As you probably know by now, they announced the 2015 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame this morning, and I, personally, couldn’t be happier.
I’ve had both longtime business connections and personal friendships with all three of the newest members….the late Grady Martin, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Jim Ed Brown & The Browns…and I’m extremely pleased to see each of them finally receive the ultimate recognition our profession can bestow upon them.
Grady Martin played guitar on virtually every record I made during the 19-years that my music was produced by another Hall of Famer, the great Owen Bradley. Grady would have probably played on every single one of my tracks had he not been the most in-demand session player of his day. I know there were times when we tried to hire him for a session and he couldn’t make it because another artist, label, or producer got to him first.
Electric lead guitar, acoustical guitar, or whatever we asked him to play, he played with a touch that few have ever mastered. “Tasty” was the word often used to describe Grady’s picking. He tailored and often restrained his talent to carefully match and enhance the feeling the singer was trying to convey in whatever song he or she might be singing. He was idolized by other musicians, both here in the U.S. and around the world. A former guitar player in my band admired Grady and his playing so much that he named his firstborn son after him.
I go back to the very beginning of the Oak Ridge Boys’ move from gospel music into country. The last gospel recording they made was a song of mine called, “A Great Great Day,” and they’ve told me many times over the years that they couldn’t have wrapped up their gospel singing career with a song they or their fans loved any more. Years later, after their country career had reached legendary status, they cut another gospel-flavored song that I co-wrote called, “Jonah, Job, & Moses,” and won for me and Tia Sillers our first…and only…Dove Award. Later they joined me on a nostalgic look back at some of the songs and stars of yesteryear on a recording called “Gone Away.” What an honor it was to have their voices on a record alongside mine.
And, despite the fact that Joe Bonsall loves the Philadelphia Phillies almost as much as I love the Atlanta Braves, and we argue baseball constantly, what a joy it has been to call each of the Oaks my friend for over forty years.
I first met Jim Ed Brown and his sisters, Maxine and Bonnie, when they made a guest appearance on a show called the Georgia Jubilee in East Point, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. I was still in my teens and was one of the local entertainers on the Jubilee….along with some other wanta-be stars named Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, Roy Drusky, Jack Greene, Pete Drake, Chip Young, and more…and I recall how nice Jim Ed and the girls were to stand and talk with me backstage. I rode thousands of miles with them in the back seat of their big, black Cadillac in the years after I moved to Nashville, and had the thrill of listening to them harmonize on songs I wrote like “Alpha And Omega,” “The Tips Of My Fingers,” and several others.
Jim Ed and I worked together on the TV show, “You Can Be A Star,” where he was the host and I was a co-producer. And he was kind enough to put my and Victoria Banks’ song, “Lucky Enough,” onto his current CD, “In Style Again.”
I’ve only skimmed the surface here. I could write pages about each of the three newest members into the Hall Of Fame and be proud to do so. But for now I’ll simply say, “Thanks to each of you for allowing me to have been a small part of your incredible journeys. You have more than earned your lasting place among the legends.
“Congratulations and welcome.”