Kenny Rogers, Cowboy Jack Clement and Bobby Bare were introduced as this year's Country Music Hall of Fame inductees at an emotional ceremony the Country Music Association held this morning in Nashville.
The hall will induct Rogers in the Modern Era category, Clement in the Non-Performer category and Bare in the Veterans Era category. They'll be honored at an invitation-only ceremony later this year at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
"The accomplishments I've had all pale by comparison to this one," Rogers, 74 said from the podium, where his voice cracked and he welled up with tears.
His accomplishments are considerable: He's a singer, producer, actor, author and restaurateur who has landed nine Number One country albums and 21 Number One country singles, including his multi-platinum 1978 hit "The Gambler." He was also one of country music's first crossover stars, thanks to his 1980 Lionel Richie-produced Number One hit "Lady."
"I feel, right or wrong, that I brought a lot of people to country music who wouldn't have come otherwise," Rogers told Rolling Stone later. "You look at all the girls that are out there doing this cool stuff; a lot of kids are listening to country music that wouldn't be listening to it today if it weren't for them."
Rogers expressed gratitude for receiving the honor during his lifetime, and for being able to share it with his eight-year-old twin sons.
"It's now more of a personal reward than a professional reward because of my kids," he said. "I can get a chance to share it with them and let them see what I did with my life."
Clement served as the house producer and engineer at Sam Phillips' Sun Studios, where he discovered Jerry Lee Lewis while Phillips was on vacation, and later RCA Nashville. With credits on songs by Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and even U2, many say his induction to the hall of fame is long overdue.
"Jack Clement isn't in the Country Music Hall of Fame? What the fuck!" T Bone Burnett, the producer and Clement devotee, protested during a January tribute concert for Clement, who, at 82, is battling liver cancer.
"I was totally surprised," Clement told Rolling Stone. "I'm glad to go in with [Bobby Bare] and Kenny Rogers." He described Bare as one of his best friends in the music business, and said of Rogers, "I love his records; he's a great singer."
Clement wrote several songs that Bare recorded over the years, including the singer's 1964 hit "Miller's Cave" and most of the cuts on his pioneering 1967 Chet Atkins-produced country concept album A Bird From Yesterday.
Bare appeared nearly a decade before that album, debuting in 1958 with a rendition of Bill Parsons' talking blues Elvis Presley parody "The All-American Boy." Bare, who hosted the country music variety show Bobby Bare and Friends from 1983 to 1988, joins contemporaries Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash in the hall of fame.
"It was unexpected," Bare told Rolling Stone of his selection. "It's a validation of [my] career."
Bare, who cut his own version of "The Gambler" two years before it was a Grammy-winning hit for Rogers, found a common thread that unites him and his fellow inductees: "Good songs."