Sign up for newsletter
 

Vince Gill, Ralph Emery, Mel Tillis join the Country Music Hall of Fame

Monday, October 29, 2007 – Broadcaster Ralph Emery, contemporary country singer Vince Gill and entertainer Mel Tillis accepted their gold medallions in the Country Music Hall of Fame in a three-hour celebration Sunday, officially recognizing their entrance into the hall.

For the first time, at the invitation of the Country Music Association, the annual Medallion Ceremony became the formal night of induction for new members of the Hall of Fame. Tammy Genovese, chief operating officer of the CMA, talked about what a monumental moment this ceremony marked for Emery, Gill and Tillis. She recalled how, just days after they'd learned of their induction, they gathered for photos amid the Hall of Fame plaques hanging in the Museum's stately Rotunda.

"Walking into that hallowed space, the impact of what was about to happen registered on each of their faces," Genovese said. "Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the greatest honor bestowed upon a country music artist." Sunday night, the medallions symbolizing membership were presented to the new inductees by longtime friends who preceded them into the Hall of Fame. Bud Wendell, former president and chief executive officer of Gaylord Enterainment, welcomed Emery, whom he had known since their early days together at WSM radio.

Bill Anderson, a Grand Ole Opry patriarch, inducted Gill by speaking of how the younger star helped bring him out of a songwriting hiatus by co-writing with him in the mid-1990s.

And Little Jimmy Dickens stood on a box behind the podium to place the medallion around the neck of Tillis, who had counted Dickens among the artists who recorded his songs early in his career.

Those performing songs honoring the careers of the new Hall of Fame members included Al Anderson, Bobby Bare, Dierks Bentley, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, the Gaither Vocal Band, Emmylou Harris, Con Hunley, Raul Malo, Michael McDonald, Kenny Rogers, Ray Stevens and Pam Tillis.

Backing the performers were music director John Hobbs on piano and the Medallion All-Star Band, featuring drummer Eddie Bayers, steel guitarist Paul Franklin, harmony singers Tania Hancheroff and Wes Hightower, guitarists Brent Mason and Russ Pahl and bassist Michael Rhodes.

Among the Country Music Hall of Fame members present to welcome the newcomers were Harold Bradley, Dickens, Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, Jim Foglesong, Sonny James, the Jordanaires' Gordon Stoker, Louis Nunley, Ray Walker and Curtis Young, Charlie Louvin, Jo Walker-Meador and Wendell.

The evening started with guitarist Randy Scruggs - son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs - opened with an instrumental version of "Amazing Grace."

Calling Emery "the dean of country music broadcasters," Young paid tribute to him by recalling that he'd been voted country radio personality of the century by Radio & Records magazine. He recalled Emery's difficult childhood, born March 10, 1933, in McEwen, Tenn., during the Depression, to a biological father with alcohol problems who would disappear for years at a time. Emery's parents divorced when he was four years old, and he went to live with his grandparents. He eventually reunited with his mother, but struggled with an abusive stepfather until his mother divorced a second time.

As Emery grew into an adult, he found solace and support in listening to the radio. Out of broadcasting school, he worked his way through the ranks until, at age 24, he began to work the graveyard shift at radio station WSM, and he became country music's most famous all-night deejay, staying on the all-night job until 1972. In 1963, he hosted his first TV show, Opry Almanac, and he worked in several local and national shows until taking his seat in 1983 as host of The Nashville Network's flagship show, Nashville Now.

In 1991, he wrote his first book, Memories: The Autobiography of Ralph Emery, which spent 25 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Three more popular non-fiction books followed, all reflecting on his life in country music and his intimate knowledge of country stars. In 2007, he returned to TV as host of Ralph Emery LIVE on RFD-TV.

To pay musical tribute to Emery, Raul Malo sang "You Gave Me a Mountain," a favorite of Emery's written and originally recorded by his close friend Marty Robbins. The Gaither Vocal Band sang the gospel hit "Yes I Know," while soulful country singer Con Hunley, who appeared on the first and last Nashville Now programs, presented a dynamic version of "Since I Fell for You." Ray Stevens, whom Emery has called "a creative genius," performed his famous hit "Everything Is Beautiful."

Emery, in accepting the award, thanked his wife, Joy, for their 40 years of marriage. "Joy's been a tower of strength, compassion, love and support of my many endeavors, and without her I would not have succeeded," he said. "I dearly love you, and I appreciate all you have done for me."

For Vince Gill's induction, Young recalled the Oklahoman's trek through the ranks of bluegrass and country rock bands, which took him from his home in Norman, Okla., to Kentucky, California and, eventually, Nashville.

