Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is country music's highest honor. The Country Music Association (CMA), the country music industry's trade organization, created the accolade to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of country music by individuals in both the creative and business communities. The first members—Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams—were inducted in 1961.
Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is solely the prerogative of the CMA. New members, elected annually by an anonymous panel of industry leaders chosen by the CMA, are formally inducted in special, invitation-only ceremonies held at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum's CMA Theater.
The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization and does not participate in the election. Through a licensing agreement with the CMA, the Museum exhibits the bronze plaques commemorating membership in a space and fashion befitting the honor.
Immediately upon publication the Encyclopedia of Country Music became a much-loved reference source, prized for the wealth of information it contained on that most American of musical genres.