2011 Medallion Ceremony
BOBBY BRADDOCK, REBA McENTIRE, AND JEAN SHEPARD HONORED WITH STAR-STUDDED INDUCTION INTO THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME
Two groundbreaking artists from Oklahoma and a songwriter with top hits in five decades were welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame in a two-and-a-half hour Medallion Ceremony on May 22, 2011.
Bobby Braddock, Reba McEntire, and Jean Shepard listened as an all-star lineup of talent, including several fellow Hall of Famers, took the stage to pay tribute by performing songs associated with the inductees. Each new Hall of Fame member responded with emotional speeches thanking family members and those who were important to their careers.
"Oh my God, this has been a night of surprises," McEntire said after accepting her Hall of Fame medallion from Dolly Parton, who gave the redhead's induction speech-one of the surprises for the McEntire.
Braddock, known for his humor in songs and conversation, added, "As I look out here and see my beloved family and close friends, leaders in the music community, and people who have been singing my songs and singing my praises, it's like getting to go to your own funeral without having to die. How awesome is that?"
Shepard, after accepting her medallion from longtime friend George Jones, quipped, with characteristic salty wit, "Thanks for showing up George," a reference to the legendary singer's nickname of "No Show Jones," given to him during rougher periods of his life when he occasionally missed scheduled concert appearances. She then illustrated other characteristics of her personality by bluntly discussing the challenges she faced early in her career, when she broke ground as one of the first female country music stars-"back when there were none of us," as she put it. Shepard made an impassioned plea for the CMA to induct more veterans like herself who haven't yet received the honor of Hall of Fame membership.
For the new inductees, the "surprises" included many unannounced performances and appearances by fellow artists. Participants in the program included Bill Anderson, Garth Brooks, guitarist Jimmy Capps, Kelly Clarkson, Elizabeth Cook, Billy Currington, Doug Green (Ranger Doug of western quartet Riders in the Sky), Vince Gill, George Jones, Millie Kirkham, Miranda Lambert, Tracy Lawrence, Martina McBride, Charlie McCoy, the McCrary Sisters, Susie McEntire Eaton, Dolly Parton, Blake Shelton, and Trisha Yearwood.
Anderson, Gill, Jones, McCoy, and Parton are also members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Other Hall of Fame members who attended to welcome the new members to the fold were Harold Bradley, Ralph Emery, Jim Foglesong, Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers, Sonny James, Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell, Billy Sherrill, Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker, and Curtis Young of the Jordanaires, Jo Walker-Meador, and Bud Wendell.
Considered country music's most prestigious event, the Medallion Ceremony represents the official induction of new Hall of Fame members. After a two-hour cocktail reception in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Conservatory, the ceremony moved inside the Museum's intimate Ford Theater. Gill, president of the Museum's board of officers and trustees, opened with a performance of the gospel standard "Down by the Riverside," with stirring harmonies and tambourine accompaniment provided by the McCrary Sisters.
Steve Turner, chairman of the Museum’s Board of Officers and Trustees, welcomed the families and colleagues of the new inductees. As Turner explained, the Medallion Ceremony gathers the Country Music Hall of Fame family together to celebrate the induction of new members to country music's most elite body.
"We want the Hall of Fame class of 2011, and all the members of the Hall of Fame, to know that we revere your important accomplishments and hold you in the highest esteem," Turner said. "We appreciate your exceptionally fine contributions to American music, and we thank you for your role in the development of our worldwide reputation as Music City. It is fitting that these rites of induction take place here, where the bronze likenesses of Bobby, Jean, and Reba will now be forever enshrined."
Steve Moore, chief executive officer of the CMA, noted that McEntire had to miss the press conference earlier this year announcing the 2011 inductees because she was at the hospital with her father, Clark McEntire, who had suffered a stroke. "Reba, we missed you that day," he said, "but you were where you needed to be and our thoughts and prayers were with you and your father."
In inducting Braddock, museum director Kyle Young pointed out that the songwriter grew up in a pre-Disney World central Florida where his father owned several citrus groves and served as the mayor of Auburndale. Braddock was playing in rock bands when singer Dot Anderson recorded his song "Walkin' Papers" in 1961.
Three years later, Braddock moved to Nashville and joined the road band of Marty Robbins, who recorded Braddock's song "While You're Dancing," a chart hit in 1965-66. The songwriter signed with Tree Publishing Company (now Sony ATV) in 1966, and he remains with that company today.
