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Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Awards Show 2019

 

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Any show at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville is an experience.  The stunning architecture and the sheer beauty of the building is enough of a distraction before the performance has begun, but there was a distinct difference last night.  It was a mounting excitement for one of Music City’s biggest nights, and the most interesting thing about that is, it was a big night that should have been happening for decades, but it hasn’t.  

The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum first opened its doors in 2006, the brainchild of songwriter Joe Chambers and his wife Linda.  So, if you do the math, that’s not long, and if you subtract four more years thanks to the museum being relocated, that’s definitely not long.  The great news is Chambers saw a need and he stepped up and did something about it.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

I really have to tell you that of all the events I’ve covered for Think Country, this was the one that got my engines running in a huge way.  My heart beats extra strong for songwriters and musicians, especially musicians, who I often see at the bottom of the music industry totem pole.  Not that they should be there, because without them, there would be no records or tours. They are the inner workings of the entire machine. We need these people.  They get a mention on the liner notes (sometimes) and many artists give them a quick introduction during a show (often way too fast for me to catch their names), but in general, they’re the unheralded heroes that create the real magic.  

Those arena shows would be a bit dull with your favorite artist and an acoustic guitar for two full hours.  Our ears expect more than that, but our eyes are often drawn to the main attraction. Honestly, these musicians know that’s the way it is and they’re a humble breed.  They come to play because they love it and that’s what they do, but it sure would be cool if we all showed them a little more love every now and then. That’s the power of the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, and that’s what last night was all about.  I was in my element. The show ran over three hours and I wasn’t bored for one second. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event that won’t happen again. At least not with the same inductees or performers. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been there.   

A large video screen served as a backdrop to the main stage with two smaller screens on either side.  This year’s inductees sat together on the stage and the remainder of the wide expanse served as space for plenty of musicians to play on.  A house band consisting of some of Nashville’s finest session players anchored the ship all night while guests jumped in here and there as the show went on.  It was glorious.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Our emcee for the evening was the incredible Paul Shaffer.  You might know him best as the longtime bandleader from the David Letterman Show, but he’s done so much more and he’s a funny guy, choosing to kick things off with humor, but first, there was danger afoot.  A video graphic of dark skies and lightning, then sounds of howling wolves. Just when you thought Halloween may have arrived early, all of that went away and the menacing weather was replaced with a graphic of psychedelic splatters and one of rock’s most familiar songs started to fill your ears.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Right when “Hush” really got rolling, it suddenly stopped.  Just like that. Next thing we heard was Shaffer saying things like, “the organ stopped, let’s see if the Leslie is plugged in,” and “checking all the leads,” and before you knew it, they were back in business.  Obviously, there was no real problem, it was just Shaffer’s brand of comedy and a great way to introduce the Leslie speaker, something Shaffer has loved ever since he first learned about it when he heard Felix Cavaliere playing a Hammond organ with The Rascals many years ago.  

Video courtesy of CARNABYSTREET and YouTube

What a way to open a show!  I may write for a country website, but my music-loving roots are firmly planted in rock and roll.  “Hush” was composed by Joe South (who was inducted posthumously last night), and was recorded and released by the rock band Deep Purple in 1968.  Shaffer showed the audience just how cool a Hammond organ can be, while the house band gave everyone their first glimpse at their collective skill sets.  Mike Farris rocked out the lead vocals.   

He’s a Georgia boy that’s won the hearts of Nashville and the world for his own musicianship and the group of talented people he’s put together as his band.  He’s Zac Brown and he was there to present the Industry Icon Award to Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars. Taylor founded Taylor Guitars in 1974, along with his partner Kurt Listug.  Taylor Guitars are played by a laundry list of artists including, Taylor Swift, Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz and the late Prince also played them.  

Why play a Taylor?  They sound great, of course.  Bob Taylor has been innovative in looking for different woods to create unique and better sounds, but what really sets Taylor apart is their dedication not only to producing world-class instruments, but protecting our environment for future generations.  Taylor acknowledges it takes trees to make guitars, but that doesn’t mean those trees shouldn’t be replaced, even if it will take 50 years for the trees to mature. “It might take fifty years until that tree is ready, but fifty years is going to go by anyway, why not plant a tree?” Taylor asked the audience last night at the Schemerhorn.  He’s right. Why not? This is the type of forward thinking that companies need to have in order to be successful. It’s selfish not to replace our natural resources simply because we won’t live to see them come to fruition. Future generations depend on all of us. Taylor Guitars has the vision and they’ve had it for a long time.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Taylor had one final quote which solidified my impression of him as a person.  “People ask me what the secret to Taylor Guitar’s success is. The secret of Taylor is my partner, Kurt Listug.  I couldn’t ask for a better business partner.” Someone who has maintained a selfless, humble attitude, while constantly striving to deliver a quality product really deserves to be a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame.  

