The Country Music Association has announced that Charlie Daniels, Fred Foster, and Randy Travis will become the newest members of the revered Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Daniels will be inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category, while Travis will be inducted in the “Modern Era Artist” category. Foster will be inducted in the “Non-Performer” category, which is awarded every third year in a rotation with the “Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980” and “Songwriter” categories. Daniels, Foster, and Travis will increase membership in the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame from 127 to 130 members. It is the first time that all of the inductees hail from the same state (North Carolina) since 1985.
“Each year, the announcement of the new Country Music Hall of Fame inductees is always a cause for celebration,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “This year’s class features three individuals who are revered for their respect of Country Music’s deep traditions, but are equally regarded for forging their own unique paths, taking the industry in new directions, and growing the fan base.”
“I have harbored many lofty ambitions, but I was almost afraid to dream that I would ever be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, what a surprise, what a blessing. Thank you God,” said Daniels.
“The halls of fame are built for, and by, those that make a difference in their chosen career,” said Travis. “I chose a career that I loved – and, it made a difference in me! My greatest joy was sharing my song and my God-given talent with family, friends, fans, and the industry. Thank you for giving me the chance, for believing in me along the way, and for allowing me to ‘hang my hat’ alongside some of my greatest heroes. I am honored to join those before me, and humbled to go ahead of those that will follow into Country Music’s Hall of Fame: no greater award could I ask to receive. God bless CMA and God bless our country’s music—Forever and Ever, Amen!”
“Being involved in Country Music is like being part of an extended family,” said Foster. “We all share common goals and we do our best to honor the heritage and tradition of the music. Having been able to make a living doing what I love for 58 years has truly been a blessing. Without the support of so many talented singers, songwriters, musicians and engineers, this award would never have been possible. I share this honor with all of them. Thank you CMA; this will go to the top of my most cherished memories.”
Formal induction ceremonies for Daniels, Foster, and Travis will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum in the CMA Theater later this year. Since 2007, the Museum’s Medallion Ceremony, an annual reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, has served as the official rite of induction for new members.
CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize noteworthy individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format with Country Music’s highest honor.
“I marvel at the contributions of these three pathfinders who make up the class of 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Fred Foster, Charlie Daniels, and Randy Travis came along in different eras and specialized in different things, but they each arrived with inventive, highly individualistic creative approaches. They ran against the grain of history, and in so doing they created their own indelible, historical marks.”
Hosted for the second year by Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee, the announcement was made today (Tue, March 29th) in the Rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and could be seen via live stream on CMAworld.com with the archived footage being available through the end of the month.
Veterans Era Artist – Charlie Daniels
Few musicians have had as varied and enduring an impact on Country Music as Charlie Daniels, the hard-charging, North Carolina-born fiddler who brought down-home sounds to the suburbs in a variety of ways and helped spread the genre to its widest audiences yet.
With the crossover hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Daniels left an indelible mark on pop music with a song that was as much folk tale as blazing rocker. The song displayed everything that was exciting about Daniels and his band, perfectly capturing the blend of genres and styles he likes to call “CDB Music” with its pace and virtuosity, mythos, and fiery sense of righteousness.
Daniels was born Oct. 28, 1936, in Wilmington, and his musical roots are informed by Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass bands, and the seemingly conflicting sounds of Nashville’s WSM and WLAC, Nashville’s Country and onetime R&B station, respectively, whose signals carried across the Appalachians.
Those four sounds combined to create rock ‘n’ roll around the time Daniels graduated high school in 1955. Already proficient at fiddle, mandolin, and guitar, Daniels formed his first band, the Jaguars, and began to play live.
The group stopped in Fort Worth, Texas, on its way to California to record a song with producer Bob Johnston. Nothing much came of the instrumental “Jaguar,” which had been picked up by Epic Records for national distribution. But Johnston’s friendship would shape Daniels’ career in other ways for decades to come.
In 1964 Daniels and Joy Byers co-wrote “It Hurts Me,” a B-side recorded by Elvis Presley. Over the next few years Johnston tried to convince the multi-instrumentalist to move to Nashville and in 1967 Daniels took his distinctive bull-rider hat, wild beard, and outsized persona to Music City where he quickly made an impact in the studio.
Daniels recorded with musicians as diverse as Al Kooper, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Marty Robbins, among his many credits, and made significant contributions to the historic sessions that yielded Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. He also appeared on Dylan’s enigmatic albums New Morningand Self Portrait. During this time Daniels also produced the Youngbloods’ 1969 album Elephant Man and toured Europe as part of Leonard Cohen’s backing band.
Importantly, he also began work on his first album, Charlie Daniels, released by Capitol Records in 1970. His next three albums on Kama Sutra Records yielded only the modest hit “Uneasy Rider.”