Braddock enjoyed his first Top Ten hits in 1967, thanks to the Statler Brothers, who recorded his songs "You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith Too" and "Ruthless." Before long, Hall of Fame producer Billy Sherrill had another Hall of Fame member, Tammy Wynette, record "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," which Braddock co-wrote with Curly Putman. It became Wynette's fourth #1 hit, in 1968. Sherrill also had Wynette and George Jones record two hit duets, "(We're Not) the Jet Set" and "Golden Ring," both co-written by Braddock.
Newlyweds Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton performed "Golden Ring," with Shelton adding at the end, "I love you Bobby." Braddock, during his acceptance speech, called the eight years he worked as Shelton's producer the most fun he's had in the music business.
Lambert and Shelton were backed by the Medallion All-Star Band, led by musical director and keyboardist John Hobbs. Other band members were drummer Eddie Bayer, steel guitarist Paul Franklin, electric guitarist Steve Gibson, bassist Michael Rhodes, fiddler Deanie Richardson, harmony vocalist Dawn Sears, guitarist and harmony vocalist Jeff White, and acoustic guitarist Biff Watson.
Braddock enjoyed many other hits in the 1970s, including duets recorded by Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery, and Willie Nelson and Mary Kay Place, and solo hits by Johnny Duncan, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Tanya Tucker. To start the 1980s, Braddock and co-writer Curly Putman wrote "He Stopped Loving Her Today," a pinnacle country classic that returned George Jones to the top of the charts. The song won the CMA Song of the Year award in 1980 and 1981. Braddock was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1981.
Still, as Young explained, the hits continued, including Top Tens by T.G. Sheppard, John Anderson, John Conlee, Mark Chesnutt, and Tracy Lawrence, who came out to perform one of his Braddock hits, "Time Marches On." "Thank you, Bobby, for the biggest song of my career," Lawrence said as he finished.
Braddock's success carried on into the new century, with Toby Keith recording the songwriter's "I Wanna Talk about Me" and Billy Currington cutting "People Are Crazy," both chart-topping hits. Currington joined the band to perform "People Are Crazy." Playing off the song's chorus, which goes, "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy," Currington looked to Braddock as he finished and said, "I say a big amen to that one. Thank you Bobby."
Fellow Hall of Famer and legendary songwriter Bill Anderson gave the rite of induction to Braddock, starting by saying, "You know, creative people have never been accused of being normal people." He then quoted the humorist Lewis Grizzard as saying, as a writer, he had to look at the world as if he was a one-eyed dog, with his head tilted and squinting his one eye to make everything a little out-of-focus. Braddock excelled at seeing the world differently than others, Anderson intimated.
Anderson also quoted lines from several of Braddock's songs, illustrating both his cock-eyed humor and his knack for delving into deeply emotional and philosophical themes that help make country music such a great forum for songwriters. He also noted that the grandson named after Braddock, whom the family calls "Dock," refers to Braddock as "Grand-Bobby." "Dock may have summed it better than the rest of us," Anderson said. "Bobby is truly grand."
After accepting the medallion around his neck from Anderson, and posing for photos, Braddock stepped to the podium. With typical humor, he talked about walking the museum's red carpet prior to the program with all the other Hall of Fame members and country stars. "I'm not good at reading lips, but a lot of them seemed to be saying the same thing. It finally hit me, it was, 'Who's that?'"
After an explosion of laughter from the audience, Braddock continued, "I'm your low-profile, under-the-radar guy. Songwriters aren't used to all this excitement and hoopla. That's why it's such an honor for me to be inducted alongside a couple real icons like Reba McEntire and Jean Shepard."
As he ended, Braddock called guitarist Jimmy Capps, vocalist Millie Kirkham, and two more Hall of Fame members, George Jones and Charlie McCoy, to join him for a special rendition of "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Capps, Kirkham, and McCoy all performed on Jones's classic recording.
Moving on to Jean Shepard, Young noted that she learned to yodel as a child listening to her father's Jimmie Rodgers records. But rough times in Oklahoma led the Shepard family to join the westward migration to California, settling in Visalia, in the San Fernando Valley, when Jean was eleven years old.
In 1952, as Kitty Wells was breaking barriers for women in country music, Shepard signed with Capitol Records, after a recommendation from her friend, the late Hall of Fame member Hank Thompson. Working with Country Music Hall of Fame member, Capitol executive and producer Ken Nelson, Shepard recorded "A Dear John Letter" as a duet with Ferlin Husky. The song spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard country charts.
Bill Anderson returned to the stage to sing "A Dear John Letter" with Elizabeth Cook, who took Shepard's part.
