Monday, June 30, 2008
– Tom T. Hall and the Statler Brothers joined the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday in a three-hour ceremony filled with music and memories.
"A lot of my old pals and buddies are here tonight, and they asked me if I had prepared a speech," Hall said after accepting his medallion from longtime friend and fellow Hall of Fame member Ralph Emery. "I said, 'No, I don't have to make a speech. I'm in the Country Music Hall of Fame.' Why should I go to work?"
Don Reid recalled the Statlers' visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on the day of the public announcement of their inductions. "They took us into the rotunda, and you walk in, and here are all of these plaques of all the people who have gone before us," he said. "I'm standing there wide-eyed, and someone walks up behind me and says, 'Don, here's where the Statlers' plaque will go.' I thought I had seen it all in my life. But I felt like a little Amish boy who had wandered into a Circuit City."
Kyle Young, director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, explained that Hall and the Statler Brothers join Emmylou Harris and the late Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman as 2008 inductees. Harris and Stoneman were welcomed into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony on April 27.
"As a class, the 2008 Hall of Fame inductees represent a historical spectrum encompassing the earliest days of commercial country music recordings, the modern evolution of the country gospel quartet tradition, the arrival of more complex themes and social consciousness in country music songs, and the revival of a belief in the integrity of country music's root forms that transcended the genre in a way that few others have matched," Young said. "That's a pretty complete spectrum. These artists have created a rich and enduring tapestry of music that will always recount the story of our homeland and its people over a period of almost 100 years."
Hall penned such number one hits as "A Week in a Country Jail," "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died" and "(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine" - as well as hits he wrote for others, including Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley P.T.A." and Bobby Bare's "Margie's at the Lincoln Park Inn."
The Statler Brothers - Harold Reid, Don Reid, Phil Balsley, the late Lew DeWitt, and his replacement, Jimmy Fortune - brought four-part vocal harmonies of gospel quartets into the country music charts. Like Hall, their contemporary and Mercury Records label mate, the Statlers also moved beyond conventional country music topics, as illustrated in the urban imagery of their debut 1965 hit, "Flowers on the Wall," and in the warm, "Happy Days"-era nostalgia of "Do You Remember These?" and "The Class of '57."
Those honoring Hall with performances of his songs included Bobby Bare, who sang "How I Got to Memphis," a Hall song he took to number 3 on the Billboard charts in 1970; Heather Berry and Tony Mabe, a North Carolina folk-music duo who received a standing ovation for "Can You Hear Me Now," a recent song written for them by Tom T. and his wife, Dixie Hall; and bluegrass singer Michelle Nixon, who offered a spirited "Harper Valley P.T.A.," which she has recorded for an upcoming album.
"I probably know Tom T. Hall better than anybody except (his wife) Dixie," Bare said. "We've been friends for over 45 years. That's a long time." Bare went on to say, "Tom T. is one of a kind. He writes songs and tells stories about people that have the uncanny ability to capture the spirit of people he is writing about. That doesn't come by very often."
The program began with Vince Gill, the president of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum board, performing the gospel classic "Rock of Ages" with his wife, Amy Grant, sharing lead vocals, and the Jordanaires on harmony vocals. The evening ended, as always, with new and old Hall of Fame members singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Among the Country Music Hall of Fame members present to welcome the newcomers were Harold Bradley, Little Jimmie Dickens, Jim Foglesong, Sonny James, Louis Nunley, Gordon Stoker and Ray Walker of the Jordanaires, Earl Scruggs and Jo Walker-Meador.