Country Music Hall of Fame to Welcome 10 New Members in May

In addition to tripling its exhibit space, the Country Music Hall of Fame is beefing up membership in the elite group of artists, songwriters, musicians and business executives who make up the Hall of Fame itself.

Country's most prestigious club will grow by 10 when the new Hall of Fame and Museum opens in May in downtown Nashville, the Country Music Association announced today (Dec. 14).

Membership in the Hall of Fame historically has been limited to one to four inductees each year.

The new honorees will be inducted formally during grand opening ceremonies in mid-May, bringing the Hall's membership to 84. They will be named prior to the gala event, but no announcement date has been set.

"The CMA Board felt that the celebration for the opening of the fabulous new Hall of Fame and Museum would be the ideal occasion for this unique and historic induction," said CMA Executive Director Ed Benson. "Ten deserving individuals will be honored who might have waited a long time to get into the Hall of Fame with the current annual induction process."

The inductees will be individuals or groups who have appeared on the final Hall of Fame ballot at least three times. The CMA established the Hall of Fame in 1961 and conducts the confidential election of its members. Webb Pierce, Carl Smith, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Anderson, the Louvin Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis and Don Gibson are among the many major country artists still in line for possible enshrinement in the hallowed hall.

The special election will be in addition to the regular 2001 induction, traditionally announced in June during Fan Fair and presented in the fall at The 35th Annual CMA Awards.

"Surely there is no more appropriate way to really celebrate the opening of our new building than this special induction of 10 American musical pioneers into the ranks of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001," said Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young.

Young pointed out that the Country Music Hall of Fame has always treated elections with great care and deliberation -- since 1961, only 74 individuals, duos or groups have received country's highest honor. Despite the measured pace of elections, the extraordinary growth of country as a genre -- from stringbands to honky-tonk to western swing to countrypolitan and beyond -- has produced an array of gifted candidates for the Hall of Fame. Young sees the upcoming induction of 10 new members as an excellent way to recognize the contributions of some of country's greatest artists.

"Election to the Hall of Fame is necessarily and appropriately slow, deliberate, and limited," he said. "Clearly, however, as the music has grown in popularity, and as the industry has flourished over the last 40 years, there have been more innovators, more master craftsmen, and more contributors to our cherished tradition than it has been possible to recognize."

The current Hall of Fame on Nashville's Music Row will close Dec. 31. The new, 135,000 square-foot museum, estimated to cost $37 million, will be located at Fifth Avenue South and Demonbreun St., across from the Gaylord Entertainment Center and near the Ryman Auditorium. It will include 40,000 square feet of exhibit space on two floors, more than three times the current exhibit space.

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