Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame will gain three new members in 2016 with the announcement of the selection of Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster.

Randy Travis was elected in the Modern Era category which is comprised of artists who first achieved national prominence between 20 and 45 years ago. He broke onto the scene in the mid-1980's at a time when the majority of country music was more pop than C&W. His first singles ushered in a new era emphasizing a more traditional sound. He was also the first country artist to go platinum with a debut album and the first to go multi-platinum.

Travis first hit the country top ten in 1985 with the song 1982 and, over the length of his career, has been in the top ten thirty times with his last being 2009's remake of his own hit I Told You So with Carrie Underwood. Sixteen of those singles went to number 1 including On the Other Hand (1986), Diggin' Up Bones (1986), Forever and Ever, Amen (1987), I Told You So (1988) and Three Wooden Crosses (2002).

Randy's album output includes five chart toppers and a number of theme-based albums along with a long string of religious and gospel sets.

Travis was on-hand for the announcement this morning, a rarity in the years since 2013 stroke that left him with a number of disabilities. His wife, Mary Davis-Travis, spoke on his behalf.

Charlie Daniels will go in under the Veterans Era category for artists who have been prominent for at least forty years. Daniels' career goes back to the late-50's with his first success coming in 1964 when Elvis Presley recorded his song It Hurts Me. He also played many sessions, including bass on three Bob Dylan albums (Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, New Morning).

Charlie's first success as an artist in his own right came in 1973 when his Uneasy Rider went to number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. His 1979 hit The Devil Went Down to Georgia hit number 3 on the Hot 100 and topped the Country Singles while In America went to number 11 on the Pop and 13 on the Country charts.

Overall, Daniels only had three top ten country singles, the previously mentioned Devil, Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye (1986 / #8) and Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues (1988 / #10) and five top ten country albums:
  • Saddle Tramp (1976 / #7)
  • Million Mile Reflections (1979 / #1)
  • Full Moon (1980 / #8)
  • Windows (1982 / #7)
  • Simple Man (1989 / #2)
While Daniels may not have been the biggest country star, he is recognized as a pioneer of the southern rock sound and, in turn, exposing millions of youth in the 70's to country music. Charlie signed a $3 million contract with Epic Records in 1976, a record at that time for a Nashville-based act. His Volunteer Jam, which started in 1974, exposed the Nashville scene to other musical genres and often saw traditional country acts like Roy Acuff and Tammy Wynette sharing the bill with B.B. King, Ted Nugent, Billy Joel and Don Henley. 

Among Daniel's honors are a CMA Single of the Year for Devil, Musician of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year along with Dove Awards for his religious recordings. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry at age 71 in 2008. 

Producer Fred Foster was elected in the Non-Performer category which is given every three years in rotation with Songwriter and Touring Musician. 

Foster's legacy is almost as important to rock and pop as it is to country. He started his career in the 50's promoting a young Jimmy Dean and working for Mercury and ABC-Paramount Records where he signed George Hamilton IV. 

In 1958, he used his life savings to start Monument Records and had a hit right out of the box with Billy Grammer's Gotta Travel On but it was his 1960 move of the label to Nashville and the signing of former Sun Records singer Roy Orbison that really put the label on the map. Foster not only had Roy on his label but also produced almost all of Orbison's hits including Only the Lonely, Crying, Running Scared, It's Over, In Dreams and Oh, Pretty Woman

Foster also started Sound Stage 7 Records which concentrated on the R&B market with artists like Joe Simon, Ivory Joe Hunter and Arthur Alexander, and Combine Music which published many of the hits recorded for Monument. 

In 1967, he signed Dolly Parton to Monument. Although she had been around the fringes of the music industry since the late 50's, Foster saw her potential. She only recorded on album for the label but Foster is seen as a major player in Parton's building popularity. 

Among other artists Foster produced were Ray Stevens, Tony Joe White, Larry Gatlin and Charlie McCoy. He co-wrote the classic Me and Bobby McGee with Kris Kristofferson and produced Kris' early albums. 

Even though his music empire came to an end in the mid-80's, Foster has continued to produce including Willie Nelson's 2006 album You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker and the Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price set Last of the Breed

Here is the hour-long announcement from the Country Music Hall of Fame rotunda (ceremony stars at the 17:20 mark):