Dierks Bentley was there to honor the fellow Grand Ole Opry star who was “nice and warm and welcoming every time I played.” Trisha Yearwood was there to honor the country quartet she and her sister mimicked in their living room growing up. And Garth Brooks was there because, well, he’s already in country music’s most exclusive “club,” so he was happy to welcome its newest members.
All three stars were at the induction ceremony for the Country Music Hall of Fame, held Sunday night in Nashville, and they were among the performers who sang songs made famous by the hall’s 2015 class: the Oak Ridge Boys, Jim Ed Brown and the Browns, and legendary guitarist Grady Martin.
Though the new Hall of Famers all made their greatest marks decades ago, Brooks noted that every artist today is standing on their shoulders.
“You have to learn it from somebody,” Brooks said. “And who you learn it from is Jim Ed Brown, who comes up to you as a scared kid and puts his arm around you and says, ‘Don’t worry, this is cake. Just watch this. Do this.’ Buck Owens was that way. Porter Wagoner was that way. Bill Anderson. … You’re lucky to be in this chain. Very fortunate.”
Brooks, who opened for the Oak Ridge Boys early in his career, accompanied his wife, Yearwood, on acoustic guitar for “I’ll Be True to You,” the first of the Oak Ridge Boys’ 17 No. 1 hits. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna delivered the Oaks’ “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” the song Yearwood remembers singing with her sister.
The Oaks’ signature hit, “Elvira,” was turned over to family: It was performed by the Martin Family Circus, made up of Oaks lead singer Duane Allen’s son-in-law Paul Martin (formerly of Exile), daughter Jamie and their four children, ages 8 to 17.
Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers formally inducted Allen and band mates Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.
In their thank-yous, the members left no doubt the honor marks the pinnacle of their lengthy career. “Long after we’re gone,” Bonsall said, “we’ll still be here.”
Here is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s rotunda, where the three new plaques will hang. They were unveiled during the three-hour ceremony, an invitation-only event, that took place in the museum’s 800-seat CMA Theater.
Bentley paid tribute to Jim Ed Brown with “Pop a Top,” a song Bentley said he covered many times in his years before stardom. It was a solo hit for Brown in 1967 soon after the Browns split so sisters Maxine and Bonnie could raise their families. Jim Ed and Maxine began as a duo in 1954, and Bonnie joined them a year later.
Jim Ed Brown received his medallion on June 4 in a Nashville hospital, where he succumbed to cancer, at age 81, a week later. At the Sunday ceremony, the sisters, along with Jim Ed’s widow, Becky, accepted the honor from Hall of Famer Bobby Bare.
Hall of Famer Vince Gill played Grady Martin’s memorable Spanish guitar part on “El Paso,” and he helped out Marty Stuart and his band on the song s high notes. (The 1959 hit was written and originally recorded by Marty Robbins.) Brenda Lee, another Hall of Famer, formally inducted Martin, who died in 2001, and Martin’s son, Josh, accepted the honor for the family. Lee noted that Martin was there when she first walked into the studio at age 10, and he eventually “played on just about everything I ever did.”
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