Born April 12, 1957, Gill learned banjo from his father and soon took up guitar and other instruments. After a high school band called Mountain Smoke, he joined Bluegrass Alliance and, while living in Louisville, played with Ricky Skaggs's Boone Creek band. Later, in Los Angeles, he worked with fiddler Byron Berline in the band Sundance and, in 1979, became lead singer of the group Pure Prairie League.

Gill moved to Nashville after becoming a member of Rodney Crowell's band, the Cherry Bombs. By 1983, he had signed with RCA Records. He had a few hits-"Cinderella," "If It Weren't for Him" and "Oklahoma Borderline"-before moving to MCA Records. His breakthrough album, "When I Call Your Name," gave him the first of many CMA and Grammy awards. As of 2007, he has won 18 Grammys for singing, songwriting, producing and instrumental work. He also hosted the CMA Awards from 1992 to 2003, making him the longest-running host of any televised awards show.

Gill's musical tribute opened with Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris singing the upbeat, philosophical "Some Things Never Get Old," from Gill's 2006 four-CD album, "These Days." Michael McDonald was joined by Gill's band members Tom Britt, Dawn Sears, Billy Thomas, Pete Wasner and Jeff White for a version of Gill's spiritual "Go Rest High on That Mountain." Gill's friend Guy Clark then performed his "The Randall Knife," a song Gill has often asked him to sing at events and parties. Guitarist Al Anderson, a co-writer and recording colleague of Gill's, led the All-Star Band through "The Next Big Thing," a song Anderson wrote with Gill and pianist Hobbs.

To induct Gill, his co-writer and Grand Ole Opry friend Anderson said, "What can you possibly say about a man whose talent has already said it all? Not just his talent, but his character, his integrity, his generosity, his sense of humor, his humility and humanity. They've all spoken volumes," Anderson said. Then dropping down to his trademark whisper, he added, "And a lot louder than I can." Anderson also told of how he'd left songwriting in the 1980s because he spent time on other activities, including acting and hosting a TV game show. By the 1990s, songwriting had changed, but Anderson wanted to return to it. Someone suggested he co-write with a younger singer, and Gill was suggested as someone Anderson should call.

Anderson figured Gill probably didn't even know who he was, but he called one day and got Gill's voice mail, which said, in a hushed voice, "Hi, this is Whispering Gill. Leave your name, and I'll return your call."

Not only did they write two songs that year, but Gill recorded both of them. "It opened up a door in Nashville for me that I'd been afraid had been closed forever," Anderson said, fighting back tears. "But because he took a chance on an old dinosaur, I've had a whole second childhood as a songwriter. Thank you, pal."

Gill, in accepting the award, joked that his friends were taking bets on how many times he'd cry during the evening. "I've always tried to be a great student," he said after acknowledging his fellow inductees and other Hall of Famers in the room. "I've always felt like a sponge. I took this music in, and it kept growing and growing and growing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for inspiring me with the records you made, the songs you wrote."

Gill recalled that his first reaction upon hearing of his induction was "that can't be right." He said he thought of all those who should be inducted before him, naming a list of veteran country stars who aren't Hall of Fame members. He thanked his wife, Amy Grant, for making him a better person and filling his life with love.

As for music, he realized he'd always tried to put others first, and that he never cared if he was the singer, he just wanted to be in the band. "I feel like I go in here as a musician, first and foremost," he said. "To every musician out there I've ever played a note of music with, you go into this Hall of Fame with me. We did this together."

In describing Tillis's career, Young recalled how poverty during the Depression resulted in his family moving 33 times in his childhood, and that a bout of malaria left him with a stutter.

Born Aug. 8, 1932, Tillis first performed professionally in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1951 during a Gator Bowl party at the Mayflower Hotel. He later sang regularly on Armed Forces Radio while serving during the Korean War. After visiting Nashville in 1956, Tillis moved to Music City the following year. Webb Pierce began recording his songs, including "I'm Tired," "Honky Tonk Song," "Holiday for Love," "Tupelo County Jail," "A Thousand Miles Ago" and "I Ain't Never."

In the 1960s, Tillis had scores of other hits with Bobby Bare, Johnny Darrell, Jimmy Dickens, Jack Greene, Waylon Jennings, Brenda Lee, Ray Price and Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. Tillis had his first hit in 1958 with "The Violet and the Rose," and his 1966 hit, "Stateside," gave him his band's name, the Statesiders.

His first number 1, his version of "I Ain't Never," came in 1972 at a time when his career surged forward. In 1976, he was named the CMA's Entertainer of the Year and joined the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame the same year. By then, he'd started starring in movies, including W.W. & the Dixie Dancekings, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run and Uphill All the Way.

