Tuesday, March 26, 2024

2024 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

Rarely does the Country Music Hall of Fame announcement pass by without my comment. I've been a bit distracted by other projects, but that doesn't mean I didn't notice. Truly, though, last week's announcement was neither surprising nor particularly interesting. 

As you no doubt know, three individuals (or duos, groups) are inducted into the HOF each year, based on the following categories:

Modern Era ~ an artist is eligible twenty years after they first achieved national prominence. 

Veteran Era ~ an artist is eligible forty years after they first achieved national prominence. 

The third is a rotating category, consisting of either a recording and/or touring musician, a songwriter, or a "non-performer" (generally a music executive). Since a songwriter was inducted in 2023 (Bob McDill), this year was a musician's turn.

The problems with these arcane rules are obvious. First of all, the "electors" are completely anonymous. This naturally leads to suspicion about campaigning. And campaigning absolutely happens. It's widely known that Keith Whitley was chosen a few years back because his widow, Lorrie Morgan, campaigned hard for him to be elected. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does things differently. It creates a list of nominees based on "historians'" recommendations. Again, we don't know who these people are and what exactly qualifies them as historians. Shoot, I could be a historian ~ you don't know that I'm not. Then the winners are voted on by "an international body of some 500 rock experts". However, fans are now also able to vote for up to seven artists from this list. This comprises the "fans' ballot", although it's unknown how much weight those votes are given. 

Generally, anywhere from six to a dozen artists are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame each year, compared to three (one a non-artist) for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Three. Know how much of a backlog this creates?

The CMHOF claims that this keeps the process "exclusive". Oh, it does. It excludes an artist who has died (and there have been many) from celebrating their eventual induction. It's shameful. Jerry Lee Lewis was lucky, I guess. He was finally inducted at the age of eighty-eight and died only a few months later. I'm dubious that any of the rock and roll inductees refused their award because it wasn't "exclusive". Yet, despite numerous calls for the process to be revised, the cabal remains recalcitrant. It seems that they are the ones who want to remain exclusive.

All that said, my quibble with the 2024 inductees is not with who was elected, but with who wasn't.

Modern Era

An artist is not eligible for election within one year of his or her death. As it happened, Toby Keith was voted in before his untimely death in February. No one can say he's not deserving. He scored a total of twenty number one hits and several top tens. Pretty good career.

Though his music mostly wasn't to my taste, millions upon millions of fans loved him. And, as I wrote before, he was by all accounts a good man.

Which other artists were eligible? Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Tracy Lawrence, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Lorrie Morgan, Steve Wariner, Trisha Yearwood, among many others.

Clearly, the one overlooked (again) is Dwight Yoakam. I don't know any artists that the others on the list may have influenced, but there is no denying that Dwight influenced a bunch. He is uniquely Dwight. The open secret about the HOF, however, is that it is very Nashville-centric. It's a wonder that Merle Haggard and Buck Owens got in. My prediction is that Yoakam will never be elected, unless the process is radically changed. The cabal simply doesn't want him.

Veteran Era

I like John Anderson; love a couple of his hits. When he was still being played on radio, no one had to hear a song and wonder, "Who's singing that?" Anderson's voice is unmistakable. That said, he only had five number ones. It wasn't so much the quantity, but their ubiquitousness. Who in God's name hasn't heard "Swingin'"? I bought exactly one John Anderson album, just as I purchased one Toby Keith album. That shouldn't be confused with dislike. 

The veteran era category is the one most backlogged ~ criminally backlogged. Many, many deserving artists will never be inducted. This era encompasses decades, from the nineteen forties and forward. And let's face it; artists get forgotten.

The list is far too long to enumerate, but here are a few of the eligible artists:

Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Horton, Eddie Rabbitt, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers, Lynn Anderson, Gene Watson, Rosanne Cash, Johnny Rodriguez, Gary Stewart, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

As I said, artists (and apparently history) can be forgotten. From the late sixties to the mid-seventies, there were three female artists who dominated country: Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Lynn Anderson. Look it up. I don't know why Lynn has been overlooked (not saying it's because she began her career in California. Not not saying it's because of this.) Nevertheless, it's tragic that the HOF has swatted her away. 

Like Dwight, I don't believe that Lynn Anderson will ever be elected. I can't put my finger on exactly why. I was semi-kidding about the California bit. It certainly can't be that toward the end of her chart-making days, she had veered into pop-country. Plenty of other artists with similar repertoires have made it in. Perhaps if some current star scores a hit with a remake of Rose Garden, similar to how Luke Combs resuscitated Tracy Chapman's legacy, the HOF deciders' memories would be jogged.

Recording/Touring Musician, Songwriter, Non-Performer

(They really need to come up with a better moniker.)

When I hear the name James Burton, I think, "Oh, the Elvis guy." Sure, he was a member of Rick(y) Nelson's, Emmylou Harris's, and John Denver's bands, but other than Emmylou, the others aren't (weren't) exactly bastions of country music.


Hmm, who's that fat off-key singer behind him? 

I like this one better:

Again, what will it take to get Don Rich into the hall of fame? As Saving Country Music wrote: "There was arguably never a side player more important to a superstar than Don Rich was to Buck Owens."

Face it, Buck Owens wasn't exactly a powerhouse. He had goofy mannerisms and he claimed credit for songs he didn't write. Still, he was huge, and in large part that was due to Don Rich. Not only a virtuoso guitarist, but an accomplished fiddler, and a harmony singer beyond measure. Does the cabal hold Rich's home base of Bakersfield against him? Hmmm...

Another musician will not be eligible until 2027. I hate to say it, but the inductee won't be Don Rich.

I suppose these announcements hold some modicum of interest. I do at least know who the artists are, as opposed to today. But seriously, hall of fame, you guys need to get your act together.



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