Daniels’ shaggy sound began to connect with the public with the release of 1974’s Fire on the Mountain. The singles “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Long Haired Country Boy” charted in 1975 at a time of renewed interest in Southern culture and the album went Platinum. The LP started a strong run for Daniels and his band with five of their next eight albums going Platinum or Gold.
The peak of this run came in 1979 when Daniels released Million Mile Reflections, a title that referred to CDB’s countless days on the road. The album included “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a song that became a cultural phenomenon. “Devil” went to the top of the charts at Country, peaked at No. 3 on the pop list, and appeared on the soundtrack for “Urban Cowboy,” the Country-popularizing movie in which Daniels made a cameo appearance.
The song helped the group earn a number of honors, including the CMA Award for Single of the Year and a Grammy Award. The song remains both a radio staple and a favorite cover nearly 40 years later.
Daniels continued to have success as both a recording and touring act for decades to come. Over the years, he continued to explore musically, recording songs inspired by his faith and political beliefs. He contributed “Kneel at the Cross” to the Grammy-winning compilation Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel, and “Just a Little Talk With Jesus” to its 1997 sequel. In 2002 he released How Sweet the Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats.
Still busy creating music and performing, in 2014 Daniels released a tribute to the music of Dylan,Off the Grid: Doin’ It Dylan. He followed that up in 2015 with Live At Billy Bob’s Texas, a 14-track project that brought the talents of the Charlie Daniels Band together with the likes of legendary Country artists including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Gary Stewart, David Allen Coe, Pat Green, Randy Rogers Band, Stoney LaRue, Charlie Robison, and many others as a member of the Live at Billy Bob’s Texas family.
Daniels, now 79, has overcome two major health scares – prostate cancer in 2001 and a mild stroke in 2010 – and continues to perform more than 100 dates a year. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009.
Modern Era Artist – Randy Travis
Very few figures in Country Music stand out as signposts along the way, the trendsetters who fearlessly predict and influence the future of the genre. Randy Travis is one of these performers, and his impact still reverberates in the modern-vs.-traditional ebb and flow of popular trends.
Blessed with a voice straight from the church altar, Travis immediately reminded fans of Country Music’s roots when his songs came to popular attention for the first time in the mid-1980s after years of rejection. Travis’ voice helped launch the neo-traditionalist movement with heartfelt Country and gospel songs that sounded so earnest and honest because, it turned out, the North Carolina-born singer had lived those hard times and sometimes found the redemption he sang about.
Born Randy Traywick on May 4, 1959, in Marshville, N.C., Travis grew up on a rural farm and began performing as a child with his brother Ricky as the Traywick Brothers. Travis often clashed with his father and dropped out of school, getting into scrapes with the law that continued until he won a Country Music singing contest at a club run by Elizabeth “Lib” Hatcher in Charlotte. She took an interest in the teen and gave him a job at the club.
This was the start of a professional and personal relationship that would shape Travis’ life for the next 25 years. The two moved to Nashville in 1982 to pursue a recording deal for Travis and married in 1991. Hatcher took over as manager of the Nashville Palace and hired Travis to sing and cook there. After initial failures in North Carolina and Nashville – Travis says he was turned down by every label in town at least once for being too Country – Warner Bros. Records A&R executive Martha Sharp took notice of the singer after hearing him perform at the Nashville Palace and set out to champion him as Randy Travis.
Travis’ first single, “On the Other Hand,” barely registered on the charts in 1985, but the next, “1982,” rose to the Top 10. Warner Bros. re-released “On the Other Hand” and it quickly became Travis’ first No. 1 single, beginning a run of 10 more chart-toppers out of his next 12 hit singles. The subsequent album Storms of Life was the first of six straight Platinum certifications for sales in excess of one million units and announced Travis as an exciting new voice. He would win the Horizon Award for best new artist at the 1986 CMA Awards.
“Forever and Ever, Amen,” the first single from his 1987 album Always & Forever, also went to No. 1 and helped Travis score the first of seven career Grammy Awards. Always & Forever also took Album of the Year at the 1987 CMA Awards, where Travis also won Male Vocalist and Single of the Year.
With his next four albums – Old 8×10, No Holdin’ Back, Heroes & Friends, and High Lonesome – Travis would go on to have 16 No. 1 songs, charting more than 50, and selling more than 25 million albums. The singer pursued an acting career in the 1990s and scored more than 40 motion picture and television roles, including “The Rainmaker” with Matt Damon and a run of several “Touched By an Angel” episodes.
Travis turned primarily to gospel music around the turn of the century, giving his career an unexpected boost with the release of the iconic single “Three Wooden Crosses” in 2002. The song went to No. 1 on the Country and Christian charts and was the 2003 CMA Awards Song of the Year. Travis earned eight Platinum certifications and four Gold records in his career and is one of Country’s top-selling artists.