Zac Brown then came back out to play his song “Colder Weather” on one of those amazing Taylor Guitars and yes, they really do sound good.  There’s a richness that grabs on to the acoustics of the room in a very special way. Do yourself a favor if you’re looking into a new guitar and really check out the Taylors.  I listened extra close last night. Of course, Zac Brown is masterful in his playing and “Colder Weather” is such a serene song, everything fit together perfectly.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Paul Shaffer could have killed the entire three-hour show introducing the next presenter.  For Nashville residents, all he needed to mention was “Monday night” and “The Time Jumpers” and we had a clue he was talking about country superstar, Vince Gill, but of course, he went on with a list of awards a mile long as well.  Gill was there to induct a group of musicians known as “The Players” for the Studio Musicians Award.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

“The Players” are a group of session and touring musicians that have done and seen it all.  They’ve played on so many hit records and played with so many legendary artists, they probably chose the name of their group wisely.  Sweet and simple. They’ve played. Everything. “The Players”. “The Players” were formed in 2002 by drummer Eddie Bayers, and it might be easier just to say who Bayers hasn’t worked with, but to settle your curiosity, he’s played with The Beach Boys, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Peter Frampton and Sting to name a few.  Oh, and just as a side note, he came to Nashville to play keys. He took up drumming after he was hired to play keyboards, which might prove he does more than one thing well.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

If you’ve ever watched the CMA Awards, for instance, you’ve probably heard his name.  He’s Paul Franklin, and he’s been nominated for CMA Musician of the Year so many times you can pretty much place a safe bet he’ll be nominated every year.  He’s a multi-instrumentalist most known for playing steel guitar. He is also known for developing the Pedalbro, a dobro with pedals, which was first put into use on Randy Travis’s song, “Forever and Ever, Amen”.  Franklin is one of Nashville’s most celebrated musicians, having played extensively with Barbara Mandrell and Vince Gill and worked with so many others, including Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed and Dire Straits.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

John Hobbs is an A-list keys player who had a former life working in Los Angeles, working with pop singer Frankie Laine, touring with Kenny Rogers & The First Edition and playing TV theme songs for shows like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.  Eventually though, many of his L.A. musician friends were moving to Nashville and that’s where Hobbs wanted to be too.  He likes the sense of community here. Apparently, Music City likes him just as much. The work hasn’t dried up. He’s since worked with Brooks & Dunn, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Deana Carter and the list continues.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Brent Mason, who I had about a minute to chat with after the Medallion Ceremony, is the guitar player in “The Players”.  He is known as one of the most-recorded guitarists in history. He has played on well over a thousand albums so far and he’s not stopping.  He’s one of the most sought-after session guitarists anywhere. If you’ve heard of almost anyone ever mentioned on country radio in the last couple of decades, chances are, Mason’s played on their records, but for kicks, I’ll give you a few names from his list of credits that scrolls for days and days.  Marty Stuart, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Waylon Jennings, Darius Rucker, Steve Wariner, Tim McGraw, Lorrie Morgan, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Shania Twain and Faith Hill. That’s a very, very short list. One could contract carpal tunnel writing this man’s resume.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

I did have about a minute to ask Mason one question that burned in my brain.  I generally try and ask “that” question. The one that nobody else thinks of. In this case, I was researching all of these inductees a few days ahead of the show, and when I looked at Mason’s website and his bio, naturally, I was impressed.  He’s a really busy guy, but what struck me as amazing, if not impossible, is one of the menu options on his website. “Skype Lessons”. What? How? When? I know a lot of musicians are doing this, but this guy? As it turns out, yes, even this guy.  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Mason offers Skype lessons in between sessions and he enjoys it.  “I can do it in my pajama pants,” he said with a smile. Definitely a benefit, but let’s be clear, these aren’t Skype lessons for just anyone.  “I don’t take beginners. I work with intermediate and up. Rock stars, people from other countries who are looking to hone their craft.” He said he really enjoys it, especially when he and the person on the other end of the computer can actually start to do a little jamming together.  If you’re already a seasoned guitarist just looking to up your game with one of the very best in the world, Brent Mason via Skype might be your answer. After all, he was just inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame, what more do you need? Except maybe that carpal tunnel-inducing list of credits.  Google really is your friend.

Bassist Michael Rhodes rounds out “The Players”.  Rhodes has played with artists from every genre and again, it’s a long list and it bounces all over from country to rock to pop to blues to Americana and back, making it glow all the brighter.  How’s this for a list of cool kids to say you’ve done a few things with? J.J. Cale, Restless Heart, Randy Travis, Alabama, Alan Jackson, Etta James, Steve Wariner, The Highwaymen, Brian Wilson, Merle Haggard, Stevie Nicks, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Joe Bonamassa, Lady Antebellum, Emmylou Harris and Carrie Underwood.  I’d say he’s earned his spot in “The Players” and the Musicians Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Now that you know who “The Players” are and a little of what they’ve accomplished, here’s what they did last night.  They played with one of the best voices in country music, Ronnie Dunn. I thought I’d heard Dunn sing before, but I can now say you haven’t heard Ronnie Dunn until you’ve heard him sing in the Schermerhorn.  Wow. The voice that’s the perfect blend of pure masculinity mixed with soft leather was the most smokin’ thing all night when he sang “You Don’t Know Me”. Coupled with Brent Mason’s brief guitar solo, this was all-consuming.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Vince Gill took a turn singing with “The Players” too.  “I’ve played many times with these guys,” he said. He did two songs, including “Whenever You Come Around”.  There’s a reason Gill is one of the world’s most popular artists. It’s like his heart is doing the singing. He never comes across as over-the-top to me.  He doesn’t need to do that. His simple delivery is what works. Backed up by talented musicians he’s familiar with made all the difference. It was a relaxed feeling that made it better.  Not that “comfort zone” where things get sloppy. The other “comfort zone”, where there’s a synergy.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

