This weekend, Patty Loveless, Bob McDill and Tanya Tucker became the 150th, 151st and 152nd members of the Country Music Hall of Fame as they were formally inducted during a star-studded Medallion Ceremony in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater.
Loveless, McDill and Tucker received country music’s highest distinction and were honored with heartfelt remarks and inspired performances of songs associated with their careers.
It was an evening in honor of “three gifted people who came from small towns in the hinterlands,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Each of these honorees has left a deep and distinctive stamp on our music, now to be forever enshrined in this Hall of Fame.”
Bob McDill — the fastidious songwriter who penned dozens of #1 country hits, including “Amanda,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and “Song of the South” — was the first to be recognized in the ceremony. Young told the audience of a music-obsessed kid from Beaumont, Texas, who came to Nashville in 1970 with hopes of becoming a successful folk singer-songwriter. Instead, he soon discovered the power and beauty of country music — and his gift at telling stories within the genre.
Along with his talents, McDill’s work ethic set him apart on Music Row. He approached songwriting like a 9-to-5 job, with the goal of finishing just one song each week. “For 30 years, no songwriter in Nashville was more meticulous, more patient and careful, in crafting finely tuned songs,” Young said.
The night’s first performer, Charley Crockett, sang McDill’s “Louisiana Saturday Night,” which went up the charts in 1981, three years before Crockett was born. McDill’s friend and collaborator Dean Dillon — who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021 — performed “All the Good Ones are Gone,” a Pam Tillis hit he and McDill penned together. Jamey Johnson tackled a masterpiece — McDill’s love letter to the South, “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” and went above and beyond in his solo acoustic performance, illuminating the song’s enduring beauty while giving it new life.
McDill was formally inducted by songwriting friend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Schlitz.
“Good ole boys like him? There’s only one,” he said. “And his songs whisper in our ears like the soft Southern wind through the live oak trees.”
Once his Hall of Fame plaque — which will hang alongside those of the other inductees in the museum’s rotunda — was unveiled, McDill joked about coming to Nashville more than a half-century ago “in a covered wagon.”
After acknowledging the friends and family members who had helped him along, he left the audience with few pieces of lighthearted wisdom, along with a quote from Henry Mancini. Once asked where he got his inspiration, the famed Hollywood composer replied, “Every day, at 9 a.m., at the piano.”
When Patty Loveless was growing up, Young told the audience, “She always wanted to sound like her heroes…Today, artists say they want to sing like Patty Loveless.”
The Kentucky native’s powerful, mountain-bred voice is among the most admired in country music. On Sunday, she was also one of the world’s greatest audience members. From the back of the house, you could see her lifting her hands high to applaud from her seat in the front row.
Her journey to that moment, Young explained, began in Kentucky with her older brother, Roger Ramey, who performed in a band with his teenage sister, and more than once brought her to Nashville to be discovered. Their dream came true in 1985, when her demo tape reached producer Tony Brown. Though she earned acclaim from her early releases, Loveless didn’t hit her commercial peak until the 1990s, scoring platinum albums, awards, and massive hits such as “Blame It on My Heart.” In the early twenty-first century, she embraced bluegrass and other traditional sounds on two critically praised albums, Mountain Soul and Mountain Soul II, before largely retiring to Georgia with her husband and producer, Emory Gordy Jr.
All three of Loveless’s musical tributes came from friends, though some were more surprising than others. One of her longtime backing musicians, fiddler Deanie Richardson, teamed up with her bluegrass bandmates in Sister Sadie to perform “Sounds of Loneliness,” a song Loveless wrote and included on that fateful demo tape.
Next, rock veteran Bob Seger took the stage to a stunned room — and Loveless was stunned right along with them. Some 20 years ago, he flew down to Georgia to record a duet with Loveless for one of his albums. On Sunday, he belted out her 1996 Top Five country hit “She Drew a Broken Heart.”
The final tribute performance for Loveless was likely not a big surprise to most in attendance, but that didn’t make it any less perfect. Longtime friend, collaborator and fellow Hall of Famer Vince Gill did tender justice to her ballad “Lonely Too Long,” and then was called on to formally induct Loveless, whom he described as “the little sister I’d always wanted to sing with.”