The 56-year-old singer’s public performance career was put on hold in 2013 when Travis suffered a stroke as a result of a viral infection in his heart. With doctors telling the family that hope was virtually lost and after spending six months in the hospital, he has fought back harder than ever and is now able to walk. His speech and singing continue to improve with hopes of being back in front of his loyal fans one day soon.
He is currently living on his ranch in Texas with his wife Mary Davis-Travis, where he continues physical rehabilitation and has been making special appearances including attending the Opry Trust Fund dinner honoring Warner Bros. Records executive Jim Ed Norman; attending the recent TJ Martell Honors Gala; and last year at Cowboys Stadium, where he received a standing ovation from the 70,000 people in attendance.
Non-Performer – Fred Foster
When producer and label owner Fred Foster moved Monument Records from Washington, D.C. to Nashville in 1960, he came to town to create something different than what the established Music City recording industry was then producing. Within a decade, Foster’s fearless musical tastes helped launch the iconic careers of fellow Country Music Hall of Fame members Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, and Willie Nelson while also writing an important chapter in rock ‘n’ roll music history.
Foster cemented his pIace in the annals of music history with the signing of Roy Orbison. Their recordings remain towering achievements and added an emotional complexity to the nascent genre and inspired a legion of future rock ‘n’ roll stars, including The Beatles and a young Bruce Springsteen.
Orbison’s success with Monument gave Foster the confidence and capital he needed to forge his own path in Nashville, a habit developed in his teen years.
Born July 26, 1931, in rural North Carolina, Foster took over the family farm at age 15 when his father died. Two years later he left for D.C., where his sister Polly lived. Resolving to be anything but a farmer, Foster began to write songs with local talent while working as a hotel carhop.
His first job in the music business was as a record store clerk and his early work involved promotion and distribution. He began recording local acts on the side, even helping future fellow Hall of Fame member Jimmy Dean cut early tracks. He joined Mercury Records in 1953 and eventually became Head of National Country Promotion. But after making his first trip to Nashville to determine why Country sales were flat, he clashed with executives over the direction of the label’s sound, which he felt was antiquated in the age of rockabilly.
During his short tenure at ABC/Paramount (1956), he acquired the master to the label’s first million-seller, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” by George Hamilton, IV. He also signed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Lloyd Price to the label. Price’s hits included: “Stagger Lee,” “Personality,” and “I’m Gonna Get Married.”
Soon after his stint at ABC/Paramount, Foster started Monument Records – a nod to the nearby Washington Monument – and publishing house Combine Music in 1958. He used the earnings from the company’s first hit song, Billy Grammer’s “Gotta Travel On,” to move to Nashville two years later.
He soon signed Orbison and began a run of recordings from 1960 to ‘64 that included “Only The Lonely,” “In Dreams,” “Running Scared,” “Blue Bayou,” “Blue Angel,” “Dream Baby,” “Crying,” “Candy Man,” “Mean Woman Blues,” “It’s Over,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
Around this time Foster signed a young Parton, helping her shape not only her sound but the infectious and bawdy persona that won over the nation. Of Parton, Foster said: “Sometimes you just know…sometimes. And that makes up for all the times you had to guess.” Foster recorded her first album, Hello, I’m Dolly, which yielded the hits “Dumb Blonde” and “Something Fishy.” The songs immediately identified Parton as a star and showed she was anything but a dumb blonde.
Foster worked with a number of noted artists during this time, including Grandpa Jones, Nelson, Ray Price, Boots Randolph, Ray Stevens (Foster produced the No. 1 “Guitarzan”), Billy Walker, Tony Joe White, and Jeannie Seely, recording her 1967 Grammy Award-winning song “Don’t Touch Me.”
The producer also met Kristofferson during this period and recognized he was more than a poetic songwriter, urging him to record and perform his own songs. Their first album together, 1970’sKristofferson, displayed the singer-songwriter’s transcendent talent and contained many of his hallmark songs, including “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “For the Good Times,” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” Foster shares a co-writer’s credit on the latter for suggesting the song title “Me and Bobby McKee,” named for a nearby female office worker. Kristofferson misheard him and eventually delivered “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Foster, now 84, sold Monument and Combine in 1990, but has continued to produce music, winning a Grammy for his work with Nelson and Price on Last of a Breed in 2008. He was inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame in 2009 and, along with his friends Kristofferson and Nelson, received the prestigious Dale Franklin Award from Leadership Music in 2010. Two years later, his home state inducted Foster into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Foster received a Trustees Award for his contributions to music from the Recording Academy earlier this year.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.