Hosted by Country Music Hall of and Museum CEO Kyle Young and held in the museum’s CMA Theater, the annual ceremony paid tribute to country rock pioneer and Mt. Juliet resident Charlie Daniels; music producer, publisher and Monument Records founder Fred Foster; and neo-traditional singer Randy Travis with speeches, live musical tributes and original video biographies.
The artists paying tribute crossed generations and styles, underscoring the eclectic nature and groundbreaking stature of the three men being inducted.
“These three Tar Heels came to Tennessee and created music that enriched our lives and enhanced our culture,” said Young. “We are better for their presence and for their talents, and we are proud to hang their plaques in the Hall of Fame Rotunda.”
Musical tributes, with surprise guests, are a highlight of the Medallion Ceremony. Foster’s celebration began with Dolly Parton performing her first hit, “Dumb Blonde,” produced by Foster and released on Monument Records.
“If anybody deserves one of these medallions, you do.” Parton said to Foster. “You gave me a shot, and you were a gentleman when Porter Wagoner stole me away. You saw things in me that nobody else did. I hope that I made you proud.”
Whenever she reflects on the blessings bestowed upon her, Parton said, “I thank God. I thank the fans. And I thank you.”
Grammy-winning songwriter Brandy Clark performed “Blue Bayou,” which Foster originally produced with Orbison. Linda Ronstadt later transformed the song into a pop classic.
Kris Kristofferson, the last of Foster’s tribute performers, walked out with harmonica specialist and fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy to perform a touching version of his famous song, “Me and Bobby McGee.” The song’s inspiration, former Music Row office worker Barbara McKee (now Barbara McKee Eden by marriage), was in the audience.
A Hall of Fame member always inducts the newcomers, as a way of welcoming them to the elite group. Foster requested that Hall of Fame member Vince Gill make his induction official.
To begin the musical tribute to Daniels, Young spoke of the important role producer and record executive Bob Johnston, who died in 2015, played in the new inductee’s career. Johnston and Daniels co-wrote “It Hurts Me,” and Daniels moved to Nashville in 1967 at Johnston’s invitation.
Trisha Yearwood began the musical tribute to Daniels with a soulful version of “It Hurts Me,” recorded by Elvis Presley in 1964. Getting a cut by Presley was the first major breakthrough in Daniels’s career.
Jamey Johnson performed Daniels’ 1980 hit “Long Haired Country Boy.” With his hair several inches beyond his shoulders and a beard that reached his chest, Johnson said, “I started singing this song when I was in the marines. I didn’t have long hair then.”
For the last of the musical tributes to Daniels, Grand Ole Opry star Trace Adkins and fiddler Andrea Zonn took the stage to perform “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” “I got the hardest song to do,” Adkins said with a wry smile, before nailing the vocals. Zonn played the difficult fiddle parts with stunning virtuosity, drawing an ovation from Daniels who pointed at her as she bowed toward him.
Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee inducted Daniels.