There was word that Kix Brooks was in the house and that was no rumor.  He joined Ronnie Dunn and “The Players” on stage to do a fun version of “Rock My World (Little Country Girl)”, with Brooks on harmonica and Dunn on electric guitar.  Always good to see these guys together again. Immediately following this song, Vince Gill officially welcomed “The Players” into the Musicians Hall of Fame. They came out, thanked everyone, and as I scrawled out in my notes, they were, individually, and as a group, especially grateful.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Our emcee, Paul Shaffer returned to talk a bit about “Strat slinger, Dick Dale”, the man who created Surf Music.  It may have been Dale who created the genre, but it was a certain sound of a rolling drum that created one of the most-recognized pop songs ever.  Yes, it technically is a surf song, but I think we can all agree it’s since crossed over that line millions of times. That song is “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris, and the story behind it is one for the ages.  

I was so lucky to chat with Michael Connolly, the brother of Pat Connolly, the original bassist for The Surfaris, who was there to accept the award for his brother.  Michael was at the recording of “Wipe Out” and has always known other band members, so he has great memories about this “true rags to riches story,” as he calls it. After hearing it, I had to agree, it probably is the Cinderella story of our time as far as hit singles go.  Even the most experienced surfer in the world never could have handled the monster wave that hit a bunch of teenage garage musicians from Southern California back in the early 1960’s.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

Here is a direct transcription of my conversation with Michael Connolly, brother of Pat Connolly, original bass player with The Surfaris:

Think Country:  Hi, I’m Patti with Think Country.

Michael Connolly:  Hi, I’m Michael.

(We talked some about Irish heritage and it morphed into some fun craziness about our various ethnic backgrounds and the “traits” we’ve inherited.  I’ll spare you that portion.)

TC:  You must have heard “Wipe Out” a ton over the years?

MC:  I was there when they recorded it.  I’ll give you a quick little story. There’s a little town in Southern California called Glendora.  It’s called The Garden Spot of the Foothills. In 1961, lightning struck and The Surfaris were hatched, so to speak.  They weren’t the caliber of these musicians (gesturing toward all the musicians mingling around the room). They were kids who were fifteen and sixteen-years old that played teen clubs.  The drummer, Ron Wilson, had a dream about this surfer Joe who was my brother. He had a dream about my oldest brother Joe, who was “Surfer Joe”, and they were gonna record it. There was a guy in town.  They didn’t know anything, they just had this original song. There were no labels, none of that stuff.

TC:  Okay.

MC:  So, all the parents got together with all the kids and we were gonna go to a recording studio.  Now, the guy who was going to, like produce it, I guess, they didn’t really have producers in Glendora, California, The Garden Spot of the Foothills…

TC:  No, they had flowers.

MC:  Right.  So, that guy needed a hundred and fifty dollars.  So, Bob Berryhill, who is the original guitar player, his mom wrote a check for a hundred and fifty dollars.  We went to the recording studio, now, I’m only like in the fifth grade…

TC:  How old was your brother at this time?

MC:  He was sixteen.

TC:  So, he was like a big kid?

MC:  To me, yeah.  Our older brother was like, eighteen, woo!  

TC:  Wow, he was an adult!

MC:  But people in the band were like fifteen years old.  So, they recorded “Surfer Joe” and then the engineer said, “Well, now we need a B-side.”  They’re going, “B-side? What’s a B-side?” Nobody knew. It wasn’t like it is now. This is truly like a rags to riches story, and there’s so many more elements to it.  So, the drummer was the drummer for the local high school band, so he started playing a cadence, and then the guitar player, Jim Fuller started playing (he hummed the guitar riff).  Then they just said, “Well, let’s just put a break in it with the drums.” That’s how that song was created. The guy, Dale Smallin, who did the voice, he used to do voices for Hanna-Barbera, the cartoon company, he did that voice (he then did his best “Wipe Out” voice from the song).

