Judds Charles, Bayers, Drake join Country Music Hall of Fame
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Judds Charles, Bayers, Drake join Country Music Hall of Fame

Monday, August 16, 2021 – The Judds, Ray Charles, drummer Eddie Bayers, pedal steel player Pete Drake and will be entering the Country Music Hall of Fame, it was announced today.

Bayers and Drake tied and will both be inducted in the "Recording and/or Touring Musician" category, which is awarded every third year in rotation with the "Non-Performer" and "Songwriter" categories. Charles will be inducted in the "Veterans Era Artist" category and The Judds will be inducted in the "Modern Era Artist" category.

The Judds – mother Naomi and daughter Wynonna – had a longstanding career as a successful family duo. They revived the popularity of acoustic sounds in country music.

"It's not like it's really about us. It's about some other people who had the luck," said Naomi.

As a daughter, it's about 20 years about damn time," That's what everyone has said including relatives. As an artist, it's wonderful to be included in the family of country. As a believer, I thank God for my gift.

"I'm so moved," said Naomi. "Did it really happen? Did we really knew what we were doing?"

Wynonna mouthed, "I knew," she said jokingly.

"I was just trying to survive and making my mom proud," said Wynonna. "I'm just grateful. I'm just grateful I survived 38 years."

"To me the highlights were personal," she said. "I'm just here to celebrate because I know it's going really fast" as she snapped her fingers. Judd also was thankful to have a relationship with her mother due to performing together.

The late Ray Charles will be inducted as a member of the veterans area section. He began his career in soul, but recorded three albums in country music, starting with "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music " in 1962. That would be the first of three albums of country that Charles would release. The album yielded hit singles with chart topper "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "You Don't Know Me." He released a second volume later that same year. He died of liver failure in 2004 at 73.

"I'd like to thank everyone who voted to induct Ray Charles into the Country Music Hall of Fame," says Valerie Ervin, Ray Charles Foundation President. "Needless to say, Ray Charles loved Country Music. As a matter of fact, he risked a lot in 1962 when he decided to record Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. I cannot express enough how happy and honored Ray Charles would be at this moment in time, as I am for him. Congratulations to all the fellow inductees and as Ray Charles would say, 'That is so nice.'"

"So many modern country artists have been influenced by Ray Charles,' said McEntire.

Bayers, a native of Maryland, has been a longstanding drummer in Nashville, one of the A-list session players.

Bayers fell in love with music at an early age, though drums were not his first instrument. He initially studied classical piano and took a job playing organ in a rock band on the Jersey Shore. He played both keyboards and drums for a while in a New Jersey show band called Big Bear Revue before accepting an offer to move to Las Vegas. There he reconnected with a friend from Nashville, Brent Maher, who would be influential in his career when both eventually landed back in Music City. 

First, though, Bayers moved to California's Bay Area, playing with gospel musicians Edwin and Walter Hawkins and falling in with a group of musicians that included the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Creedence Clearwater Revival's Tom Fogerty and Doug Clifford. During that time, he sang on solo albums by Fogerty and Clifford, as well as one from Jefferson Airplane members Paul Kantner and Grace Slick. 

Seeking more opportunities as a professional musician, Bayers moved to Nashville in 1974, living for a while in his car. He auditioned for a spot as a keyboard player at the Carousel Club in Printer's Alley and wound up playing in a quartet with drummer Larrie Londin, who had played on many Motown Records sessions before settling in Nashville. Under Londin's mentorship, Bayers transitioned from keyboards to drums, the Carousel gig sustaining him as he developed his drumming skills. 

Bayers has played on releases from Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, George Jones, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Tammy Wynette and Trisha Yearwood. Beyond country, he has recorded with The Beach Boys, John Fogerty, Mark Knopfler, Richard Marx, Aaron Neville, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger and Steve Winwood. 

He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry's House Band since 2003 and received a 2004 GRAMMY nomination as part of The Notorious Cherry Bombs. He is also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame's Medallion All-Star Band. 

Bayers was named the Academy of Country Music's top drummer 14 times between 1991 and 2010, including an 11-year stretch where he won every year. The Country Music Association has nominated him for Musician of the Year 10 times. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honored him as one of its "Nashville Cats" in 2010. He was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Reba McEntire, who introduced the nominees, described Bayers as "a drummer of record in Nashville for nearly 50 years...laying down the groove beyond some 300 Platinum and Gold records."

Bayers will join as the first drummer in the hall. "My heartfelt thanks to those who voted for me," says Bayers. "I've been blessed to be a recording musician for 58 years, and it continues. I've been in the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Band for 18 years, and it continues. I've been in the Opry Band for 18 years, and it continues. Now I'm blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which will be everlasting."

Drake becomes the first pedal steel player indicted. He played on Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

His widow, Rose Drake, said, "I just think it's so wonderful. It's so wonderful. Pete would be so ecstatic. He was the most previous creative that I knew and I still know. He loved his work. He even dreamed licks."

Drake was born Roddis Franklin Drake in Augusta, Ga., on Oct. 8, 1932. Brothers Bill and Jack were also musicians, playing together as the Drake Brothers; later, Jack played bass for Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours. Pete's real inspiration came from watching Jerry Byrd play lap steel on the Grand Ole Opry. Drake went back to Georgia and bought a single-neck Supro lap steel for $39 at a pawnshop. As he heard and saw players like Leon McAuliffe adding pedals and necks, he built his own instrument, one that had four necks and a single pedal. He also formed a band in Atlanta called Sons of the South, which counted Jerry Reed, Roger Miller, Jack Greene, Doug Kershaw and Joe South among its members at one point or another. 

In 1959, Drake moved to Nashville with the goal of playing on the Opry, as his hero Byrd had. He backed Don Gibson, Marty Robbins and Carl and Pearl Butler, but he didn't like life on the road, so he decided to stay in Nashville and try to become a session musician. 

He played on Bob Dylan's "John Wesley Harding," recorded in Nashville in 1967, as well as on Dylan's subsequent albums, "Nashville Skyline" and "Self Portrait." The Dylan recordings led to an invitation from George Harrison to fly to London and play on sessions for his "All Things Must Pass" album. At those sessions, Drake met a 20-year-old Peter Frampton and demonstrated his talk box for the young guitarist (Frampton would take the effect to multi-Platinum heights a few years later on records like "Show Me The Way" and "Do You Feel Like We Do"). Drake also invited Ringo Starr to Nashville and, within a matter of days, was producing Starr's "Beaucoups of Blues" album with country musicians, marking the first time a Beatle had recorded in the United States. 

Drake playing on records by artists including Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Ronnie Milsap, the Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, The Statler Brothers, Hank Williams Jr. and Ray Charles. During his lifetime, Drake played on 118 Gold and Platinum albums. He died in 1988.

The four will be inducted formally at a date to be determined. The induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020, which includes Dean Dillon, Marty Stuart and Hank Williams Jr., is scheduled for this November, pending public health guidance and the state of the pandemic.

The hall currently has 142 members.

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