CMA’s Country Music Hall of Fame Welcomes Bobby Bare, Cowboy Jack Clement and Kenny Rogers
Every Medallion Ceremony at CMA’s Country Music Hall of Fame is memorable. This annual event draws friends, families, associates and distinguished artists to welcome new members to this most exclusive of Country Music’s organizations. Each inductee is chosen by CMA’s Hall of Fame Panels of Electors for their outstanding contributions to the format; their selection enshrines them in the Hall forever as recipients of Country Music’s highest honor.
This year, the inductees were Bobby Bare in the Veteran’s Era category, Kenny Rogers as the Modern Era artist, and the late Cowboy Jack Clement in the Non-Performer category, which rotates every three years with those for Songwriter and recording and/or Touring Musician.
For the first time, the ceremony took place in the CMA Theater, which had just opened in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Dignitaries gathered first in a spacious reception area, below high ceilings and towering windows that looked out at the Music City Center, before filing into the theater itself.
On this night, Sunday, Oct. 27, guests took their seats on the main floor, the mezzanine and two upper balconies as lights dimmed and the program began. Following the traditional introductory gospel performance, an electrifying rendition by Connie Smith of Hank Williams’ “When I Get to Glory (Sing, Sing, Sing)” with the Medallion All-Stars band, Kyle Young, Director/CEO of The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, welcomed attendees and introduced the Museum’s Board Chairman, Steve Turner, and CMA Board President Ed Hardy, who delivered introductory remarks.
What followed were several hours of music, reminiscence, humor and reflection, as the Class of 2013 joined the pantheon of Country Music immortals.
Cowboy Jack Clement was the first to be recognized. Musical tributes included John Prine’s performance of “Ballad of a Teenage Queen,” Kris Kristofferson doing “Big River,” Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives performing “I Know One” and Emmylou Harris’ “When I Dream.”
Stuart also took a moment to remember going down to the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, Clement’s headquarters, to audition for a job playing mandolin in his band.
“When the door swung open … Cowboy was dancing with a martini on his head,” Stuart said. “I thought, ‘I have found my crowd!’” Cowboy never missed a lick. He just waltzed by the mandolin and handed it to me. That’s how I got my job in Cowboy’s band.”
Clement’s Medallion was presented, and his Hall of Fame plaque unveiled, by Charley Pride, who drew applause by sharing “one thing that Jack used to say to me. He said, ‘Charley, these songs we’re recording, 50 years from now, they’re still gonna be playing them.’”
Alison Clement spoke on her late father’s behalf. Her acceptance was eloquent and imaginative, as typically playful words received from him in a dream: “This is your father. Stop fretting over the speech. This is the first of countless interplanetary memos from me and all my cast of characters here on Alpha Centauri.” And at the end, quoting him, she popped open a top hat, put it on her head and bade farewell with, “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing your job.”
Bobby Bare’s segment featured performances of “Detroit City” by Rodney Crowell with Harris, “How I Got to Memphis” by Buddy Miller, “Come Sundown” by Kristofferson and “Marie Laveau” by John Anderson. Each performer spoke a few words, but Kristofferson was perhaps most emotional. “Bobby Bare is more than just the greatest artist I ever knew,” he said, speaking quietly and smiling at Bare in the first row. “He’s one of the nicest – and that’s not a dirty word – and best human beings I’ve ever known.”
Before presenting the Medallion to Bare, Tom T. Hall, gave a textbook demonstration of the raconteur’s art. In explaining why he was about to share some memories of their 50-plus year friendship, he noted, “You gotta tell people who Bobby Bare is or else they’re going to say, ‘What the hell is he doing in the Hall of Fame?’ Later, after alluding to many adventures they had shared, Hall mused, “I was thinking about all the good times that Bare and I have had together over the years. Now I’m 77 and Bare is 78. It’s beginning to look like we’re going to get away with it!”
When time came for the induction, they embraced before Hall placed the Medallion around Bare’s neck and unveiled his plaque. “I really like it,” Bare said, giving his likeness a once-over. “It’s about 10 times better than I was expecting.” Then, looking slyly at Rogers awaiting his moment, Bare asked, “Have you seen yours, Kenny?”
Above all, though, Bare reflected a gracious humility. “I want to say thanks to the CMA,” he said. “This is a big, big deal. It’s as far as you can go and as high as you can go. [But] this is not entirely about me. It’s about all the people who helped me along the way. … I have been truly blessed. The gods have smiled on me. I’m just a singer, that’s all I am.”
But he couldn’t resist looking once more at the plaque and concluding, “But ain’t I something?”
The Kenny Rogers induction was preceded by Darius Rucker singing “Lucille,” Don Schlitz performing his song, the Rogers classic “The Gambler,” Barry Gibb joining Kelly Lang for “Islands in the Stream,” and Alison Krauss doing “Sweet Music Man.
Garth Brooks arose from a seat in the audience, embraced Rogers and strode up on the stage to introduce the final inductee. He thanked Rogers for giving him an opening slot on a northeastern tour, adding that this would prove critical in opening that market for Brooks’ own solo career. Noting that he learned each night from watching the headliner onstage during that trek, Brooks added, “If there was a Country Music Entertainer University, when it comes to Entertaining 101, I can vouch first-hand that Kenny Rogers could be the professor of that class.”
Rogers alternated between early memories of making music to expressing gratitude to his family and associates. His humor was evident and self-deprecating: Looking back on when he was paid a quarter as a child for singing “You Are My Sunshine” at a nursing home, he observed, “So I’ve been a professional most of my life – and I learned not to sing unless you’re paid too!”
He also acknowledged the profundity of the moment. “I do not take this for granted,” he insisted. “This is the pinnacle of all my success. I appreciate it more than you will ever know … Music comes and goes. Songs come and go. Singers come and go.”
Then, like Bare, Rogers couldn’t resist a final zinger: “But the Hall of Fame is forever, baby!”
The evening ended with the customary “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” sung by members of the Country Music Hall of Fame in attendance, backed by the Medallion All-Star Band.