MC:  My brother Pat went out and got a piece of plywood and broke it and that’s where they got that sound from.  They made that song up in the studio. Now, they have a record. KFWB, Gene Weed, Channel 98 on Sundays would have local band stuff.  The surf stuff was just starting to come out. The Surfaris song played and everyone’s family kept calling and calling. This is the honest to God’s truth, I bet you I called a hundred times myself making up different voices.  The phones were lightin’ up. They put it in rotation. It got out, it took off and two months later they were on the road with The Beach Boys.

TC:  Oh, my goodness!  

MC:  It truly is a rags to riches story.  It’s not a ten year overnight sensation, it’s not a (in a whiny voice) “we did the session and the producer made us change this, then the label dropped us” thing, there was none of that.  It was magic. It’s absolutely one of those things that everybody dreams about.

TC:  It really is, and everybody knows that song.  I don’t care if you were born back then or if you were born ten years ago, you know that song.

MC:  Yeah, and I couldn’t be any prouder of my brother to have been a part of that.  Nobody ever would have guessed that something like this would have happened. Nobody ever would have guessed that this song would have went anywhere.  It changed the world.

TC:  How exciting.

MC:  My brother still gets royalties from it.

TC:  And always will.

MC:  That’s right, because it’s summertime somewhere always.

TC:  In California it is.

MC:  It is, that’s true, and you know, it is in a whole lot of the rest of the world, but there’s a whole lot more to the story and I really think someone should pick that up and make a movie out of it or something.

TC:  You’re right!  You’re not kidding, that would make a great movie!

MC:  There’s very few rags to riches stories like that with no labels involved.  When a label finally got involved there were lawsuits, that’s when all the treachery happened.

TC:  That beginning though, that’s a Cinderella story.

MC:  Correctly put, Cinderella story.  I bet there’s just a handful of bands in the world that that’s happened to, where it wasn’t label-induced.

TC:  That’s the coolest story ever.  Thanks so much for sharing it with us Michael.  

MC:  You’re welcome.  It’s been a pleasure!

 

There you have it.  That, my friends, is the story of “Wipe Out”, and that is why The Surfaris brought that B-side, made on-the-fly, in the studio, to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.  I bet you’ll never hear that song the same again for the rest of your life. I know I won’t.  

Bob Berryhill, founding member of The Surfaris, along with his wife and sons joining him, played “Wipe Out” at the Schermerhorn and it was about as much fun as you can probably imagine it was.  Surf music never gets old, and it should be noted that “Wipe Out” is the first instrumental song to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Oh, and by the way, if you’re looking for Berryhill in the near future, you might want to set your GPS for Nashville.  He and his wife are making the move to Music City soon. Allow me to be among the first to welcome them.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

I loved what Paul Shaffer said next so much that I wrote it down and circled it.  “Nashville is a town that respects a hit record.” Don’t you love that? Just be sure to properly credit Paul Shaffer, he said it first, not me.  He said those words as he was gearing up to introduce the next presenter, and both the presenter and the inductee were big deals. He found just the right words.  I wish I had him here with me when I’m struggling. Those were golden.

Image courtesy of Patti McClintic

Shaffer described the presenter as a protégéé of the late Nashville producer Owen Bradley.  It didn’t take long to figure out who he meant as soon as he mentioned she was only eleven-years old and was nicknamed “Little Miss Dynamite”.  Clearly, he was talking about Brenda Lee. She may be small in stature, but she certainly always made up for it with her bigger-than-life voice and her keen sense of humor.  

Last night, Lee took the podium and aside from her usual joke about being short, she was mostly emotional.  “At ten-years old, I fell in love with Owen Bradley. He took a chance on me. I worked with him until 1998.  He was like my Daddy. Jerry was like my brother. He was the most generous, giving person in my life. I wish you all could have known my Owen.”  Lee was there to posthumously induct Owen Bradley into the Musicians Hall of Fame as Producer for 2019.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Bradley was a visionary producer who so many of country music’s legendary artists owe their careers to.  Greats like Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Accepting the award for Owen Bradley was his grandson, Clay Bradley, “that I feel like I helped raise,” remarked Lee.  Clay Bradley called his late grandfather “the musician’s musician”, and if anyone wants to see what pure joy looks like, just look for a photo of Owen Bradley seated at a piano. That’s where he was happiest.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo courtesy of murfreesboropost.com

To honor the memory of Owen Bradley and one of the most beloved songs ever recorded, singer Mandy Barnett came out to sing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”.  Barnett, if you’re unfamiliar, was the first star of the musical, Always…Patsy Cline at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.  She dazzled audiences playing the lead role and there’s no question, she was the right person for that job.  I’ve heard singers cover this song before, some even quite good, but after hearing Barnett’s version, I’m wrecked.  It’s possible that Barnett sings “Crazy” at least as good as Cline’s original, if not better, because she’s singing it live and it sounds to me as if I’m listening to the recording, that’s saying something.  Spectacular. 

