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Brown, Martin, Oak Ridge Boys to join Country Hall

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – The Country Music Association announced today that three new artists to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Jim Ed Brown and the Browns will be inducted in the Veteran's Era category. The late Grady Martin will be join as a Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980. The Oak Ridge Boys will be the 2015 inductee in the Modern Era category.

For more than 60 years, Brown has maintained a reputation as a country performer, radio and television host and recording artist. In fact, he is still active, having released a new album in January.

With the Browns, a trio he formed with sisters Maxine and Bonnie, as a solo artist, and as a duet singer, he charted from 1954 into the early 1980s.

Brown began singing with his sisters in school programs and at church functions when the siblings were teenagers in southwestern Arkansas. In 1952, Maxine entered Jim Ed in a talent contest organized by radio station KLRA in Little Rock, on the program Dutch O'Neal's Barnyard Frolic. Although a harmonica player took first prize, Jim Ed was asked to join the cast, and Maxine quickly followed. Within two years, the duo was singing on the regionally prominent Louisiana Hayride, broadcast by Shreveport radio outlet KWKH. Using a KWKH studio, Maxine and Jim Ed recorded their original song "Looking Back to See" for Fabor Records, in March 1954. That summer, the record was a Top Ten hit on Billboard's country charts. The Browns soon moved up to KWTO's Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Mo.

After Bonnie joined the act in 1955, the trio's rendition of "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow" also cracked Billboard's country top ten. The Browns signed to RCA Records, and during 1956-57, they scored Top Five hits with "I Take the Chance" and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing."

With professional and family responsibilities increasing, the three singers were thinking of quitting the music business when their recording of "The Three Bells," earlier a pop hit for French chanteuse Edith Piaf, hit the top of Billboard's country and pop charts. Crossover hits "Scarlet Ribbons (for her Hair)" and "The Old Lamplighter" soon followed.

The Browns made network TV appearances and went on overseas tours. They became members of the Grand Ole Opry in1963. During the Nashville Sound era (from 1956-70), they helped country broaden its domestic and international audience through increased broadcast exposure and record sales.

The Browns disbanded in 1967; Maxine and Bonnie eventually returned to their families in Arkansas to raise their young children, while Jim Ed stayed in Nashville to pursue a solo career. Even while recording with his sisters in the mid-1960s, he also made solo hits for RCA, including "A Taste of Heaven" (1966, billed as "Jim Edward Brown") and "Pop a Top" (1967) a number 3 country chart maker that further proved his versatility in handling a wide range of material. Brown's other Top Ten solo hits include "Morning" (1970, "Southern Loving (1973), "Sometime Sunshine" (1973-74), and "It's That Time of Night" (1974).

In 1976, he began recording duets with Helen Cornelius, and a year later they became CMA's Vocal Duo of the Year. Their best-known hits are "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You" (1976), "Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye" (1976), "Lying in Love with You" (1979), and "Fools" (1979).

In 1969, Brown hosted the syndicated television show The Country Place, which ran until 1970. He hosted six seasons of the syndicated country television show Nashville on the Road between its debut in 1975 and 1981. During the 1980s, he hosted two televised series on TNN: The Nashville Network - the talent show You Can Be a Star and Going Our Way, which featured Brown and his wife, Becky, touring the U.S. in an RV. In 2003 Brown began hosting the weekly syndicated radio program Country Music Greats Radio Show, as well as the short-form Country Music Greats Radio Minute. Both are carried by more than 300 radio stations.

Brown shared his own stories about his life in the country music industry. Maxine Brown published an autobiography, Looking Back to See: A Country Music Memoir, in 2005.

Martin, a guitarist, was a member of Nashville's original "A-Team" of studio musicians. Whether playing the fiddle or the guitar- electric, acoustic, or six-string electric bass - his versatility and creativity helped to make hits of many records from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Thomas Grady Martin was 15 when he became the fiddler for Nashville's Big Jeff & the Radio Playboys. In 1946, Martin briefly joined Paul Howard's western swing-oriented Arkansas Cotton Pickers as half of Howard's "twin guitar" ensemble, along with Robert "Jabbo" Arrington. After Howard left the Grand Ole Opry, Opry newcomer Little Jimmy Dickens hired several former Cotton Pickers as his original Country Boys band. Martin backed Dickens in the studio, though he seldom toured with Dickens.