In the musical tribute, Bobby Bare revived his famous version of Tillis's "Detroit City." Kenny Rogers performed "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," Pam Tillis offered "Coca Cola Cowboy" after an emotional testament to her father, and contemporary star Dierks Bentley romped through "I Ain't Never."

To induct Tillis, Jimmy Dickens climbed on a box to reach the podium and told of Tillis's value and importance. "If you've never seen this man in concert, you've missed a lot," said Dickens, who said he's known Tillis for about 50 years. "He has pride, dignity and character, and when he steps on stage, he upgrades country music and the industry we all love and stand for. Men like this are hard to come by, and I'm proud to say Mel Tillis is my friend."

In accepting, Tillis recalled all the different jobs he worked on his way to songwriting, and listed many of those who helped him along the way. He heard people say, "We don't need any stuttering singers," which he said made him appreciate those who helped him all the more. He introduced the many members of the Statesiders band in attendance, thanked his five children and "my many wives," which brought a laugh from the audience.

As for entering the Hall of Fame, he said, "I never did think it would ever get this far. I dreamed about it. My mother always said, 'Remember your dream, and work towards it, and it will happen.'"

The evening ended with the honorees, performers and members of the Country Music Hall of Fame standing on stage performing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" Afterward, while embracing and reminiscing over drinks and coffee in the Museum's Curb Conservatory, word spread that a member of the Hall of Fame family, Porter Wagoner, had passed away while the ceremony took place.

More news for Vince Gill

CD reviews for Vince Gill

Down to My Last Bad Habit CD review - Down to My Last Bad Habit
At this point in his career, Vince Gill could just as well have entitled this "Tried and True." He's not chasing trends - pop country or bro country - of chart-geared songs. He's too old for that, and at this point anyway, Gill knows what works for him. And there is quite a lot that works on his first solo album since 2011's "Guitar Slinger." (He did release the excellent "Bakersfield" with Paul Franklin in 2013). Gill prefers a more soulful approach, »»»
Guitar Slinger CD review - Guitar Slinger
It's hard to believe, considering what Vince Gill has accomplished over the past three decades, but the triple threat singer-songwriter-guitar picker may be in the most creative, productive stretch of his lengthy, remarkable career. Five years after Gill's Grammy-winning 4-album 43-song box set "These Days," his latest 12-song release again finds Gill tapping every ounce of his immense talents. The title song sums up his reputation as an ax man worthy of playing Eric »»»
These Days CD review - These Days
To put this release into perspective, it would take Axl Rose the better half of a century to issue the same amount of material. Fortunately, Vince Gill is about as prolific as they come these days, and this daring four-disc release only is further proof of that. Each disc is divvied up depending on his mood, with the opening "Working On A Big Chill" album being "The Rockin' Record." And this album sets things off right with the lovely mid-tempo and groovy title track. »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: LSD tour provides a lot of highs – This was not your grandkids' country, that's for sure. Even the name of the tour - the LSD Tour - was a throwback (albeit far before the principals were making music). But make no mistake about it. With the ever cool country traditionalist Dwight Yoakam, the country with some rock and blues and rabble rousing of Steve Earle thrown in and the... »»»
Concert Review: Alvin, Gilmore fortunately get together – Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore had known each other for decades, but it wasn't until last year that they toured together in a guitar pull setting. What started as a small Texas tour mushroomed into points east and west and eventually the release earlier this month of their blues-based disc, "Downey to Lubbock." And now we have the... »»»
Follow Country Standard Time  Subscribe to Country News Digest  Follow Country Standard Time on twitter  Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook 