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

His given name is Kevin Moore, but most people just know him as Keb’ Mo’.  He emerged to induct a seriously talented group of musicians known as the Muscle Shoals Horns.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Harrison Calloway, a trumpet player, thought to be the “father” of the Muscle Shoals Horns, co-founded the group with baritone saxophone player, Ronnie Eades in 1967 when both were students at Tennessee State University.  Sadly, Calloway passed away in 2016, so he was inducted posthumously. Trombone player, Charles Rose and Harvey Thompson on saxophone and flute round out the group. Together, they played on 300 albums, recording at the Original FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, working with artists including B.B. King, Elton John and Bob Dylan.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Charles Rose lists his individual credits on iconic hits like Delbert McClinton’s “Giving it Up for Your Love”, Carl Carlton’s “Everlasting Love” and “Elvira” by The Oak Ridge Boys.  Rose and Calloway toured with Elton John, and Calloway played with John Lennon at his last live performance.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

When the group came up to accept their awards, they each individually said a few words.  Sometimes, more than once. 

Ronnie Eades:  “My first time as a studio musician we ended up with a hit record.  It was ‘I’m Your Puppet’ by James & Bobby Purify.”

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Harvey Thompson:  “I played with Jimi Hendrix, and it was an experience.”

Charles Rose:  “(At one point) I started playing Madison Square Garden shows with Etta James and John Lennon.  Whenever anyone asks me about that, I like to tell them I started at the top.”

Ronnie Eades:  “When people ask me things like, ‘What songs did you play on?’ I say, ‘How do I know?  Too many to count!’” 

Harvey Thompson:  “I just want to say thank you.  I’m Harvey Thompson from Tuscaloosa.” 

 Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Never let it be said that Tuscaloosa, Alabama wasn’t well-represented at the 2019 Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Awards Show in Nashville.  Harvey Thompson made sure of that. I know it because I was there. That’s a man everyone needs on their team.

Tuscaloosa wasn’t the only thing making its mark on Nashville last night.  Muscle Shoals in general was getting a double shot of inductions with two in a row.  Engineer Billy Sherrill took the podium to introduce the Original FAME Studio Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section next.  Just like the other groups of musicians inducted earlier in the show, here were people that have played it all.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

David Briggs was simply a substitute keyboard player one day when the regular session guy, Floyd Cramer, was three hours late.  Hopefully Cramer had a good reason for missing work that day, but it really didn’t matter to Briggs. That fill-in spot resulted in his first gig playing with Elvis Presley.  In his storied career he’s worked across genres, with artists that include Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Joe Cocker, Hank Williams, Jr., Bob Seger and Loretta Lynn. 

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Drummer Jerry Carrigan is known for helping to develop the “Nashville sound”.  He played on classic songs such as “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones.  Sadly, Carrigan died earlier this year and was inducted posthumously.

Photo courtesy of TimesDaily.com

Norbert Putnam is a bass player who has also worked with artists from different genres.  Chart toppers like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Dan Fogelberg and Linda Ronstadt appear on his resume. 

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Terry Thompson was a lead guitarist who passed away in 1965.  Despite all the years that have passed, Thompson’s music lives on through recordings and will continue to do so.  He was another inducted posthumously.

Joe South, who died in 2012, was a songwriter known for hits such as “Games People Play” (one that he recorded and released himself in 1968) and “Rose Garden”, which is best known for its cover version recorded by country artist Lynn Anderson.  South also had his songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and other notable artists. He was a friend and colleague of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and was posthumously inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame last night.

Video courtesy of murphicus and YouTube

Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery is a lead guitarist, songwriter and session player who has written numerous songs for George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Bob Dylan.  He’s worked with legends Etta James and Patsy Cline as well.   

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Guitarist Reggie Young, unfortunately passed away in January of this year.  His lengthy credits include hit song after hit song. “The Letter” from The Boxtops, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away”, “Suspicious Minds”, “Kentucky Rain” and “In the Ghetto” from Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and so many more.  His award was given posthumously.

Photo courtesy of premierguitar.com

As the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was being inducted, a short film was shown that concluded with a message from artist Jimmy Buffett.  “Well deserved. It’s been an honor to have played with all you guys. Have a great day.”   

Blues singer Keb’ Mo’ came back out to perform with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.  Singing “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am” and “You Better Move On”, there’s definitely a reason why his devout fans call him the “Best Blues Singer Ever”.  That’s a lofty position to fill, but damn, the man can sing. That’s a fact.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

It wasn’t amateur-night at the Schermerhorn, that’s for sure.  Following Keb’ Mo’ and his bluesy-good vocals, who should come wandering out next but Emmylou Harris, and there wasn’t anyone accusing her of being off-key.  She brought out an acoustic guitar and let us know she would be doing a song from “one of my heroes, Joan Baez,” and gave us her best “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.  The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section hung out and played along, and immediately after her song, Harris welcomed them into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

It was time for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section to accept their awards and it was especially moving when the widow of guitarist Reggie Young came up to accept his.  She thanked the Hall of Fame for honoring him and that she accepted on behalf of his family. “He would have been so happy to see all of his buddies. I can just feel him smiling from Heaven.”  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

There was a bit of comic relief to offset the emotion when Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery spoke.  Complaining that he had to stand longer than he had in a long time, he was at least grateful they let him in the Musicians Hall of Fame.  “I wrote 73 songs recorded by George Jones. I wrote 21 songs recorded by Tammy Wynette. I wrote songs Bob Dylan recorded. I’m still not in the Country Music Hall of Fame.”  Laughter from the audience. He paused. “I wrote ‘One of These Days’ for Emmylou Harris,” which elicited a big round of applause. At least someone appreciates you Peanutt, including the Musicians Hall of Fame.  You’re inducted.

