Tanya Tucker, Patty Loveless, Bob McDill Officially Inducted Into Country Music Hall of Fame

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In a city filled with frequent celebrity-studded events, it marks an even more momentous occasion to bring together more than a dozen members of the Country Music Hall of Fame — including Bill Anderson, Kix Brooks, the Oak Ridge Boys, Connie Smith, Brenda Lee, Vince Gill, Dean Dillon and Randy Travis.

The Sunday (Oct. 22) celebration held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater was just such a worthy occasion, as these titans of country music gathered to help welcome three more artists into the fold — artists Patty Loveless and Tanya Tucker as well as songwriter Bob McDill — bringing the number of Country Music Hall of Fame members to 152.

Country Music Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young launched the evening, detailing the multitude of accomplishments from Loveless, Tucker and McDill. Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern noted that the evening acknowledged “those that make country music exceptional.” Trahern called Loveless and Tucker “strong, distinctive voices in our format,” and McDill “a songwriter’s songwriter.”

Mary Ann McCready recognized the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Circle Guard, while the Medallion All-Star Band backed each of the performers during the evening. The collection of top-shelf musicians consisted of steel guitarist Paul Franklin, keyboardist Jen Gunderman, bassist Rachel Loy, guitarist Brent Mason, drummer Jerry Pentecost, vocalist Carmella Ramsey, fiddle/mandolin player Deanie Richardson, bandleader/acoustic guitarist Biff Watson and acoustic guitarist/vocalist Jeff White.

Bob McDill

Since arriving in Nashville by way of Memphis in 1970, McDill proved himself one of the most skilled songcrafters in the genre’s history, contributing numerous hit songs to country music’s canon. Don Williams recorded over 30 of McDill’s songs (“Amanda,” “It Must Be Love,” “Good Ole Boys Like Me”), while McDill also wrote Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Alabama’s “Song of the South,” Dan Seals’ “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold),” Mel McDaniel’s “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” Sammy Kershaw’s “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” and Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country.” Bobby Bare recorded an entire album’s worth of McDill’s compositions on 1977’s Me & McDill. In 2017, McDill donated 217 legal pads of notes and lyrics to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

On Sunday evening, McDill was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the songwriter category by fellow Country Music Hall of Famer and “The Gambler” writer Don Schlitz, who recalled the numerous times McDill took the time to mentor him as a budding songwriter, noting that among the lessons he learned from McDill was a sense of respect for the music, the process of songwriting and the songwriter.

“You cannot write country music [by] looking down your nose at it,” Schlitz quoted another key lesson.

Performers honoring McDill were Charley Crockett (with “Louisiana Saturday Night”), Dean Dillon (who offered up “All The Good Ones Are Gone,” a song he co-wrote with McDill, which Pam Tillis turned into a Grammy-nominated hit) and Jamey Johnson (who turned in a thundering rendition of “Good Ole Boys Like Me”).

“To say you are one of my heroes is a gross understatement,” Johnson told McDill, seated in the front row.

In accepting his honor, McDill noted that there were eight non-performing songwriters who had been previously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame: Dean Dillon, Fred Rose, Bobby Braddock, Schlitz, Cindy Walker, Harlan Howard, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. “I knew all these people except Cindy Walker — all brilliant,” he said. “Everyone knows their songs, a few people know their names … It speaks well of the Hall of Fame to include them.”

Patty Loveless

Golden-voiced Kentucky native Patty Loveless was inducted in the modern era artist category. Loveless started out singing as a family duo with her brother Roger, and while still in her teens, had earned the encouragement of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton and had earned a slot touring with The Wilburn Brothers. After a brief detour into fronting local rock bands in North Carolina, Loveless returned to her first love, country music — and the blend of her high lonesome voice with country-rock fare would become her calling card. After earning her first Billboard Hot Country Songs top 10 hit in 1988 with a cover of George Jones’ “If My Heart Had Windows,” Loveless went on to earn more than 30 top 20 Country Songs hits, including five chart-toppers, “Timber, I’m Falling in Love,” “Chains,” “Blame It On Your Heart,” “You Can Feel Bad” and “Lonely Too Long.” In the 2000s, she delved into her Kentucky bluegrass roots, crafting the Grammy-nominated Mountain Soul, and its Grammy-winning successor Mountain Soul II.

Bluegrass group Sister Sadie (which includes Loveless’ longtime fiddle player Deanie Richardson) performed Loveless’ “The Sounds of Loneliness,” while Vince Gill pulled double-duty, performing Loveless’ 1996 hit “Lonely Too Long” and also inducting his longtime friend as a Country Music Hall of Fame member. Rocker Bob Seger surprised the crowd by performing “She Drew a Broken Heart” — the pair previously recorded the song “The Answer’s in the Question,” included on Seger’s 2006 album Face the Promise.

Gill said of Loveless, “It feels like this is the little sister I’ve always wanted to sing with. I hear in her voice that blood harmony I’ve yearned for my whole life.” He recalled first meeting her when she stood in line at his CMA Fest (then-called Fan Fair) booth and said that she loved his music and predicted they would sing together one day. “And boy, did we,” he said. Loveless sang on Gill’s debut solo country song “When I Call Your Name,” and other songs including “Pocket Full of Gold,” while they also had a hit duet with “My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man.” It was Loveless and Ricky Skaggs who provided distinct harmonies on what would become one of Gill’s signature songs, “Go Rest High on That Mountain.”

