Hall of Fame Dream Ballot 2024: The Veteran Era

The Country Music Hall of Fame remains the highest honor that the country music industry can bestow on an artist.  With only two artist slots available per year – one from the Modern Era and one from the Veteran Era – the inductees each year usually fall into one of three categories.  First, because of the backlog in inductees, many artists are overdue by the time they finally receive the honor, such as The Judds and Hank Williams Jr.   Sometimes the timing is just right, and we see artists go in around the time that their legacy warrants, as was the case with Alan Jackson and Patty Loveless.  Finally, and most rarely, longshot artists who didn’t seem well positioned to get into the Hall of Fame are a surprise on nomination morning, like recent inductees Ray Charles and Marty Stuart.

We won’t know until tomorrow which descriptor best matches this year’s inductees, but we are excited to share who we would choose from each potential batch of artists. Here are the category descriptors again:


An artist who should have been in the Country Music Hall of Fame many years ago.

About Time

An artist whose entry into the Country Music Hall of Fame would be right on time.

Lovable Longshot

A deserving artist who is a longshot for induction this year.

This post covers the Veteran Era, with eligible artists enjoying 45 years or more of national prominence.


The Veteran Era



Rightfully, she’s already been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but that particular institution plays so fast and loose with its overall mission that it’s long been diluted. Not so the far more selective CMHoF, who have yet to give Jackson her due. Her influence on the vocal style of a certain male artist of her own era is well-established lore, but Jackson was also an important and obvious influence on the women who followed her in the country music space: There’s no Jeannie C. Riley or Bobbie Gentry or Lucinda Williams without Wanda Jackson.


About Time:


The woman eligible in the veteran era who is an even greater influence than Jackson, Ronstadt’s genre bona fides are questionable only by those interested in overly rigid purity tests. She belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and it wouldn’t have been in any way egregious had that happened before now. Still, I want to see this happen while Ronstadt is with us, and I fear that window is a narrow one.


Lovable Longshot:


His time at the top of the country charts was relatively short, but I’d argue that he had an even greater influence than his contemporary, the also Hall-worthy Johnny Rodriguez, in terms of bringing Tejano music squarely into the country mainstream. That he enjoyed a lengthy run of critically-acclaimed work– both as a solo act and, later, as part of the spectacular Texas Tornados– makes him an important and often overlooked figure in the story of country music’s diversity and breadth.



The Veteran Era





With nearly three dozen top ten hits to her credit, Crystal Gayle was one of the most successful country artists of the seventies and eighties.  She remained relevant through different eras by experimenting with different sounds but always demonstrating good taste in material and subtlety in her performances.  


About Time:


Just their preservation of country music through their Will the Circle Be Unbroken trilogy is enough to warrant their induction, but they’ve also created some legacy-making music of their own, with enduring classics like “Fishin’ in the Dark” and “The Sharecropper’s Dream.”


Lovable Longshot:


Perhaps the most underappreciated artist from country music’s most unfairly maligned era, John Conlee’s interpretive gifts are unrivaled.  We’ve been covering so many of his big hits in recent months, but it was a more recent performance that brought his full talent into sharper relief for me.  At a tribute show for songwriter Bill Anderson, he performed “A Lot of Things Different,” which was a top ten hit for Kenny Chesney.  Conlee brings so much empathy, gravitas, and unresolvable regret to the lyric.  Long after his radio career faded, he’s still at the top of his game. 


  1. Mine would be:

    OVERDUE: Lynn Anderson. For country females if the 60s and 70s only Loretta and Tammy were more popular. Lynn won many top awards and recorded right up to her death. She had a style all her own with a foot firmly in tradition with pop influences. Look no further than her wonderful Christmas album for proof!

    BOUT TIME: Janie Fricke. Janie not only recorded some of the best material during the Urban Cowboy era, but she sang backup on thousands of recordings. Those backing vocals made such an impact that she got her own recording contract. Even today I find new songs that I instantly recognize that voice. Between the two parts of her carreer it’s time!

    LOVEABLE FAVORITE: Gail Davies. Gail is the whole package. She not only wrote great songs recorded by herself and others but she was one of, if not the first , woman to produce her own albums. She was also o e of the first female hired by a label as a staff producer. That few people remember her makes this a very long shot to ever happen but I love a good underdog win!

  2. @ Jonathan Keefe:

    In the case of Linda Ronstadt being a possible inductee into the CMHoF, it can also be said that she has several generations worth of fans and acolytes in the country music sphere who would welcome her in, even though (or perhaps because of/i> the fact that) she was always something of an outsider, and whose ideas about country music were not necessarily in line with Music Row’s. The biggest reason why it hasn’t happened yet for her, or for Wanda Jackson, or for any others mentioned here, is the extreme backlog of equally deserving artists who have themselves been waiting in the wings for decades.

    Perhaps it will happen, given the the fact that a biopic of her is in the works, with Only Murders In The Building star Selena Gomez set to portray her. But the window for Linda is indeed closing, as Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is severely limiting her now at the age of 77.

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