Shepard began touring, with Husky becoming her guardian to be allowed to travel beyond the Bakersfield honky-tonks. The two became lifelong friends and collaborators. Husky, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, expressed great joy when, prior to his death in March, he learned of Shepard's election.
In 1955, Shepard recorded "A Satisfied Mind," a Top Five hit and a staple of her repertoire. More hits followed, and that same year, Shepard joined the cast of the Ozark Jubilee, an ABC-TV network show hosted by Hall of Fame member Red Foley. Also in 1955, she accepted an invitation to become one of the few female members of the Grand Ole Opry at the time.
In December 1955, Shepard recorded Songs of a Love Affair, considered the first concept album by a female country artist. Shepard continued to score hits through the 1950s, including the classic "I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me." Fellow Oklahoman Vince Gill returned to the stage to perform the heartbreak ballad with the All-Star Band.
Shepard faced tragedy in 1963 when her husband, Hawkshaw Hawkins, died in the plane crash that also took the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Randy Hughes. She was eight-months pregnant with the couple's second child at the time. With characteristic resolve, Shepard returned to the charts in 1964 with "Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar)." Doug Green, better known as Ranger Doug of the cowboy quartet Riders in the Sky, stepped up to sing the classic, complete with a stunning yodel at the song's conclusion.
As country music evolved with a more cosmopolitan sound in the 1960s, Shepard remained a beacon for traditional country music, and she continued to chart hits into the 1970s. In 1968, Shepard married Benny Birchfield, and they will celebrate their forty-third anniversary this year. Shepard signed with United Artists in 1972 and scored a hit with a Bill Anderson song, "Slippin' Away."
As Young noted, Shepard has garnered twenty-one Top Twenty chart hits in a recording career that spanned five decades. She holds the longest tenure of any current Grand Ole Opry star and reigns as the show's matriarch. She also was one of the first women in country music to front her own tours.
In conclusion, Young said, "In the hidebound 1950s, she stepped off the pedestal where women were caged and won stardom singing in an Okie twang about the harsh realities of womanhood. She sang of lost love, adultery, desire, prostitutes, drinking, and sorrow. She sang proudly about the strength of her gender."
For Shepard's induction, George Jones stepped to the podium and began by recalling how he met Shepard when he was twenty-two and still playing small Texas honky-tonks. As the little-known opening act for country stars Shepard and Lefty Frizzell, Jones had to borrow Shepard's guitar to perform his set.
"I thought that was the biggest thing I'd ever done when I started to play that night," Jones said. "But, I tell you what, once I got on the Grand Ole Opry and joined everybody else here, I got to know her much better, and she was the one who let me go on my first tour and get out of the honky-tonks."
He also told how Shepard traveled as the only woman among the male singers, and how she could tell jokes just as off-color as the rest of them. "She was really funny, and I've loved her ever since," he said. "I want to congratulate Jean with all my heart."
After accepting her medallion, Shepard told the crowd how radio resisted playing her songs. When her fans protested, she told them to call advertisers and threaten to boycott their products if the station didn't play her songs. One night, as she left the stage, a man jerked her by the arm and said, "I ought to hit you!" Shepard responded, "Well, if you feel froggy, jump." The man then berated her for forcing his radio stations to play her songs and those of other country traditionalists. "I said, 'Well, don't you call yourself a country radio station?'"
For Reba McEntire's segment, Young opened by detailing her early life as a member of an Oklahoma ranching family, telling of how McEntire learned to drive cattle and, for relaxation and sport, compete as a barrel racer in rodeos. Reba and her siblings Alice, Pake, and Susie learned to sing harmony while on long-distance rides to rodeos, where their father supplemented his income as a grand champion steer wrestler.
In high school, with Pake and Susie, she formed the Singing McEntires. Cowboy singer Red Steagall heard McEntire sing the national anthem at the National Rodeo finals in Oklahoma City, and he financed a Nashville recording session that led to a Mercury Records contract.
Between 1976 and 1984, McEntire landed nineteen chart singles, including "Sweet Dreams," which she learned from the recordings of one of her idols, Patsy Cline, who also was a favorite of her mother, Jackie.
But McEntire knew her career wasn't progressing enough to lift her to stardom. She changed management and record labels, switching to MCA. The #1 hit "How Blue" announced a new McEntire who had assumed greater control of her career.
Trisha Yearwood came out to sing "How Blue," but stopped the band to tell a story about McEntire's influence on her. She recalled how, in her teens, she traveled to Nashville with her family and recorded a version of "How Blue" with her sister in a recording booth at the Barbara Mandrell Family Museum on Music Row, and she still has a copy of the cassette.
