Classic CMA Awards Moments, #13: Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hall of Fame honors (1990)

#13 Tennessee Ernie Ford
Hall of Fame induction

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):


  1. Absolutely agreed. I’m disappointed that this clip isn’t available on YouTube. Most of the other entries on the list are familiar moments or those that include famous artists, at least to the general (and CU) public. That’s why I linked the TEF Hall of Fame bio in the piece—so we could be educational about his career as well.

    Although there were some neat Hall of Fame induction moments (CMA, please bring back the old days!), the best ones seem to be with the less renowned recipients.

  2. Boy oh boy, what I wouldn’t give to find that on video! The Oak Ridge Boys, with their fingers snapping in time, made their way over to the first row where Tennessee Ernie Ford was seated alongside his lovely wife – and the astonished look on the country music legend’s face as the microphone was presented for him to sing those familiar lyrics that he could never forget. Over twenty years later, it stands out as one of my favorite CMA moments.

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