An emotional speech by Vince Gill, a surprise appearance by Bob Seger and a star-studded sing-along lead by Wynonna Judd were just a few of the highlights as the Country Music Hall of Fame welcomed three new members Sunday October 22nd.
Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker and songwriter Bob McDill were inducted during the annual Medallion Ceremony in a music-filled celebration that felt like a family reunion with Hall of Famers Brenda Lee, Kris Kristofferson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt, Emmylou Harris and many others in attendance.
Here we take a look at the joyful celebration in 20 festive photos of the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, the friends and loved ones who honored them and the fabulous performances of the night.
Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee: Bob McDill
The first honoree of the night was Bob McDill, who was inducted in the Songwriter Category. One of the country music community’s most prolific tunesmiths, McDill has written such legendary hits as Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country,” Alabama’s “Song of the South.”
In honor of McDill, Charley Crockett took the stage to perform “Louisiana Saturday Night,” a 1981 hit McDill wrote for the late Mel McDaniel.
Don Schlitz, a Country Music Hall of Fame Songwriter whose credits include Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” gave a hilarious speech recalling their many years of friendship before inducting Bob McDill. “For my friends and me, Bob McDill was who we wanted to be. We talked about what we thought his process was,” Schlitz said.
Schiltz continued, “He taught me to respect your music, respect your process, and respect yourself. Take your time and get it right. . . Most importantly, he taught me that you cannot write country music looking down your nose at it.”
Schlitz welcomed McDill to the stage where he received his Medallion then Schlitz and Country Music Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young unveiled McDill’s plaque.
Taking the stage, McDill said to the delight of the audience, “They said, ‘Never give an old songwriter a microphone, he’s probably been waiting a lifetime to talk about himself,’ but I’ll try not to overshare. To my friends and family here tonight, my loved ones, welcome. It means a lot to have all of you here.”
He also noted, “There are eight non-performing songwriters in the Country Music Hall of Fame. All very deserving, all brilliant. Everyone knows their songs. A few people know their names. I think it speaks very well of the panel to go beyond the sparkle and glitter of our business and include these writers in the Hall of Fame.”
Country Music Hall of Fame inductee: Patty Loveless
Following McDill’s eloquent speech, Patty Loveless was inducted in the Modern Era Artist category. Following a video that spotlighted the Kentucky native’s successful career, the band Sister Sadie took the stage to perform one of Loveless’ early songs, “The Sounds of Loneliness.” Sister Sadie’s fiddler Deanie Richardson was in Patty’s band, performing with her off and on for nearly 30 years and spoke glowingly of Loveless’ talent and influence.
(Read here for our Woman’s World exclusive Q&A with Patty Loveless and her tips to overcome worry, stress and heartache!)
Patty was totally surprised when Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bob Seger was introduced as the next performer. A fan of Patty’s, Seger once flew to her Georgia home to have her record “The Answer’s in the Question” for his 2006 Face the Promise album. Seger delivered an energetic performance of Loveless’ “She Drew a Broken Heart” while Loveless sat in the audience smiling in disbelief.
“I’m a little pissed off. I just found out I have to follow Bob Seger,” Vince Gill joked as he took the stage following the rock icon’s performance. Gill need not have worried. His performance of “Lonely Too Long” was among the evening’s highlights.
“When I got the call that Patty was going into the Hall of Fame and that she was kind enough to ask me to be the one to do this, you can’t imagine what that means to you, if somebody thinks enough of you in their greatest moment that they’re going to experience, that they choose you to be the one to do that,” Gill said.
During his remarks, Gill recalled meeting Loveless at Fan Fair (an annual fan gathering that has evolved into CMA Music Fest). She stood in line to get his autograph and then told him she planned to sing with him someday.
Years later, they did sing on several of each other’s songs with Loveless’ stunning harmonies gracing Gill’s breakout hit “When I Call Your Name.” “Patty possesses maybe the most authentic voice I’ve ever heard,” Gill said. “I’m just so grateful for the love that we have for each other and the respect.” Gill had the honor of putting on Loveless’ medallion.
Loveless took the stage and was trembling with emotion. “Going back over all the years, the one person I wish truly could be here with me tonight is my brother Roger Ramey. He passed away last year, last June in 2022,” she said. “And this was always a dream of ours as young kids coming to Nashville. When I would walk through the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum when it was over on 16th Avenue . . .It just felt so comforting to walk among those [member’s plaques]. To be a part of that now is truly is an honor.”
