Six Pack: Hall of Fame Candidates

hof_logoOn Wednesday, February 4, the Country Music Hall of Fame will announce its newest members. The genre’s highest honor, induction into the Hall of Fame is bestowed upon the absolute best of country music. In 1996 the CMHOF developed a set of categories to sort candidates, an effort intended to recognize the great breadth of the genre.

The Hall will admit three new members in 2009, one each from the following categories:

  • Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980
  • Performer, career achieved national prominence between WWII and 1975
  • Performer, career achieved national prominence between 1975-current

Below are six living Country Music Hall of Fame candidates that deserve induction in 2009.

1. Jean Shepard

Shepard, the Grand Lady of the Grand Ole Opry, sang in a pure twang that was fists-out and fearless, country strong and true.  Her 54-year membership at the Opry is the second-longest run for a female performer (Minnie Pearl, 56 years).

2. Connie Smith

In 1964, Smith earned an eight-week No.1 single with her debut “Once a Day,” the first sign of sweet things to come. Smith’s voice, equal in clarity and resolve, is a powerful, pristine instrument that has few rivals in country music, past and present.

3. Oak Ridge Boys

Originally a gospel group from Georgia, the Oak Ridge Boys moved into traditional country in the mid-1970s, earning 11 No.1 albums while setting the standard for vocal collectives in the genre.

4. Ronnie Milsap

Milsap and George Strait share the record for most CMA Album of the Year wins (four), and while Strait has remained staunchly traditional, Milsap moved into a country-pop territory that garnered him mainstream notice throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. He stands third behind Strait in Conway Twitty among artists with the most No.1 singles in country music history, and it’s high time he joined them on the illustrious Hall roster.

5. Barbara Mandrell

Her glitzy faux-soul style throughout the early ’80s often overshadowed an early catalog rich with traditional country. Mandrell was a multi-instrumentalist who is quite frankly the finest female entertainer the genre has ever produced.

6. Hank Williams, Jr.

Named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1987 and 1988, Williams was best known for his animated nature during live shows (and his weekly feature on Monday Night Football). Still, classics such as “Family Tradition” and “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” ensure his musical legacy is firmly intact as well.

Jerry Reed, Wynn Stewart and Dottie West are all deceased candidates that deserve mention as well. Songwriter Dallas Frazier and entertainer Jimmy Dean will be eligible when the Hall of Fame revives the Non-Performer category in 2010.


  1. Wynn Stewart for sure

    also David Allan Coe and Gram Parsons deserve to be placed in the HOF.

    oh yeah and the whole “rose to prominence after 1975” is a stupid category. If they deserve induction, they deserve induction, they should force premature inductions by making sure they were active after 1975.

    and dude, the Oak Ridge Boys and Barbara Mandrell? nah man, not HOF worthy. I know because I can’t imagine feeling anything but ridiculous listening to a mix cd of their greatest hits.

  2. I agree with you on the deceased, its long over due that Dottie West is recognized. She may have not burned up the charts but her career did chart top 10 singles in what? 3 different decades? She was a survivor in the industry and constantly reinvented herself. Plus she had an impressive songwritting catalog.

    I have a feeling that Barbra Mandrell will get it this year. She is deserving even though I have never been a fan, but entertainer she is.

  3. I wrote a feature about this back in 2006 called “Hall Worthy”, naming twelve people I thought belonged in the Hall of Fame:

    Since then, quite a few from that list have been inducted (Emmylou Harris, Statler Brothers, Tom T. Hall, Mel Tillis), and while Wanda Jackson is still waiting around, she has the wonderful consolation prize of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this year.

    My original list included Jerry Reed, Ronnie Milsap, and Hank Jr. If the Hall is looking to build up its list of female artists, they could do a lot worse than Jean Shepard, Connie Smith and Barbara Mandrell.

    I think all three women could eventually get in, but I can’t shake the feeling that the next woman to go in will be Reba McEntire.

    I’d put Kenny Rogers in before anybody else from the 70’s/80’s era, but I wonder if the general bad rap given to that period will make it difficult for him, Mandrell, Milsap, Oak Ridge Boys and the like.

    Dottie West might have a shot because of her talent-nurturing role as much as her music, and the fact that she had the traditional music from the sixties and early seventies under her belt before she went all NashVegas.

    Regardless of tomorrow’s inductees, the Hall of Fame has done such a good job of catching up that I don’t see any glaring omissions right now. We’re mostly dealing with the lesser legends from the earlier days of country music and some bigger stars that haven’t been waiting all that long.

  4. I meant to say “animated stage show,” but “animated show” came out in the original copy. I remember Jr.’s appearance on The Simpsons. Good stuff.

    I was trying to find that Hall post of yours, but ran out of time and energy. Tomorrow, the Hall will induct from two different eras, and only the Oak Ridge Boys from my list would be considered after 1975. It all depends on the Hall’s true definition of prominence (Mandrell and Williams, Jr. both had their biggest success in the ’80s.) That leads me to believe that someone like Reba or Alan Jackson could sneak in (unfortunately, in my opinion—Smith, Shepard and the like all deserve nods first). Honestly, I would leave Wanda Jackson just short of induction; she’s right along the fence in my opinion.

  5. Well they have changed the criteria and i have a big feeling reba will get in which i hope she doesnt. The most deserving is dottie west and it about high time she was put in.

  6. “Songwriter Dallas Frazier and entertainer Jimmy Dean will be eligible when the Hall of Fame revives the Non-Performer category in 2010.”


    perhaps Frazier might fall into that classification but if Jimmy Dean is a non-performer than so is George Strait, Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell.

    Jimmy Dean was a performer in EVERY sense of the word. Kevin once described Dolly Parton as being the only female to have excelled at live performing, songwriting, recording, movies and television. Well Jimmy Dean also sweeps the boards – not a major movie star but unlike Dolly, a major (and pioneering) success in television. Also, Jimmy introduced the Muppets to America !

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