Brooks, a Hall of Fame member, and Yearwood (a onetime Hall of Fame tour guide) both held back tears as they unveiled the honorees during a live-streaming press conference in Nashville.
Modern Era inductee Ricky Skaggs, whose early Eighties hits such as “Heartbroke” and “Uncle Pen” helped return traditional tunes and instrumentation to contemporary country radio, was overcome with emotion as he wrapped up his remarks, paying tribute to his family, including Sharon White Skaggs, his wife of 37 years, and his father-in-law Buck White. Skaggs, a native of eastern Kentucky who played with Keith Whitley as a member of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, then went on to become a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, is also a former CMA Entertainer of the Year and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than three decades.
Singer-songwriter Dottie West, a native of McMinnville, Tennessee, who was long championed as worthy of the Hall of Fame, was the first female artist in country music to win a Grammy. West, slated to be inducted as the Veterans Era Artist, is known for such early Seventies hits as “Country Sunshine,” which became the theme for a Coca-Cola television ad, and for her numerous duets with Kenny Rogers. Her son Kerry and longtime friend and fellow Opry member Jeannie Seely spoke in memory of West, with Seely noting that West was always a fan of lamps and candles. “I can’t help but think that she’s gonna have every damn light in heaven burnin’ tonight,” Seely said. West died in September 1991 from injuries suffered following a car accident on her way to an Opry performance.
Fiddle player Johnny Gimble, who died in 2015 at age 88, will be inducted in the “Recording and/or Touring Musician” category. Gimble played fiddle on several of George Strait’s albums and toured with Willie Nelson, appearing in Nelson’s film Honeysuckle Rose. He was also a member of the legendary Western swing band Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. A touring and session musician, Gimble was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship as a Master Folk Artist from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The addition of the three new members brings the Hall of Fame’s total membership to just 136 since Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and songwriter-publisher Fred Rose were first selected in 1961, six years before the members had a permanent place in the original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened at the end of Music Row in 1967. Today, the current museum is the crown jewel of Music City’s downtown tourist attractions, with the bronze plaques of the Hall of Fame members enshrined in the building’s unique rotunda. One Hall of Fame member was inducted twice, as cowboy singer Roy Rogers earned membership with his Sons of the Pioneers bandmates and as a solo act years later. Dottie West is the 17th woman to be inducted into the hallowed institution.
The Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion ceremony will take place later this year.