This Sunday the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville will correct a grievous oversight when it inducts the late Jack Clement, who wrote an early hit for Johnny Cash ("Ballad of a Teenage Queen"), effectively desegregated country music by adopting Charley Pride as a protege, and produced artists as stylistically far-flung as George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Crystal Gayle and U2. "Cowboy Jack" passed away in August at age 82, one of country music's most prolific and beloved figures. "To me Jack will always be the embodiment of the Nashville songwriter's love of the song, regardless of who the writer was," his friend Kris Kristofferson said.
Happily, the Hall will also induct Houston's own Kenny Rogers -- known to fans of Seinfeld and succulent slow-cooked poultry as the Roaster -- who is currently enjoying a late-career bump with new album You Can't Make Old Friends and freshly published first novel, What Are the Chances. "Detroit City" and "Tequila Sheila" singer Bobby Bare Sr. rounds out the Hall's Class of 2013, three men who... well, probably should have been in there a long time ago.
Unlike, say, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the country folks won't let just anybody in there. Holding the latch to its velvet rope is the CMA, who according to the Hall's Web site, selects inductees "from an anonymous panel of industry leaders chosen by the CMA." Fair enough, we suppose. The Hall inducted Garth Brooks last year, which would make its cutoff date for eligibility at least 1989, when his self-titled debut was released. That would make these ten artists' inductions already overdue.
David Allan Coe Over our dead bodies, no doubt says the Hall. Still, Coe's biker-country could be profane (Penitentiary Blues) or sentimental ("The Ride"), but the long-haired redneck is never anything less than real. His drinkin' and cheatin' songs in the '70s and '80s set standards that latter-day "outlaws" like Eric Church still wish they could match.
Johnny Horton Killed on his way home from a November 1960 gig in Austin, Johnny Horton's reputation may have suffered because people tend to write off his two huge hits, "The Battle of New Orleans" and "North to Alaska," as historical novelties. But through most of the '50s, he was as consistent a hitmaker as there was with the rockabilly-inflected "I'm Comin' Home" and "The First Train Heading South," not to mention defining "Honky Tonk Man" long before Dwight Yoakam.
Stonewall Jackson An all but forgotten contemporary of Roger Miller, Porter Wagoner and Faron Young, North Carolina-born Jackson had many of his biggest successes with gospel-influenced songs like "Waterloo" and "Washed My Hands In Muddy Water." But just as much, the prime early-'60s honky-tonk of "Come On Home and Have Your Next Affair With Me," among others, is ripe for rediscovery.
Wanda Jackson The "Queen of Rockabilly" known for her 1960 hit "Let's Have a Party," Jackson flipped to country -- never that much of a stretch for the Oklahoma native -- not long after and sent dozens of singles into the country charts throughout the '60s, including "In the Middle of a Heartache" to No. 6 in 1962. Much later, Jack White came along and let her unleash Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel #6" to close out 2011 comeback album The Party Ain't Over.
Lyle Lovett True, Lyle Lovett is a long shot for the Hall of Fame -- he's never sold all that many records, and in more than 25 years has shown almost zero interest in abiding by most Nashville business practices. All that leaves him is four Grammys, two in country categories, and a "Stand By Your Man" that may surpass even Tammy Wynette's.
Johnny Paycheck Another bona fide outlaw with a rap sheet to match Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck deserves consideration for his work as a sideman long before hits like "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets" -- he and Willie Nelson were once bandmates in Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys. Besides the oft-covered "Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised," Paycheck gave country music one of the best songs ever set in Houston with "Colorado Kool-Aid," too.
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Linda Ronstadt Best known for leaving a trail of broken hearts in the early-'70s L.A. country-rock scene that spawned Jackson Browne and the Eagles (once more or less her backing band), Ronstadt also sent several singles into the country charts in the '70s and '80s. Worth inducting for her 1977 renditon of "Blue Bayou" alone, but we've always preferred '74's "Silver Threads and Golden Needles."
Randy Travis Poor Randy Travis has had a rough couple of years. After nearly dying in July, this month Travis finally returned home from the hospital to his north Texas ranch, perhaps to a court date or two. But with a new album out (Influence Vol. 1: The Man I Am) and loads of goodwill from his recent difficulties, you gotta figure he gets in soon.
Tanya Tucker Debuting precociously, if not scandalously at age 13 with "Delta Dawn" and landing on the cover of Rolling Stone after rock and rolling plenty on 1978's T.N.T., Tanya Tucker was one of Nashville's top female stars for two solid decades. She'll be around Dosey Doe soon enough, with a string of hits ("Texas When I Die," "Two Sparrows In a Hurricane") as long as your arm.
Dwight Yoakam Along with Randy Travis, if there's any justice in this world the Hall will come knocking on Dwight Yoakam's door soon. He may have had his differences with Nashville over the years, but whether saluting an idol on 2008's Dwight Sings Buck or making another excellent album in last year's 3 Pears, Yoakam has made arguably the finest country music of the past quarter-century, with minimal dropoff in quality. Sooner or later, someone will notice.
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