MUSICROW Magazine: Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Fred Foster Enter Country Music Hall of Fame
Inductees Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster were saluted by a parade of superstar performances, and each expressed intense, heartfelt gratitude for being honored with their industry’s highest accolade. The nearly three-hour presentation was punctuated by more than a dozen standing ovations.
This annual event is titled “The Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony,” since this marks the moment when the inductees are presented with their official medallions and bronze plaques as members of the Hall. It was staged in the CMA Theater at the Hall of Fame on Sunday evening (Oct. 16).
The event’s performances were bookended by superstar Dolly Parton and superstar Garth Brooks, both of whom are already members of the Hall. Each inductee was presented with his official medallion by another prior Hall inductee.
The ceremony began with the playing of Doc Watson’s guitar instrumental recording of “Windy and Warm.” Watson hailed from North Carolina, as did the song’s composer, John D. Loudermilk. This was a nod to the fact that Travis, Daniels and Foster are all native North Carolinians.
“Fred Foster is a genius at identifying genius,” said Kyle Young, the Hall’s CEO and the evening’s host. A video bio saluted the Monument Records founder and enduring record producer. It noted his involvement in the careers of Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Boots Randolph, Tony Joe White, Billy Grammer, Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson. Attendees Jeannie Seely, Charlie McCoy and Ray Stevens are Monument alumni, as well.
Monument’s stars also included Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, including attendee Rudy Gatlin, plus Billy Swan, Grandpa Jones, Cindy Walker, Connie Smith, Bob Moore, Boudleaux Bryant, Harlan Howard, Rusty Draper, Billy Walker, Henson Cargill, Ed Bruce, Barefoot Jerry, Ray Price and Larry Jon Wilson.
“You saw things in me that no one else did,” said Parton on stage, “and I hope I made you proud.” She performed “Dumb Blonde,” her first hit, which appeared on Monument in 1967. “Thank you, Fred. Thanks everybody. I’m so happy to be here.”
Brandy Clark performed “Blue Bayou,” which Foster first produced for Orbison on Monument in 1963. Kris Kristofferson sang “Me and Bobby McGee,” which he co-wrote with Foster. Fellow Hall of Fame member McCoy backed him on harmonica. The song first charted for Roger Miller in 1969 and became a huge pop hit for Janis Joplin two years later.
Vince Gill did the formal medallion presentation. “Every one of us needs a champion,” he said. “Fred Foster, for all these years, has championed great songwriters and great singers.”
“I am seldom at a loss for words,” responded Foster. “But I am at a loss to tell you exactly what this means to me….This is the one of the most unbelievable things that has ever happened to me and ever will. God bless you all.”
The Charlie Daniels video bio noted his pre-stardom work as a session musician for Leonard Cohen, Marty Robbins, Flatt & Scruggs, Bob Dylan and others. His famed Volunteer Jam concert events were also cited.
“Charlie, you posed a question at many Volunteer Jams,” Young reminded the inductee. That was, “Ain’t it great to be alive and to be in Tennessee?” He asked if Daniels felt that way that evening.
The first Charlie Daniels song recorded by another artist was “It Hurts Me” by Elvis Presley in 1964. Trisha Yearwood, a huge Presley fan, performed it for the honoree.
Jamey Johnson did “Long Haired Country Boy,” a Daniels hit in 1975. “I started doing this song back when I was in the Marines,” said Johnson, “and I didn’t have no long hair then…..God bless you, Charlie Daniels.”
Trace Adkins and top-flight fiddler Andrea Zonn did Daniels’ signature song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” In 1979, it sold a million, won a Grammy Award and was named CMA Single of the Year.
Brenda Lee did the formal medallion presentation. “The thing I love about Charlie Daniels is that he loves you back,” she said. “He loves the people that work with him, not for him. And Charlie loves America.”
“The grandiose words it would take to adequately describe the mountain of honor I’m feeling tonight, don’t exist in my vocabulary,” said Daniels. “It’s been a rewarding life, and I’d do it all over again in the twinkling of an eye….I realize how blessed I am. Long live country music. God bless Music City.”
“Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” asked Young, referring to a George Jones hit of 1985. “Randy Travis,” he answered. Young referenced the nearly fatal stroke that Travis suffered in 2013 and added, “Randy’s voice is indelible. And what is indelible can never be lost.”
“Is it alright if I say something?” asked Alan Jackson before he sang. Addressing Travis, he commented, “You opened the door to a lot of guys and gals who wanted to sing real country music. We appreciate what you did for us.
“Since he came along, there hasn’t been another country singer who has been so authentic.”
Jackson sang the 1985 Travis breakthrough smash “On the Other Hand.” Written by attendees Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, it was named CMA Song of the Year.
“You were a beacon of light on the radio, and you’re still one of the greatest singers we’ve ever had,” said Brad Paisley to Travis.
Paisley performed 1987’s “Forever and Ever, Amen” solo, with just his own acoustic-guitar accompaniment. It won a Grammy, as well as CMA Song and Single of the Year accolades.
Garth Brooks performed the 2003 Travis comeback No. 1 hit “Three Wooden Crosses.” It won the CMA Song of the Year honor for its composers, Doug Johnson and the late Kim Williams.
“Name another artist from any genre of music that took a format and turned it 180 degrees to back where it came from, and made it bigger than it was before,” said Brooks. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you….Randy, tonight the world makes a little more sense to me —this is long overdue.”
Travis is partially paralyzed on one side, but walked to the podium with his wife, Mary Davis-Travis. “I just want to tell you, honey, you belong here,” she said. “You are among the greatest: You are in the Hall of Fame.
“Each of you is Randy’s hero and friend. I know you have been touched by his music. He has been touched by you….Randy stared Death in the face, and Death blinked….It’s a special thing to hear Randy Travis sing. Don’t you agree? Ladies and gentlemen, I want to give back to you the voice of Randy Travis.”
Travis, who could not speak as recently as a year ago, led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace.” “Thank you,” he stammered in conclusion. “Thank God, and thank Mary.”
The Oak Ridge Boys, McCoy and guitarist Ben Hall, led the audience in singing country music’s unofficial “national anthem,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” This is the annual ceremony’s traditional finale.
The evening’s audience was sprinkled with Country Music Hall of Fame members. In addition to Parton, Brooks, Lee, the Oaks, Kristofferson, McCoy and Gill, they included Bobby Bare, Charley Pride, Jo Walker Meador, Ralph Emery and members of Alabama and The Jordanaires.
The “Medallion All-Star Band” backing the evening’s performers was led by Biff Watson and included Paul Franklin, Eddie Bayers, Jeff White, Michael Rhodes, Steve Gibson, Matt Rollings, Deanie Richardson and background vocalists Carmella Ramsey, Thom Flora and Tania Hancheroff.
Foster, Daniels and Travis became the 128th, 129th and 130th inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“Congratulations on this honor, gentlemen, the pinnacle of achievement in our industry,” said CMA chief Sarah Trahern.