Gill remembered the first time he met Loveless — in 1985, she came to his meet-and-greet booth at Fan Fair, and told him, “We’re gonna sing together some day.”
“And boy, did we,” Gill told the audience.
Next, it was Loveless’s turn to take the stage. She thanked those who performed her songs in tribute—even urging them to record their own versions. “But going back over all the years, the one person I wish, truly, could be here with me tonight is my brother Roger Ramey. This was always a dream of ours as young kids, coming to Nashville.”
She recalled going to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum decades ago, when it was still off of Music Row. “It just felt so comforting to walk among those [plaques]. And to be a part of that now, it truly is an honor.”
Even alongside lifelong musicians like McDill and Loveless, Tanya Tucker’s journey to the Hall is the one that has truly taken a lifetime. The Texas-born singer was just 13 when her debut single, “Delta Dawn,” made her a star. She didn’t just possess talent beyond her years, but toughness, too.
“That 13-year-old girl walked into the studio on that March morning,” Young recalled of the “Delta Dawn” session. “(She) put her hands on her hips, looked around at the assembled A-Team musicians, and said, ‘Well, boys, I know my part. Do you know yours?'”
That bravado would come in handy more than once over the next 50 years, through Tucker’s ups and downs in the music industry, as well as her frequent travails in the tabloids. She’d been written off by the time she was 25, only to sign a new record deal with the Capitol label and score two dozen hit singles through the 1980s and ’90s. In 2019, she enjoyed another resurgence with the album While I’m Livin’, which earned her the first two Grammy awards of her career.
Fittingly, her musical tributes spanned that 50-year journey. 2021 Hall of Fame inductee Wynonna (who also entered the music industry at young age) sang “Delta Dawn.” Jessi Colter — a groundbreaking female iconoclast in country music just like Tucker — teamed up with Margo Price to sing Tucker’s strutting uptempo hit “A Little Too Late.”
“Isn’t she the toughest?” Colter asked rhetorically. “She can do anything, so it’s hard to sing any song she’s sung. Especially with the gyrations!” As luck would have it, Colter and Price would get an assist in that department from Tucker herself. At Colter’s urging, the inductee got up on stage to dance and sing along.
Tucker’s final tribute came from Americana star Brandi Carlile, who co-produced While I’m Livin’ with Shooter Jennings. Before singing “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” Carlile thanked Tucker for carving a path for “every tough little girl with a story to tell.”
“God gave you to me!” Tucker shouted to Carlile from the front row.
“God gave you to me too, T,” she replied.
By song’s end, Tucker was once again onstage, embracing her friend and delivering the song’s final line: “Love says they will.”
Afterwards, Tucker was formally inducted by two Hall of Fame members and kindred spirits, Brenda Lee and Connie Smith. “She is who she is, and you have to respect that,” Lee said.
“I look back on these 52 years, and it’s hard to make sense of it all,” Tucker said from the podium. “But it doesn’t really make sense.” Then she added, “If we lived in a world that made sense and was logical, it would be a man who rode side saddle,” to much laughter and applause.
“I know there’s so many people that I’m not gonna be able to thank, because we ain’t got enough time,” she said. “But I will say, like my friend Roger Miller used to say, ‘You see a turtle on a stump, you know he didn’t get there by himself.'”
The ceremony concluded, as it traditionally does, with a performance of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” an audience singalong led in rousing, soulful style by Wynonna.
Produced by the staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the annual Medallion Ceremony celebrates the unique talents, personalities and backgrounds of each Hall of Fame inductee, as well as the important turning points and the breakthrough artistic achievements that defined their careers. The ceremony includes speeches, live musical tributes and original video biographies, created by the museum staff using recorded performances, past televised interviews and historic photos culled from materials in the museum’s Frist Library and Archive. The ceremony is made possible in part by underwriting from the Country Music Association and other contributors. The official 2023 Class Medallion Ceremony playlist is available here.