One of the crimes of the current CMA Awards setup is the lower profile of the Hall of Fame inductees at the annual ceremony. At one time in CMA history, the honorees were not notified of their election until the annual awards ceremony. A number of terrific moments have transpired as a result of the genuine emotion felt by the inductees, and in 1990, the announcement of three-time CMA host Tennessee Ernie Ford into the hallowed Hall was especially moving.
The Oak Ridge Boys took the stage to sing their current hit when they transitioned into “Sixteen Tons.” A surprised Ford looked on with tear-filled eyes as he was acknowledged as the newest member of country music’s most elite group. His contribution to country music, as a popular variety show host, a radio disc jockey and a first-class singer, were certainly worthy of the high praise. The moment was made even more poignant by the fact that Ford’s health had deteriorated, and the following year, he would pass away from liver disease at the age of 73. But for one night, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s significant career achievements were proudly hailed on the CMA stage.
Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Sixteen Tons” live performance (1956):