Joe Chambers, Founder and Director of the Musicians Hall of Fame, took center stage.  Michael Connolly, brother of bassist Pat Connolly of The Surfaris, took a turn speaking.  He wanted to thank everyone involved with the Musicians Hall of Fame for being so nice and treating him so well when he was really just there to accept an award on his brother’s behalf.  It was an acknowledgement that I’m sure many other family members and friends agreed with. Everything seemed to be very well run and even for those of us with the media, I think we were treated really well.  From start to finish, everything was explained clearly and on a regular basis. In other words, it was well-organized, which is not always the case.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Chambers introduced the house band, many of the names I was able to catch, some I could not, so I’ve chosen to omit the list altogether.  I’d rather do that than print some and leave out others. Everyone, of course, was fabulous.  

He then commented that when the Hall of Fame first opened in 2006, they had no idea if it would work, let alone become what it has today, but judging by the show being sold out, it seemed to be doing pretty well.  He then introduced a short video that paid tribute to those musicians that were inducted in previous years but have since passed away. It was amazing how many of them I recognized. Many of them were from the legendary “Wrecking Crew”, the Los Angeles session players that worked on some of the biggest hits ever.  As sad as it was to watch, it was done with a lot of class. We’ve already lost some of the best. Time stops for nobody, which is why we need to keep an emphasis on the importance of the musician in this business. That gets lost in a sea of other distractions.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

With a lineup of entertainment as large and impressive as we were all expecting, it wasn’t any big surprise that there would be at least one change.  Paul Simon, who was scheduled to perform, had become ill and was unable to attend. He was set to present Don Everly, but since he couldn’t make it, he did send a message, calling Everly “one of the great innovators, a star in the pantheon of stars,” and Nashville is no stranger to these last-minute things either.  If one can’t be there, you just find someone who can, and just like that, Ricky Skaggs showed up instead.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Skaggs was told he’d have to “pinch hit” for Paul Simon, to which he responded by using a baseball analogy to describe how Don Everly created his guitar riff for “Wake Up Little Susie”.  It was clever and it was followed up by a short film of other guitar greats giving their thoughts on Everly’s style of playing and how it influenced them. Players like Waddy Wachtel and Keith Richards count Everly among their idols and believe he inspired them to become better at their own craft.

Everly then accepted his award and said, “I never thought Nashville was going to turn into Music City, but it did.  Thank you.” 

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum 

Thanking Garth Brooks for allowing him to play his guitar, Ricky Skaggs then played “Wake Up Little Susie” which thanks to Don Everly’s innovative guitar riff, is now fully-inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Billy Sherrill was inducted as Engineer for 2019.  Sherrill is one of the most highly respected recording engineers in Nashville for work he’s done with countless artists including Jean Shepard, Dixie Chicks, Dottie West and almost anything Kenny Rogers ever recorded in Nashville.  What’s worth repeating is this is Billy Sherrill the Engineer, not to be confused with Billy Sherrill the Producer. Although the names are spelled exactly the same, and the two lived and worked in the same city, in the same industry, often with the same people, and even together over the years, they are absolutely two different individuals.  The other Billy Sherrill, the Producer, passed away in 2015.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

One story Sherrill told last night that was interesting was about the song “Lucille”, the Kenny Rogers megahit from 1977.  Initially, Rogers refused to record the song, he wanted nothing to do with it. Finally, he relented and said he would sing it once and only once.  Sherrill said that was on a Friday. He mixed it on a Monday and shortly after he was driving down the street and thought he heard “Lucille” on his car radio.  On a pop station. How could that be? “Lucille” was a country song.  

Sure enough, it was “Lucille”.  It took off like a rocket and crossed right over from country to pop.  Everybody was playing it. It hit number one not only in the US, but worldwide.  To think, it may have never happened if Kenny Rogers didn’t begrudgingly agree to singing it just one time in the studio.  We can thank Engineer Billy Sherrill for adding his magic touches too. That’s why he is now in the Musicians Hall of Fame.  