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Tyminski goes dark Dan Tyminski (known simply as "Tyminski" on his 2017 release "Southern Gothic") has traditional music roots and unassailable bluegrass street cred especially given his membership in Alison Krauss' Union Station. He is also a powerful songwriter and has been writing songs for himself and others for years now.... »»»
Washburn, Fleck create "Echoes" Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have powerhouse individual talents; each has followed an estimable career path to where they find themselves today: making complex, but spare, records, writing music together and touring with their son Juno. Their new release, "Echoes In The Valley" features mostly songs written by Fleck and Washburn, banjos, Washburn's strong vocals and very little else.... »»»
Hillman bides his time Legends don't come any more legendary than Chris Hillman. The roll call of bands that comprises Hillman's half century in music reads like a wing exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Souther Hillman Furay Band, the Desert Rose Band,... »»»
The Cadillac Three creates its "Legacy" William Shakespeare noted a few centuries back that a rose by any other name would be equally aromatic, and that general idea has musical implications as well. The Cadillac Three knows a thing or two about maintaining a sonic identity after a name change;... »»»
With Stanley and Watson, sound isn't elementary Those aware of the late Owsley "Bear" Stanley likely know him for one of two reasons - his pioneering work manufacturing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in San Francisco during the mid-to-late 1960s and his role as an innovative sound engineer. Most notably, Bear worked...... »»»
May shifts gears, directions Headed into 2015, Imelda May was on a hit streak. Her rockabilly career was in full swing, nurtured by the likes of former Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland and guitar icon Jeff Beck. Her albums routinely topped the charts in her native Ireland.... »»»
Lane assumes mantle of "Highway Queen" For most artists, eight years is a fair amount of time in their careers. For Nikki Lane, eight years represents the entirety of her recorded history, and she's filled that relatively short time span with a highlight reel of impressive accomplishments, not the least of which would be actually... »»»
Bigger CD review - Bigger
Sugarland is back with "Bigger," its first studio album in nearly a decade. And its arrival says more about branding, than anything else. Although his voice is heard often enough on this album to make his presence felt, it's still difficult to get away from seeing Kristian Bush in the Oates to Hall or Ridgeley to Michael role in this duo.  »»»
This One's For You Too CD review - This One's For You Too
Luke Combs has gotten a lot of life out of his album "This One's for You," which includes his breakthrough hit "Hurricane," as well as the popular single "When It Rains It Pours." This deluxe edition includes five new tracks, many of which are just as strong as the original 12.  »»»
Things Change CD review - Things Change
There may be no other CD title this year quite as apropos as this one. Things have indeed changed for American Aquarium since their previous studio album (2015's underrated "Wolves"). For one thing 80 per cent of the band quit, leaving only lead vocalist and songwriter BJ Barham. »»»
Dancing With The Beast CD review - Dancing With The Beast
Informed by the renewed strength of today's woman's movement, particularly in light of recent cultural social and political upheavals, Gretchen Peters' "Dancing With the Beast" finds her sharing stories about loss, struggle, upheaval, tragedy and turmoil in ways that resonate with a common bond, though told from a woman's perspective. »»»
Hard Times Are Relative CD review - Hard Times Are Relative
Jason Boland and The Stragglers serve up the ninth helping of their unapologetic, get it or not, country, in the past 20 years. This appears to almost be two EP's with the first mostly being a hard country dance cd and the second being a little more "out there" mix of fun and contemplative tunes, much less easy to categorize. »»»
Life is Good on the Open Road CD review - Life is Good on the Open Road
After a four-year-break from recording, Duluth, Minn. sextet Trampled By Turtles return with its eighth studio release of edgy bluegrass and Indie folk/rock. Lead singer Dave Simonett wrote all of the mostly dark themed lyrics with the lone instrumental that showcases the band's topflight musicianship, "Good Land," credited to bandmate Erik Berry. »»»
Clippety Clop CD review - Clippety Clop
Despite having earned her apprenticeship with the ever-eccentric Billy Childish, and choosing to adopt the influence of the equally eclectic Jack White, Holly Golightly has paved her own path over the course of her career, earning kudos for her decidedly lopsided approach. »»»
Voices CD review - Voices
Having a dozen or so original songs to make an album has never mattered to Tom Rush nor has the idea of churning out an album every year or two. The iconic '60s folk singer has spread out about 20 originals over the span of 11 studio albums. »»»
Wrote a Song for Everyone CD review - Wrote a Song for Everyone
Considering that Creedence Clearwater Revival's back catalogue contains some of the most beloved and iconic music of the rock era, and John Fogerty himself - the man who made all those great songs great - will be dueting with you, an artist has to feel like he's got two strikes against him when he sets out to contribute to a cover album tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty. »»»
This World Oft Can Be CD review - This World Oft Can Be
Although it isn't rare to hear women singing and playing bluegrass-inspired music, it is still unusual to take in a five-girl band doing so. Della Mae are not what The Runaways and The Go-Go's meant to rock & roll, perhaps, but they're nevertheless significant and unique. »»»
Wilderness CD review - Wilderness
"Wilderness" is another twisted menagerie of The Handsome Family songs. Once again, husband Brett Sparks sings their songs, sometimes in a bellowing gravedigger voice, after adding music to wife Rennie's lyrics. This time out, each and every tune is named after an animal, insect or other such nature creature. However, Rennie studies animals the way Flannery O'Connor wrote about humans, which is with the weirdness and character flaws in primary focus. »»»