Loveless continued, “I don’t think that I could really have done this without many, many people that supported me because I was a real shy kid, but they were always pushing me. My brother was one, and my whole family and Doyle and Teddy Wilburn, the Wilburn brothers, Porter [Wagoner] and Dolly [Parton], they always were very supportive.”
Loveless grew more emotional as she thanked her husband Emory Gordy Jr., producer Tony Brown and Gill. “It is just amazing to me that I have been allowed to live the life that I have lived, and been blessed to know each and every one of you,” she said. “I feel like I’m stumbling because I am a little emotional.. . . I’m a little bit taken back by this.”
Country Music Hall of Fame inductee: Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker, the evening’s final honoree, was inducted into the Veterans Era Artist Category. She recorded her breakthrough hit “Delta Dawn” at 13 and by 15 was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. She landed six No. 1 hits before she turned 18. Wynonna and Charlie McCoy performed “Delta Dawn,” with Tucker smiling and giving her approval as Wy belted out her signature song.
In recent years, Tucker has undergone a career rebirth thanks to Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings producing two critically acclaimed albums — 2019’s Grammy-winning While I’m Livin’ and 2023’s Sweet Western Sound.
“Me and our brother Shooter, we’re so proud of you, T. We love you with all our heart,” Carlile said. “You have carved out an ass-kicking path for every tough little girl. You carved out that path for me, and I’m never going to stop trying to make it up to you. But I’m going to be able to sleep tonight because I just watched Tanya Tucker inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Carlile performed Tucker’s poignant hit “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane” and Tucker joined her on stage to sing the final words.
Then Country Music Hall of Famers Connie Smith and Brenda Lee took the stage for Tucker’s Medallion presentation. Smith recalled she and Tucker doing an interview with famed country DJ/TV personality Ralph Emery. “He turned to Tanya and he said, ‘Tanya, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ She said, ‘A superstar.’ And she is. She brings it from the heart and always does it in style and with a flair all of her own. And that’s what’s so great. She’s so real.”
Following Smith at the podium, the diminutive Lee, who also began her career as a child performer, had to stand on a box to reach the microphone. She gave a sweet speech that was full of heart and humor. “She’s one of the most giving, loving, kindhearted people that I know,” Lee said of Tucker. “She’s one of those people, if you broke down in Alabama. . . If you called her and said, ‘Hey Tanya, I’m on the side of the road in Birmingham.’ She’d say, ‘Be right there. Give me a little time. I’ll be there.’ If she is your friend, she is your friend. She is loyal. She’s trustworthy.”
Lee also praised Tucker’s independent streak and courage to stand up for what she believed in. “You are one of the few people in this industry that has stayed real. You stated your case. You said, ‘Like it or leave it, don’t matter to me. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to sing how I want to sing. If you don’t like it, don’t listen.’ She was one of the first in this town that was brave enough to say that. Now Loretta [Lynn] said it, but she didn’t realize what she was saying,” Lee said as the audience erupted in laughter.
When Tucker took the stage, she began by thanking her friends. “I’ve often said, if I put all my great friends in one room, they’d probably kill each other. So, we’ll see how that works out a little later,” she laughed. “I’m so thankful that you’re here. You’ve been through some ups and downs with me along the way throughout my life, at different times in my life. Thank you for not giving up on me.”
(Click through to read an exclusive Woman’s World interview with Tanya Tucker)
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Mine were mostly in the news, but somehow I got through it,” she shared. “But, you know what? Anytime I felt bad about myself. . .I think of my fans and the ones that always, always stayed by my side, and were always supportive. I couldn’t have done anything without them.”
Tucker also acknowledged her three kids who were in the audience, calling them “three of the best decisions I ever made,” her siblings and her late parents, Beau and Juanita. “The good Lord blessed me more times than I can count,” Tucker said.
“He blessed me with a daddy like Beau Tucker, who was my biggest fan,” Tucker continued. “He was my first fan, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Bringing me to Nashville the first time when I was nine years old, he took me to the Grand Ole Opry. . .It was July 1967, and we finally got in there, and my dad looked down at me and he said, ‘Now, don’t you wish you were up there doing it, instead of sitting down here watching it?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, I do.’ From that moment on, I’ve never been a good audience member, and I haven’t been very good today,” she said smiling an.
The Medallion Ceremony concluded with Wynonna leading the all-star audience in singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”.
It was a memorable evening that honored three talented individuals whose contributions to country music will always be remembered as their plaques joins those of their heroes in that hallowed rotunda.
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