Brooks & Dunn, Ray Stevens + Jerry Bradley Are Country Music Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 Inductees
The Country Music Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2019 on Monday (March 18): Brooks & Dunn, Ray Stevens and Jerry Bradley. The Hall of Fame shared the news during a special press conference, streamed live from the Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn., and hosted by WSM-AM DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer Bill Cody.
As Brooks & Dunn, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are 2019's Modern Era inductees. The two released their first album together in 1991, resulting in four No. 1 singles and officially starting the career of the best-selling duo in country music history. Hits such as "Red Dirt Road," "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Only in America" are just some of the songs that have earned the duo more than 80 industry awards and recognition as one of country music's most legendary pairs.
"It's beyond an honor to be here," Dunn said, admitting that the recognition had not yet sunk in. He and Brooks exchanged a high five before Dunn ceded the mic to Brooks.
"The faces on this wall, I will never consider my peers, most of them," Brooks shared. "I idolize them, and the fact that I could just share a little space on that wall, it's hard to describe ... how it makes you feel."
After the conference, Brooks & Dunn admitted that acceptance speeches had never been their forte. For both members of the superstar duo, it was difficult to fathom such a huge honor.
"You just don't [think something like this is going to happen], I think, if you're born with any humility," Brooks explained. "Most people who have any success live with some sort of anxiety, or humility -- I don't know if humility is the right word ..."
"It's called neurosis. All caps," his duo partner Dunn quipped in response.
Country and comedy artist Stevens is being inducted in the Veterans Era category in 2019. Onstage during the press conference, he called his induction "the greatest honor that anybody could ever receive."
"It's almost too much to take in," Stevens added at the start of his brief, thankful speech.
In an interview following the conference, the legendary performer added that he didn't expect to fully realize the weight of the honor for quite a while. "It was a real thrill when I was first notified that this was going to happen, and I'm still at a loss for words," he admitted. "It'll sink in, and six months from now I'll probably have a lot to say."
Stevens is known for the Grammy-winning songs "Everything Is Beautiful" as well as comedy songs such as "Gitarzan." He is already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
7 Artists Who Should Be in the Hall of Fame ... But Aren't!
Bradley is 2019's Non-Performer inductee; the category rotates every three years with Songwriter and Touring Artist categories. The son of legendary producer Owen Bradley, he got his start as a publisher for his family's Forest Hills Music; he then worked at RCA Records as the iconic Chet Atkins' assistant, and moved up to succeed Atkins as the head of the label from 1973 until 1982.
At RCA, Bradley signed artists including Alabama and Eddie Rabbitt, and was also part of the team behind the iconic Wanted! The Outlaws album. Bradley was also the head of Opryland Music Group from 1986 until 2002.
"I don't know how I got here, but I ain't leavin'," Bradley joked, channeling his friend Norro Wilson, at the beginning of his acceptance speech. He was overcome with emotion and needed press conference host Bill Cody to finish his speech, which concluded with a remembrance of his father and uncle Harold Bradley.
In an interview following the conference, Bradley spoke about his admiration for his dad, especially when it came to his intuition for song selection. "[One of the biggest lessons he taught me was about] good songs," Bradley explained. "It costs just as much to cut a bad song as a good song. [When people used to tell me], 'I went to lunch with your dad,' I'd say, 'Did you listen to him? I'm sure somewhere in your conversation he gave you some good advice."
In fact, he went on to say, it was his dad who initially put him on the path towards working in the country music industry. "When I first started, I thought I liked rock 'n' roll," he recalled. "He came to me one day and said, 'How many studios are there in town?' I said, 'Three.' He said, 'How many songs do they do?' I said, 'They do about a hundred in a week.' He said, 'How many of those are rock 'n' roll?' I said, 'One or two.'
"He said, 'Why don't you go with the odds?'" Bradley related, cracking a smile at the memory. He focused on country music from that day forward.
Each year, the Country Music Hall of Fame's three new members are elected in one of three categories: Veterans Era, Modern Era and the rotating categories of Non-Performer / Songwriter / Touring Artist. Veterans Era inductees are eligible for induction 40 years after first achieving national prominence, while Modern Era inductees are eligible for induction 20 years after first achieving national prominence.
The Hall of Fame's most recent inductees -- Ricky Skaggs, Dottie West and Johnny Gimble -- were unveiled in March of 2018 by press conference hosts Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. The Class of 2019 will be inducted later in the year, following Monday's announcement, and will be the 59th group of country music artists to join the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Country Music Association established the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 in order to recognize both creatives and key industry members within country music. Over the course of its history, the CMA has voted in members every year -- a total of 136 through 2018.
Who's Been Inducted Into the Country Music Hall of Fame?