When you hear that an artist currently has 21 number one hits under his belt you can figure it’s going to be someone pretty famous.  That’s how Paul Shaffer began to introduce Jason Aldean, who was there to present country supergroup Alabama and induct them into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Aldean and the house band performed Alabama’s hits “Love in the First Degree” from 1981 and 1980’s “Tennessee River”.  He did a great job with those two classics, and I can only imagine even for a seasoned pro like Aldean, there has to be some pressure to get it right when the band is up on stage watching you play their songs.  He did them proud.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Alabama was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame with the grandest of honors.  They were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. No small feat for the recipient to earn an award bearing that title, and as any fan of Alabama knows, they have most certainly earned it.  On hand to accept their awards were Alabama members Randy Owen (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Jeff Cook (guitar, fiddle, keys) and Teddy Gentry (bass). The trio that played for tips and hit some major stumbling blocks before finally getting signed to a solid record deal in 1980, just scored another huge win.  

Photo credit:  Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

There isn’t enough space to adequately to even talk about a fraction of Alabama’s successes.  They are ranked among the world’s top selling bands of all time. If it’s a country music award, there’s a chance they’ve been nominated for it, but there’s a strong probability that they’ve actually won it at least once.  

When I was given the opportunity to speak with the band after the Medallion Ceremony, I wanted to keep it as brief as possible.  Honestly, as far as I was concerned, everything else had already been asked or was going to be asked. I decided on one question to be directed toward any band member that chose to answer.  I quickly introduced myself to all three guys who were very nice and told them I had one quick question and I only needed one person to answer for everyone. Randy Owen chose to answer for the group.  Here’s what happened:

Think Country:  Because we are Think Country, when Alabama “Thinks Country”, what do they think?

Alabama (Randy Owen):  Well, we think of guitars, riffs, signature licks and songs that go along with those guitar riffs and fiddle licks.  It all goes together with a country song that makes people think about life, living, family. It makes you think about drinkin’.  It makes you think about, just real life.

Think Country:  I love it. That’s perfect.  That’s it. How easy was that?

Alabama (Randy Owen):  That was pretty easy for us.  Thank you.

Think Country:  Thank you guys. I really appreciate it.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

The room was so crowded with media trying to talk with musicians, and as you might imagine, the line for Alabama was one of the longest and slowest moving.  I’ll never regret my one quick question. Alabama was about to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Randy Owen coming up with that humble answer was worth all the time I gave up.  I’ll never forget that.

At the show, it was a big moment for Paul Shaffer because he “was about to honor a dear friend.”  He was ready to present the next inductee. “This man introduced me to the Hammond organ. He borrowed it from church and put it into rock and roll and it changed my life.”  He was talking about Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals.  

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

A short film played including a message from Billy Joel congratulating Cavaliere on his induction.  Then my world, sitting way back in Row “End of the Alphabet”, stood still. Something I never dreamed about happened.  I witnessed Felix Cavaliere get behind a big old Hammond organ in the center of the Schermerhorn stage and start to play “A Beautiful Morning”.  I have always loved this song. I was only three-years old when it was released, but I was fortunate to have lived my formative years in the era of AM radio, and if it was hit and an AM pop radio station played it, they played it often.  I’m sure this song was one of the ones that became firmly embedded into my then rapidly-growing brain, because I have always felt an intense joy from it. It’s on almost every playlist I have. I hear those opening bells and whatever funk I happen to be in, I’m on my way out. 

To see “A Beautiful Morning” played by Felix Cavaliere and hear his marvelous, booming voice singing those lyrics in a venue as superb as the Schermerhorn was just too much.  He was joined by the house band, and to help put us all back in time, a video showing sights and sounds of the 1960’s played on the big screen. We were in the Haight-Ashbury District in San Francisco, we saw Timothy Leary with flowers in his hair and hippies dancing without a care in the world.  We also saw an old clip of The Rascals playing together back then. For me, personally, this was the pinnacle of the entire evening, but wait, there’s more!

Thinking Cavaliere might do one more song and run, I needed to check my preconceived notions at the door.  He didn’t do one more or even two more. He did three more songs. Following “A Beautiful Morning”, he played “Groovin’”, “People Got to Be Free”, a song he dedicated to military members, past and present, and “Good Lovin’”.  Too good to be true, and here’s what I noticed more than the music itself. If I thought I was having fun, and if the other people in the audience were loving it, maybe nobody was enjoying it more than Felix Cavaliere himself.  

My eyesight is terrible, especially from the back of the room, but even I could tell that Cavaliere would play a bit, then step back from the organ and immerse himself in the music.  During “Groovin’”, he would play the song, step slightly away from the keyboard, and literally be groovin’ as he sang those lyrics.  It was the coolest thing I have ever seen.  

