Country Music Hall of Fame Class of 2021: Eddie Bayer, Ray Charles, Peter Drake, and The Judds

The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced the Class of 2021:

Eddie Bayers

Recording and/or Touring Musician

A top studio drummer of country music’s modern era, Eddie Bayers has played on Nashville recordings since the mid-1970s. Originally a keyboardist, he shifted to drums under the mentorship of famed drummer Larrie Londin. Significant early sessions for Bayers included the 1980 Urban Cowboy movie soundtrack and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs album. Bayers developed longstanding working relationships with many artists including the Judds, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Kenny Chesney. Highly respected by his country music peers, Bayers was named the Academy of Country Music’s top drummer fourteen times between 1991 and 2010.

Ray Charles

Veterans Era Artist

A pioneer of R&B, Ray Charles (1930–2004) was also enormously influential in country music. With his landmark 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, the soulful singer and pianist put his own indelible stamp on country songs, broadening the music’s appeal and audience. He made country music a significant part of his repertoire from that point forward, collaborating frequently with country artists, such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Blind since age seven, Charles overcame barriers of disability and race to transform American popular music, becoming one of the most revered and recognized entertainers in the world.

Pete Drake

Recording and/or Touring Musician

Pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake (1932-1988) left a lasting mark not only on country music, but also on rock, gospel, and folk music. He moved to Nashville in 1959 and quickly became a first-call session musician, playing on countless country hits. Later, he contributed to folk and rock records by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, George Harrison, and Elvis Presley. He also produced albums by artists as varied as B.J. Thomas and Ringo Starr. His impact extended to owning a recording studio, founding two independent record labels, and establishing music publishing firms that promoted writers such as David Allan Coe and Dottie West.

The Judds

Modern Era Artist

The Judds—mother Naomi and daughter Wynonna—helped take country back to its roots in the 1980s with lean, tuneful songs influenced by traditional folk music, acoustic blues, and family harmony acts. Wynonna was the lead singer with a husky, expressive voice, who could growl with bluesy intensity or articulate heartache with tender sensitivity. Naomi provided harmony, wit, and a sashaying stage presence that engaged audiences. Between 1984 and 1991, the Judds scored a remarkable twenty Top Ten hits—including fourteen #1s. They also won five Grammys, nine CMA awards, and seven ACM awards.

Excellent group! Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Leeann – Same. The Judds’ music was such a big part of my childhood, and I still really enjoy a lot of their songs today. Always loved their harmonies, as well. It’s great seeing them receive this honor!

    Also great seeing Eddie Bayers get his due, who’s been the session drummer on many great George Strait albums, plus countless other favorite 90’s country songs of mine.

  2. I was stunned to learn Pete Drake is the first steel guitar player to be inducted. It doesn’t seem fathomable that there weren’t any in before now.

  3. Disappointing group of inductees – all worthy, although Bayer & the Judds are marginal. There are others; however that should have been inducted before Ray Charles and Pete Drake.

    I knew that no steel guitar player had been inducted previously, but there a number with a greater claim to being the first inducted including Speedy West, Don Helms and Leon McAuliffe. Also others such as Weldon Myrick, Lloyd Green, Tom Brumley, Norm Hamlet and Big Joe Talbott are equally as deserving as Pete Drake.

    The Country Music Hall of Fame should mimic the Rock and Roll hall of Fame and have something similar to the “Early Influences” category (call it “Outside Influences”, if you will) and use that as the category for inducting the likes of Ray Charles, Patti Page, Bing Crosby, etc.

    If the CMHOF had created such a category, Charles, Page and Crosby could have all been inducted decades ago.

  4. I have to agree with Paul on Pete Drake. I was surprised that he was the first Steel player to be inducted. I would have guessed Don Helms or Lloyd Green would have been among the first. But then again, it’s ridiculous that we’re even talking about the first in 2021.

    I’m still pleased with The Judds though!

    • The Judds were long overdue, as are most of the new traditionalists from the eighties at this point. Dwight Yoakam, John Anderson, and Patty Loveless should be in there by now, too.

      Ray Charles is one of those inductees that I hadn’t thought of, but makes perfect sense now that he’s in there.

      Two musician inductees because there was a tie is hilarious to me. Can we get a 10-way tie in the modern category next year?

      I think all of this year’s inductees are worthy, but my issue with the Hall remains the slow pace of inductions. Even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does better than this, and it’s pretty darn backlogged, too.

      I’d up it to 4 Modern, 2 Veteran a year for a few years until they got caught up, with some minimum threshold of votes as a failsafe.

  5. @ Kevin John Coyne:

    I agree that the backlog of artists is a problem the CMHOF has really failed to deal with, when they just induct maybe three or four artists per year total, instead of the five or six among the performers alone that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does (not counting the producers, managers, and “suits”). In my mind, they have to really re-jig the whole thing, or the backlog is going to be interminable.

    I can’t disagree with this year’s choices, however, even when it’s only four–including Brother Ray.

  6. All are worthy, with the Judds and Ray Charles being long overdue.

    I agree with the suprise others have mentioned about the lack of steel guitarists.

  7. I’m happy with all the inductees (especially The Judds)…

    …but what does Tanya Tucker have to do to get in. She had chart success in three – count ’em – three decades. Plus, she’s still putting out great music.

    There are many artists who still aren’t in that deserve to be but Tucker is a glaring omission. Plus, I don’t think she’s ever attempted to be identified as anything but a country artist. Put her in already.

  8. …when it comes to choosing new inductees into cmhof, perhaps it would be a good idea to give preference to deserving candidates, who are still alive. this great achievement should be most of all a joyful moment for the recipients, not a morbid one like this time around again. it kinda spoils the whole party somewhat.

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