For her performance, Yearwood said, "I needed to borrow a sister, so I hope it's OK with you, but will Susie McEntire [Eaton] come up here and do my sister's part?" Reba later noted how appropriate it was that Yearwood and her sister performed that song, since Eaton had sung harmony on the original recording.
Highlighting the significance of her 1984 album, My Kind of Country, Vince Gill gave his third performance of the night with a touching rendition of the emotional ballad "Somebody Should Leave," another #1 from the album. Before starting, he gave his own testimony, saying, "We've been through an awful lot together, and there's not a better friend."
After that album, McEntire began a record-breaking string as the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, winning it for four consecutive years from 1984 to 1987. In 1986, McEntire also won the CMA Entertainer of the Year honor.
Ever ambitious, McEntire looked to expand her audience. Her #1 hit "Whoever's in New England" won her new fans in the American northeast. Commemorating the song's impact, another Oklahoman who widened country music's audience, Garth Brooks, performed the 1986 hit. After finishing, his took off his hat and bowed toward McEntire, who was sitting in the front row.
As McEntire's career continued to expand, she gambled by booking a Carnegie Hall concert in 1987, which turned into a triumphant affair and greatly increased her following in America's largest city and the surrounding region. Also in 1987, following a divorce, McEntire moved to Nashville and founded Starstruck Entertainment, which would grow into a powerhouse entertainment conglomerate. In 1989, she married Narvel Blackstock, who took over her career management.
Meanwhile, McEntire pushed country music videos to greater production quality by employing top directors and acting out sophisticated story lines. That led her into acting, starting with the 1990 film Tremors. By 2001, she had appeared in nine films.
Amid her skyrocketing success, McEntire suffered an unimaginable tragedy when seven members of her band and her road manager were killed in a plane crash near San Diego. After a sabbatical, McEntire recorded the album For My Broken Heart. With the title song and the memorable "Is There Life Out There," the album remains one of her biggest sellers.
In 1993, McEntire scored her eighteenth #1 with the classic duet "Does He Love You," recorded with vocalist Linda Davis. Martina McBride and Kelly Clarkson joined the band for a roof-raising version of the dramatic hit.
In 2001, McEntire continued to expand her horizons. She drew critical raves from tough New York theater critics for her lead role in the musical Annie Get Your Gun. She then starred in her own TV sitcom, Reba, which ran for six successful seasons. In 2008, she signed with Valory Music, a sister label to Big Machine Records, which reunited her with former MCA executive Scott Borchetta. Once again, she began notching a string of #1 hits, in her fifth decade.
"Like Jean Shepard before her, Reba has spoken directly to new generations of women, inspiring many to change their lives," Young said of McEntire. "She is the most successful female country performer of her generation . . . She has achieved more than fifty Top Ten singes and more #1 country albums than any other female artist. She is truly country music royalty."
Dolly Parton then delivered a heartfelt induction speech, saying, "Reba and I kind of feel like sisters. We have a lot in common. We both, through the years, have had enough hair to stuff a mattress. I look back at all the CMA shows, and I say, 'Good Lord, what were we thinking?' We both spent time on Broadway . . . We've both had TV shows; hers was a hit, and mine was not. But we do have a lot in common. And everywhere I go, people ask about Reba. She's always been so kind and so great."
Concluding, Parton added, "She's had some of the greatest records I've ever heard. I never get tired of hearing her sing. I've never heard anybody who can put more into a song than Reba. Everybody loves her, and I feel so honored to get to do this."
With her medallion around her neck, McEntire took the podium. She spoke emotionally of her family, choking back tears as she said that thirty years to the day after her father won his first rodeo championship, she made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, and her father and mother drove her to the Opry House to accompany her that evening.
She also recalled asking her father what was the most fun, "getting your trophy buckle or getting there? He said, 'Oh, always getting there.' Winning awards are fun. But it's the camaraderie and the people you get to hang out with, the getting there-I agree with Daddy one-hundred percent."
After fighting tears as she thanked her husband and her family, she added, "This has been a fantastic event. I love the singers, I love to listen to them. I love the stories. It's always a lot of fun to come to these events, this is my fourth one, to see people get into the Hall of Fame. And what an institution, that we can honor the folks that have kept all this together. There's lots of memories to come. I just pray the good Lord allows me to be a part of those good memories in the future."
The evening ended, as always, with the Hall of Fame members in the audience going to the stage and joining the night's performers in singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," before moving to the museum's Conservatory for a closing reception.