Off the road, Martin began working recording sessions, and he led Red Foley's band on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee. Paying service to a strong business relationship with Decca Records A&R man Paul Cohen and his successor, Owen Bradley, Martin began to record instrumental singles and albums for Decca, including a country-jazz instrumental album as part of Decca's Country and Western Dance-O-Rama series. Martin made many more Decca recordings playing lead guitar for the Nashville pop band the Slew Foot Five.

Martin's played the leads on Johnny Horton's 1956 hit "Honky-Tonk Man" and the exquisite acoustic guitar fills on Marty Robbins's 1959 crossover smash "El Paso" and Lefty Frizzell's 1964 hit "Saginaw, Michigan." One of his most famous sessions involved an accidental preamplifier malfunction, when Martin played the distorted "fuzz" guitar solo on Robbins's 1960 hit "Don't Worry." Producers often designated Martin as "session leader," which meant that he directed the impromptu arrangements that became a trademark of Nashville recording and often became the de facto producer. Columbia A&R man Don Law used Martin in this capacity for years.

Martin continued to play sessions through the 1970s, working extensively with Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. His lead parts helped to make a hit of Jeanne Pruett's 1973 "Satin Sheets." Martin eventually returned to performing, first with Jerry Reed and then with Willie Nelson's band, with whom he worked from 1980 to 1994.

"He understood some things about music that nobody else understood," said Merle Haggard, who recorded with Martin on songs including "That's the Way Love Goes," "What Am I Gonna Do (with the Rest of My Life)," and "No Reason to Quit." "And when he'd put that down on your record, it was like a gift."

Martin died in 2001 at 72.

The Oak Ridge Boys were a key vocal group having their heyday in the 1970's and 1980's. From 1977 to 1987, with a lineup of Duane Allen, lead; William Lee Golden, baritone; Richard Sterban, bass; and Joe Bonsall, tenor - they notched 26 Top 10 hits (including 15 number 1s), sold millions of records, won numerous industry awards and scored Top 20 pop hits with "Elvira" and "Bobbie Sue."

Prior to 1977, the Oaks were a gospel act for more than 30 years. They began in 1945 as the Oak Ridge Quartet, a gospel ensemble within Wally Fowler's country group, the Georgia Clodhoppers. The original quartet consisted of Fowler, lead; Curly Kinsey, bass; Lon "Deacon" Freeman, baritone; and Johnny New, tenor. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in September 1945.

In 1962, the Oak Ridge Quartet became the Oak Ridge Boys. Golden joined the group in 1965, Allen in 1966, Sterban in 1972, and Bonsall in 1973. By then, they had won a dozen gospel music Dove Awards as well as a Grammy. They signed with Columbia Records to broaden their audience, but three albums of "message" music produced two singles that didn't make the country charts. Having removed themselves from the gospel world, the Oaks were struggling to make a dent in country.

While the Statler Brothers were popular covering similar territory, record executive Jim Foglesong was impressed with the Oak Ridge Boys' versatility and range, and he signed them to ABC/Dot (later absorbed by MCA) in 1977. The group's initial ABC/Dot single, the Sharon Vaughn-penned "Y'all Come Back Saloon," was a country radio hit that sparked a run including chart-toppers such as "I'll Be True to You," "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight," "American Made," "Fancy Free," I Guess It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes" and "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend."

In 1987, William Lee Golden was replaced by Steve Sanders, a former child star in gospel music who was, at the time, the rhythm guitarist in the Oaks' band. In 1996, Golden returned to the group, which still tours and records.

The artists will be inducted during a special Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater later this year. During the Medallion Ceremony, friends and colleagues pay tribute to each inductee through words and song. Each inductees' bronze plaque is unveiled that will be on display in the Museum's rotunda.

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