Television and radio host Bill Cody, filling in for an under-the-weather Reba McEntire, handled hosting duties for the live-streamed event in the museum’s rotunda, where plaques of the inductees are placed. As usual, the three inductees were from the Modern Era, the Veterans Era and a rotating category, which this year is the Non Performer designation.
Modern Era inductees Brooks & Dunn are country’s most-awarded and biggest-selling duo of all time, a pairing whose “achievements transcend the country genre,” according to Cody. Paired together at the dawn of the Nineties by Arista Records executive Tim DuBois, rising songwriter Kix Brooks and honky-tonk singer Ronnie Dunn went on to have an incredible run of hits including “Brand New Man,” “Neon Moon” and “Believe.” They also won CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1996. More recently, they’ve reformed their act and launched a Las Vegas residency with Reba McEntire that has dates scheduled in 2019. In April, they’ll release their collaborative album Reboot, featuring Kacey Musgraves, Luke Combs and more.
“It hasn’t soaked in to me, and it probably will sometime when I’m off by myself,” said the characteristically quiet Dunn, before turning and giving his singing partner a handshake.
“That’s just weird, he never does that,” said the gregarious Brooks, who recounted the circumstances of their unlikely and unintended success. “Like most of the people in this room, I’m just a fan of country music. The fact that I could just share a little space on that wall, it’s hard to describe how that makes you feel.”
The scion of Music Row’s founding family as the son of Owen Bradley and nephew of Harold, former RCA executive Jerry Bradley helped create the famed Wanted: The Outlaws LP — country’s first Platinum album — and signed Ronnie Milsap, Alabama and Eddie Rabbitt during his record label tenure.
“As my old friend Norro Wilson, would say, ‘I don’t know how I got here, but I ain’t leavin’,” he said. Breaking into tears, he noted how he was thankful to be earning a spot in the Hall alongside his father and uncle, who died in January.
Veterans Era inductee Ray Stevens was recognized for his long history in the music industry, including session work for artists like Leroy Van Dyke and co-producing Kris Kristofferson’s own recording of “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.” His song “Everything Is Beautiful” went on to win his first Grammy Award and has since been recorded by more than 100 other artists. And, of course, his comedic songs like “The Streak” and “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” and their videos are still beloved, making him, as Cody noted, the most successful comedy recording artist of all time.
“It’s almost too much to take in, to tell you the truth,” said Stevens, who operates the CabaRay dinner theater in the Nashville area.
The new inductees brings the total membership in the Hall of fame to 139 and follows the 2018 addition of Ricky Skaggs, Dottie West and fiddle player Johnny Gimble.
The new members will be formally inducted later in 2019 at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony.