."
"Sometimes I think I'm channeling Loretta," Tillis said.
Several times during the evening, speakers wistfully recalled an era when deejays could pick the records they played and were given free reign to let their personalities come through on the air.
"You don't hear many of those personalities any more," said Merle Kilgore.
Inducting Stover, a Texan who turned KRCT radio, Baytown, Texas, into one of the first full-time country stations, Kilgore said, "You felt like he was in the radio, not on the radio. He could suck you right in there with him."
Donahue, Grayson, Stover, Sullivan and Western (who wrote or co-wrote themes for TV shows Have Gun, Will Travel; Johnny Yuma, the Rebel; and Bonanza) were on hand to receive their honors. The plaque for Moore, known as the "Coffee Drinking Nighthawk" on WWVA in Wheeling, W.Va., went to his widow.
Among those in the audience were recording artists Phil Vassar, Linda Davis and Jeff Carson, Grand Ole Opry stars Charlie Walker and Jimmy C. Newman and radio and TV personality Ralph Emery.