In accepting the honor, a visibly emotional Loveless honored her late brother Roger, who died last year and who had long been a bandmate and champion for Loveless since the two were kids singing together as the duo the Singing Swinging Rameys.

“This was always a dream of ours as young kids coming to Nashville. When I would walk through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum when it was over on 16th Avenue, it just felt so comforting to walk among those. To be a part of that now, it is truly an honor and I don’t think I could have done it without the people who supported me,” Loveless said. “It’s amazing to me that I have been allowed to live the life that I have lived and been blessed to know each and every one of you.”

She gave thanks to others who had supported her along the way, including The Wilburn Brothers, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton and Loveless’ husband and longtime producer, Emory Gordy, Jr.

Tanya Tucker

Tucker made her debut in 1972 as a precocious 13-year-old talent with a top 10 Hot Country Songs hit with “Delta Dawn,” and swiftly went on to notch six No. 1 Country Songs hits before she turned 18 –songs with mature themes, such as “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” and “Would You Lay With Me (in a Field of Stone),” that helped redefine the boundaries for women in country music. She also blazed her own trail in terms of image, thanks to her edgy cover artwork of her 1978 album TNT, which featured Tucker in leather, while the music embraced rock and pop.

In the more than five decades since her debut, she’s etched her reputation as a magnetic, rock n’ roll-inspired entertainer and commanding hitmaker. Along the way, her tenacity, determination and acute sense of hustle have brought multiple chapters to her career. After a three-year hiatus from recording, she returned to the country music spotlight, earning 24 top 10 Country Songs hits from 1986 through 1997, including “Love Me Like You Used To,” “Strong Enough to Bend,” “Down to My Last Teardrop” and “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane.” In 1991, she earned the honor of CMA female vocalist of the year. In 2019, she reached yet another career zenith, earning the first Grammys of her career for the Brandi Carlile- and Shooter Jennings-produced album While I’m Livin’ and the song “Bring My Flowers Now.”

Earlier in the evening, Young had called Tucker “a one of a kind stylist, a maverick,” and in true, unfiltered Tucker fashion, her induction brought some of the evening’s most spontaneous, raw moments.

Wynonna Judd performed a sterling, commanding rendition of Tucker’s 1972 debut single “Delta Dawn,” with harmonica courtesy of Charlie McCoy, who played on Tucker’s original recording of the song. Jessi Colter and Margo Price followed with Tucker’s 1992 top 5 Country Songs hit “It’s a Little Too Late.” Carlile also made a surprise appearance to perform “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane.” A performer through and through, Tucker couldn’t sit idly in the front row, but rather joined Colter and Price during their performance, and later joined Carlile for the conclusion of “Sparrows.”

“Me and Shooter are so proud of you,” Carlile told her. “You have carved out an ass-kicking path for every girl, and for me, and I will forever be trying to make it up to you … tonight, I saw you be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. You did it.”

Smith and Lee officially inducted Tucker into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“She’s so real,” Smith said. “When I grow up I want to sing like Tanya Tucker … she belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Kitty Wells, Jean Shepard, Patsy Montana, and Loretta [Lynn] and Dottie West and Tammy [Wynette] and Dolly [Parton]. She is one of us and I’m so proud.”

“She’s one of the most giving, loving, kind-hearted people that I know,” said Lee, who knows better than most the tenacity and sacrifices a music career demands, as a former child star herself. “You are one of the few people in this industry that, doing what we do, has stayed real. You stated your case, you said, ‘Like it or leave it, it don’t matter to me. I’m going to do what I want to do, sing what I want to sing, and if you don’t like it, don’t listen.’ She was one of the first in this town that was brave enough to say that … she is who she is and you have to respect that.”

Accepting her honor, Tucker called her journey to the Hall of Fame “a 52-year experience — and I’ve had a lot of ups and downs.” She thanked her three children, who were in attendance, as well as members of her management and touring teams and paid tribute to her father, champion and early manager, Beau Tucker. She recalled sitting with her father, watching a Grand Ole Opry performance when she was a child and hearing her father say, “Now, don’t you wish you were up there doing it, instead of sittin’ down here watching it?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I do.’ From that moment on, I’ve never been a good audience member — and I haven’t been a good one today,” she said, referencing her moments joining Colter, Price and Carlile onstage during their performances.

After getting a fist look at the bronze plaque that commemorates her induction into the Hall of Fame, and the plaque that will hang in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s rotunda, Tucker again thanked the audience. Tossing her Elvis-esque white, bejeweled jacket over her shoulder, Tucker sashayed off the stage, with Wynonna soon returning center stage to lead the audience in what has become the customary closure for the evening, a singalong of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” From there, the gathered music industry denizens walked upstairs in the Country Music Hall of Fame for an after-ceremony party to further celebrate the Hall’s newest members.

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