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Hall of Fame inducts Husky, Sherrill

Monday, May 24, 2010 – Ferlin Husky and Billy Sherrill were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday in the Medallion Ceremony.

"Tonight, as we celebrate the remarkable careers of Ferlin Husky and Billy Sherrill, we are reminded of country music's cultural importance to our city, our nation and our world," said Kyle Young, the museum's director.

The event represents the official induction of new Hall of Fame members. Country music stars Jimmy Dean and Don Williams, who were elected into the Hall of Fame along with Husky and Sherrill, will be officially inducted at a separate Medallion Ceremony on Oct. 24.

During the ceremony, the 84-year-old Husky and 73-year-old Sherrill listened to highlights of their lives and careers as well as to surprise guests who performed their classic songs.

"Ferlin and Billy, you are surrounded here by the family, friends and collaborators who have defined so much of your lives and who have come to pay tribute to you tonight," said Steve Turner, chairman of the museum's board of officers and trustees. "We want you and your peers in the Hall of Fame to know that we too revere your accomplishments and hold you in highest esteem. Thank you for your magnificent contributions to country music and to the vitality of Music City."

Husky was emotional and witty in accepting his honor, while Sherrill was humble and brief.

Hall of Fame member Charley Pride, who inducted Husky, spoke of their enduring friendship, which started in 1969 as Pride first began to tour; Husky was among the first of Nashville's stars to befriend him. On a plane flight from Tennessee to Florida, Pride discovered how Husky occasionally let his comic alter ego, Simon Crum, emerge, even when offstage. He watched Husky argue with himself, "even though there wasn't anyone in the seat next to him," Pride joked.

Husky had to rise from his wheelchair to be helped up the stairs to accept his medallion from Pride. He struggled with his emotions as he addressed the crowd, saying, "I want to thank everybody who had anything to do with bringing me into this group, the people I've admired since I was a little child."

Those paying tribute to Husky included songwriter Dallas Frazier, who performed Freckles and Polliwog Days, a song Frazier co-wrote with A.L. "Doodle" Owens that Husky released as a single in 1974; Ronnie McDowell with the Jordanaires and 87-year-old soprano Millie Kirkham, who performed Gone, Husky's number 1 hit from 1957, which included the Jordanaires and Kirkham on the original recording; Ricky Skaggs and the Whites, who performed Husky's crossover hit Wings of a Dove, a chart topper from 1960; and Webb Wilder, who performed I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere's Else), a number 6 hit from 1955 that represented Husky's comic side.

For Sherrill's induction, Hall of Fame member and retired BMI president Frances Preston opened with a joke about the producer's well-known trait of avoiding crowds and music industry parties. "There is no more miserable person in the whole city of Nashville, Tenn., than Billy Sherrill tonight," she said, looking at her longtime friend with a smile. "He hates notoriety."

Preston underscored that Sherrill's songwriting artistry and "bold, confident innovations" as a producer were all the more remarkable considering his shyness. "He was not one to claim the limelight for himself," Preston said. "Billy, you made stars of many people, but tonight you are the star."

After Preston gently placed the Medallion around Sherrill's neck, Sherrill looked out on the crowd and paused. "You had to have a lot of help to get here, and I had it," he noted, singling out longtime CBS Records executive Clive Davis, music publisher Al Gallico, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips and Muscle Shoals music pioneer Tom Stafford for helping him in his career. Stand by Your Man, a number 1 hit from 1968 recorded by Tammy Wynette and co-written (with Wynette) and produced by Sherrill; Ronnie Milsap, who performed The Most Beautiful Girl, a number 1 hit from 1973 recorded by Charlie Rich and co-written (with Norro Wilson) and produced by Sherrill; Craig Morgan, who performed Almost Persuaded, a number 1 hit in 1966 for David Houston, co-written (with Glenn Sutton) and produced by Sherrill; and Lee Ann Womack, who performed He Stopped Loving Her Today, a number 1 hit in 1980 produced by Sherrill.

]After an opening red-carpet reception, the invitation-only crowd of more than 250 celebrants heard the recorded version of Johnny Cash's 1959 hit Five Feet High and Rising to start the ceremony. As it finished, Young welcomed the crowd, saying, "In the wake of the great flood of 2010, it is especially heartwarming to have all of you here."

Live performances began with Vince Gill joining the Settles Connection choir in performing Oh Happy Day, backed by the Medallion All-Star Band, led by keyboardist and music director John Hobbs. Joining Hobbs were drummer Eddie Bayers, pedal steel player Paul Franklin, electric guitarist Steve Gibson, bassist Michael Rhodes, fiddler Deanie Richardson, background vocalists Dawn Sears and Jeff White, and acoustic guitarist Biff Watson.

Young addressed Husky's contributions to country music by touting the singer, comedian and actor as "always ahead of his time." He recalled how Husky helped establish the West Coast country music scene before moving to Nashville in the mid-1950s. There, with his hit song Gone, he played a role in creating the famed Nashville Sound, "a sound that gave rock and roll a run for its money and forever put Music City on the map," Young said.

In summarizing Sherrill's career, Young described how Sherrill revolutionized country music from the late 1960s into the 1980s with his lush productions of hits by George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Charlie Rich, Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette and others. "He changed Nashville's production style, became a controversial genius and created immortal country music," Young said. He also acknowledged Sherrill's role as one of the most successful songwriters of his day.

Young, in summarizing the evening, said, "Once again, great music brings us together. This ceremony is meant to help keep us together."

Other Hall of Fame members attending the ceremony to welcome the two new members were Bill Anderson, Harold Bradley, Jim Foglesong, Vince Gill, Sonny James, George Jones, members of the Jordanaires (Louis Nunley, Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker and Curtis Young), Barbara Mandrell, Charlie McCoy, Frances Preston, Charley Pride, Earl Scruggs, Mel Tillis, Jo Walker-Meador and Bud Wendell.

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