"I think of radio as a great lover," Dolly Parton told the audience of disc jockeys, programmers and consultants gathered Tuesday evening (March 1) at the Nashville Convention Center. "You were great to me. You bought me a lot of nice things. Then you dumped my ass for younger women."
Even as the Country Radio Broadcasters honored Parton with the organization's career achievement award, the blonde landmine couldn't resist taking a swipe at radio for its refusal to play records by older performers -- like her.
Parton's award capped the annual Country Music DJ Hall of Fame and Country Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and reunion banquet. Among the other stars in the audience were Eddie Montgomery, Troy Gentry, Doug Stone, Neal McCoy and Josh Gracin.
Catherine Britt opened the Parton segment with a serene and straightforward reading of "To Daddy," the Parton composition that became a 1977-78 hit for Emmylou Harris. Britt followed with the folkish "Little Sparrow," a more recent tune from Parton's bluegrass phase. Accompanying Britt were Randy Kohrs on Dobro and Jennifer Wrinkle on fiddle and harmony vocals.
Martina McBride, backed by a full band and noticeably pregnant, was next to pay tribute. She began with the tear-inducing "Coat of Many Colors."
"What I take away from watching and listening to Dolly," she said, "is that you just believe everything she says, everything she sings." McBride then moved on to the sprightly "Here You Come Again," Parton's first major pop hit from 1977.
McBride said she first came to Nashville when she was 16 as a finalist in the True Value Talent Contest.
"Neal McCoy and I were both in the same contest," she continued, "but neither of us won. A guy who played the spoons won, actually. Here's the song I sang." With that she swept into "I Will Always Love You." Parton later joked that when McBride hit that song's high notes, "I thought she was going to have her baby right then. I know my water broke."
RCA Label Group chairman Joe Galante also presented Parton with a plaque commemorating her sales of 24 million records during her tenure at RCA Records. Parton now records for the Sugar Hill label.
The CRB gave veteran programmer and consultant Larry Daniels its president's award. The late Mack Sanders and Bill Ward were inducted into the Country Music Radio Hall of Fame, while Lonnie Bell, Dan Hollander, Johnny "K" Koval, Bob Mitchell and Coyote Calhoun were welcomed into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame.
Calhoun suggested that the Country Music Hall of Fame add a "broadcasting wing" to house the plaques of DJ Hall of Famers or perhaps even find radio's royalty "a place in the big house."