Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Never Too Early...

Category: Opinion

Now that Pop Stoneman has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, people who have heard me begging for that event to happen probably think I have nothing else to implore the voters to do.

Waylon Jennings said it best: WRONG.

The Hall of Fame is still missing a number of highly worthy performers AND "non-performers" (that's a rule that the CMA has imposed on inductions: every third year, a non-performer must be elected).

A dream induction class for 2009 would look like this:

AL DEXTER. Dexter belongs for a simple reason: his popularity in the 1940s resulted in Billboard magazine creating the "Hillbilly and Western chart" (what we now know as the "Country Singles" chart). The first two #1 songs on this chart were Al Dexter songs; actually, the same song ("Pistol Packin' Mama," first by Bing Crosby [yes, that Bing Crosby] then by Dexter himself). historian Joel Whitburn ranks artists, and in the 1944-1993 BillboardTop Country Singles book Dexter was ranked #117 -- even though his last hit was in 1948.

THE WILBURN BROTHERS. Teddy and Doyle sang with their family as children, and before they became household names they were featured on songs by Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb. Once they began recording on Decca, they took off. Their popularity resulted in a syndicated television show that featured Harold Morrison (sadly better known for his comedy and very loud jackets than his superb, underrated banjo playing) and a "girl singer" by the name of Loretta Lynn. Doyle died of cancer in 1982 and Teddy passed away in 2003 of congestive heart failure. They weren't the most loved fellows personally, but the Hall of Fame is about musical accomplishments, and the Wilburn Brothers certainly had the musical accomplishments to merit induction.

JEAN SHEPARD. From the west coast, where she began after being discovered by the late Hank Thompson, to the heart of Nashville, Jean Shepard's career has been long and sustained. Without question, she is one of the most overlooked female vocalists in the history of country music, and that is downright CRIMINAL. Her voice is still clear and strong. She is one of our true living legends, and she deserves to have her 50+-year career crowned while she's alive to see it happen.

THE MADDOX BROTHERS & ROSE. The Maddox Brothers were hailed as being "ten years ahead of their time" (or, as Fred Maddox use to correct, "Twenty!"). They were one of the top bands in the West Coast country scene in the 1940s and 50s, and their influence stretched from introducing colorful matching suits and onstage antics to homage from Merle Haggard in "The Old Man From the Mountain."

STONEWALL JACKSON. Stonewall's career began when he showed up in Nashville with a guitar and a song and took off. "Waterloo" was not only a major country hit, it was also a top 5 pop hit. He continued to have hits into the 1970s, and was a fan favorite on the Opry. Jackson currently is suing the Grand Ole Opry for age discrimination, and his induction into the Hall of Fame would tell the world that politics plays no part of the vote.

DR. CHARLES K. WOLFE. Biographies on Leadbelly, the Louvin Brothers, a detailed study on the beginning of the Grand Ole Opry, compilation of Alton Delmore's notes into the masterpiece Truth is Stranger Than Publicity, and exploration of the history of the fiddle in country music are but a few of the scholarly yet down-home works Charles Wolfe gave the world. With all the liner notes, articles, and books he wrote, one can only wonder how he found time to teach English at Middle Tennessee State as well. If a "non-performer" needs to be inducted, there can be no better choice than country's best historian. He is sorely missed.

I would include the Blue Sky Boys; however, since Bill Bolick passed away earlier this year, they are ineligible for three years (to prevent a "sympathy" vote). As soon as they are eligible, again, though, they need to be inducted as well.

If this dream comes true, then I can look for Connie Smith, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, and Jim Ed Brown to be inducted in 2010! (Well, as the Louvin Brothers said, "when I stop dreaming...")

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