Another thing he does that is unique, at least as far as my experience with artists goes, is he manages to talk with his hands while singing.  Yes! This man is determined to get the point of his lyrics across in between playing the organ, by singing with his hands, the same way people talk with their hands.  I’m guilty of doing that myself all the time, so I can say that without anyone coming down on me. It’s brilliant! I could have watched all day. A lot closer would have been better, but I got the idea.  I haven’t been so entertained and felt so much complete happiness at a music event in a long time. Did he deserve his award? Give him two.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

After that four song extravaganza, Paul Shaffer welcomed Felix Cavaliere into the Musicians Hall of Fame.  Did Cavaliere have any parting words? He simply said that what the world needs more of from everyone is “respect.”  I liked him before that. Now, he had me wishing he’d run for King of the Universe.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Dave Pomeroy, a bassist and President of the Nashville Musicians Local Union #257, who had been playing in the house band all evening, came up to speak next.  I really loved what he had to say about the Musicians Hall of Fame. “The Musicians Hall of Fame may be in Nashville, but it’s much larger than Nashville. It honors musicians all over the world.  If you haven’t been, you have to go. It’s incredible.” So, take Pomeroy’s advice the next time you’re in town, go to the Musicians Hall of Fame. It’s a wonderland.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

We were near the end.  Who better to present the final inductee than the best selling solo artist in the history of the United States?  The artist with seven Diamond Award albums and six CMA Entertainer of the Year Awards. Of course, I mean Garth Brooks.  If it could have been done, he’s probably done it. If it hasn’t been done, he’s probably working on it now. Is he man or machine?  It’s mind-boggling. He’s Garth. That’s all that needs to be said anymore.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

No matter how many accolades you throw at this guy, he still brings it right back down to Earth whenever you see him speak in public.  He wasn’t there to be “Super Garth”, he was there to induct a deserving person into the Musicians Hall of Fame and as usual, he spoke with the utmost in humility and with class.  “Not only is this guy talented, he’s funny and he’s good at everything!” He was speaking about the last inductee, Steve Wariner.

A short film featuring Steve Lukather of Toto congratulating his friend, Steve Wariner on his induction was followed by Wariner himself playing a gorgeous guitar solo.  If you’ve followed Wariner all along, you just know. If you’re new to his music, he was one of a handful of musicians handpicked by the late Chet Atkins to become a Certified Guitar Player.  Chet Atkins is one of the greatest guitar players ever to have walked Music Row. Or anywhere for that matter. Steve Wariner will one day have the same legacy. He already does as far as I’m concerned.  People mention his name to me often when talking about great guitarists. It’s no wonder he was chosen as one of this year’s inductees. Listening to and watching him play a guitar is something you can’t walk away from.  He’s fascinating. He makes it look effortless. 

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum 

Wariner then switched guitars to play one of his most beloved hits, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”.  You could have heard a pin drop for either one of the songs he played and this was at the end of the evening when people normally get restless.  We were over three hours into this show and nobody moved. That’s the power of exquisite musicianship. You often hear the phrase, “hung on every note”.  In Wariner’s case, you can’t help but hang on every note because you can truly hear every note with the clarity it deserves. He’s an inspiration to a lot of guitarists and it doesn’t matter what they’re playing, whether it’s country, rock, blues, jazz, anything.  They’ll mention Steve Wariner as someone they aspire to be half as good as someday.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

After an emotional song like “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”, it was time to end this show on a high note.  Garth Brooks joined Wariner on stage to play a rip-roaring version of “Longneck Bottle” and everyone was having fun.  They were having fun, we were having fun in the crowd, it was time to celebrate.

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

Wariner did say a few words after.  “I went to the Chet Atkins, Dottie West, Bob Luman school.  That’s where I got my degree. I wish my Mom and Dad were here to see this.”  He paused for a second and said, “But like you said Garth, they are here.” Garth agreed that they absolutely were there.  Wariner then quipped, “I keep waiting for that call. ‘We meant Stevie Wonder, not Steve Wariner’.” 

Photo credit: Pete Collins, Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum 

I did have a few moments to speak with Wariner after the Medallion Ceremony, and again, he was in such high demand from the media, I didn’t want to monopolize his time, but I did manage to sneak in a quick question.  I told him everyone always tells me they consider Steve Wariner one of their idols when it comes to guitar players. I wondered who Steve Wariner really looked up to and enjoyed listening to? “Unfortunately, he isn’t here.  Reggie Young. He was one of the best.” Reggie Young was one of the musicians inducted posthumously that night. Once again, there’s your proof of how strong the music community is. Even after they pass on, they still build each other up.  That’s a bond. Like Felix Cavaliere said, “respect.”  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

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*Featured image courtesy of the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

 

 

 

   

 

  

 

     

 

 

 

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Patti McClintic
I’m Patti. Rock music is my first love. My daughter, who was a country fan as a teenager, dragged me in when I'd drive her to school and we would have radio wars in the car. I'd have on my rock station and she would switch it to the country station. Guess who always won? As they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so I did. patti@thinkcountrymusic.com First it was all modern country, but my parents were big Merle Haggard fans. I went along with them to a Merle Haggard/Phil Vassar show at the local fair and that was it. I was hooked on the Hag. Since that day, I've become a fan of bluegrass and I continue to explore all facets of the country genre. I guess you could say, I'm all in. When I'm not up to my neck in any kind of music, I enjoy genealogy, history, my granddaughters and my addiction, SongPop. I guess it could be worse, right? I'm a Buffalo, New York girl living in a Nashville, Tennessee world, and I'm livin' the dream with my husband, my dog and my two cats.
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