Willie Nelson prior to a CBS television interview to promote his album, 'Stardust', Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 29th April 1978.
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15 Cross-Genre Innovators in Both the Country and Rock Halls of Fame

Country music began in the 1920s as a fusion of preexisting folk sounds and traditions with the fresh technologies and developing business strategies of the early recording industry. Other genres have been born similarly since, with rock being among the styles borrowing sonic and storytelling cues from country's evolutions and innovations.

It's no wonder, then, that as of May 2023, there's 15 double-inductees in country and rock's hallowed halls of fame. The genre's pasts are so intertwined that of those 15, six belonged to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inaugural Class of 1986. Likewise, two-thirds of the Country Music Hall of Fame's first class of inductees from 1961 get lauded as early rock influencers.

Here's a rundown of the 12 individual artists, two groups and one behind-the-scenes power broker with enough cross-genre impact to get their due from the Country Music Association and Rock Hall voters.

Elvis Presley

American actor and singer Elvis Presley promoting the movie Wild in the Country, directed by Philip Dunne.

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The King of Rock 'n' Roll took his rightful spot in the Rock Hall in 1986 as part of its inaugural class. Beyond his obvious rock and pop bonafides, Presley was always country-adjacent. For example, his first overall No. 1, 1955's "I Forgot to Remember to Forget," topped the country charts, as did the final hit released in his lifetime, 1976's "Moody Blue." Presley got elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

Sam Phillips

Sun Records owner Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley both fingering a chord on the same guitar, United States, 1956.

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As a producer and the owner of Sun Records, Phillips guided the country and rock-shaping sounds of Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and countless others. He's another member of the Rock Hall's inaugural class and a 2001 addition to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Everly Brothers

Popular musical duo Phil and Don Everly recording at the Warner Brothers studio in Hollywood, 1963.

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Don and Phil Everly joined Presley and Phillips in getting the first call by the Rock Hall. Like Presley, the Everly Brothers were country-adjacent from the jump, scoring four country No. 1s in '57 and '58 before playing as big a role in shaping country-rock as Gram Parsons or any other usual suspect. The siblings entered the Country Music Hall of Fame's family circle in 2001.

Ray Charles

Ray Charles during Willie Nelson and Friends Perform in Celebration ofn Willie's 70th Birthday at The Beacon Theatre in New York City, NY, United States.

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Another member of the Rock Hall's historic Class of 1986, Charles grew up listening to country radio and incorporated those sounds into his groundbreaking R&B recordings. In 1962, he fully embraced the twang with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which is considered a classic album across genre lines. Greater country success followed in the 1980s with Columbia Records — the stretch that brought us the No. 1 Willie Nelson collaboration "Seven Spanish Angels." Charles joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2021.

Jimmie Rodgers

CIRCA 1930: The father of country music Jimmie Rodgers poses for a portrait as the Singing Brakeman circa 1930 .

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Though he's long been billed as the Father of Country Music, Rodgers' guitar picking, yodeling and songwriting style —-plus his former railroad worker image— made him an influential figure in the commercial spread of the blues, placing him on the ground level of rock and pop. Thus, he's the only artist inducted in the inaugural classes of both the country (1961) and rock (1986) halls of fame.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Singer Jerry Lee Lewis lounging on couch w. one foot up on dressing table next to a bottle of Seagram's V.O. whiskey in dressing room at Performing Arts Center.

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A sixth and final member of the Rock Hall's first class, Lewis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame less than two weeks before his Oct. 28, 2022 death. Like many of his Sun Records peers, Lewis' music always appealed to both rock and country audiences. His first No. 1s, the iconic 1957 singles "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" and "Great Balls of Fire," topped the country charts. From the late '60s through the early '80s, Lewis charted numerous country singles, including five additional No. 1s.

Hank Williams

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 1951: Country singer Hank Williams performs at the Hadacol Caravan Show in September 1951 in Columbus, Ohio.

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Williams easily did as much to evolve and elevate country music as the Beatles did for rock. It was a no-brainer, then, for Williams to be among the first three Country Music Hall of Famers in 1961 — a class rounded out by Rodgers and a songwriting and music publishing innovator integral to Williams' career, Fred Rose. In year two of Rock Hall inductions (1987), Williams joined as an Early Influencer for his sweeping impact on popular music.

Johnny Cash

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: NASHVILLE Photo of Johnny CASH, Posed portrait of Johnny Cash, with Takamine acoustic guitar, recording in home studio

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Cash is yet another Sun Records discovery whose early music overlapped traditional country and nascent rock 'n' roll. That never really changed during Cash's storied Columbia Records years, and his ever-present rock grit certainly upped the cool factor of a redemptive late-life run with American Recordings. Cash joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980, with the Rock Hall call following in 1992.

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe at Memphis in May in Memphis, Tennessee , May 29, 1981.

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Monroe gets widely credited with inventing bluegrass: a genre that's been going strong since 1945. As the face and voice of country's not-too-distant cousin, Monroe's 1970 induction into the Country Music all of Fame was long overdue. As someone as foundational to popular music as Rodgers, a 1997 addition to the Rock Hall was equally merited.

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

FRESNO, CA - OCTOBER 1945: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (L-R) Tommy Duncan (on horse). Standing: Louie Tierney, Les Anderson, Joe Galbreath (driver), Joe Holly, Billy Jack Wills, Harley Huggins. Crouching: Junior Barnard, Millard Kelso (driver), Johnnie Edwards, Alex Brashear and Bob Wills (on horse) pose for a portrait in front of their tour bus in October 1945 in Fresno, CA.

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In the 1930s, Wills was on the ground level of western swing — a still-influential genre that blended jazz and big band pop with western music. A giant of Texas culture, Wills joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968. He and his famed Texas Playboys got rightful Early Influencer credit from the Rock Hall in 1999.

Chet Atkins

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Chet Atkins

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If Atkins hadn't been an influential record executive and producer for RCA, his guitar-playing innovations would've still made him an ideal hall of famer in the country (Class of 1973) and rock (Class of 2002) fields. The reverse is true: without his guitar innovations, Atkins' business acumen alone would've made him a solid hall of fame candidate across genres.

Floyd Cramer

CIRCA 1961: Country and Western Music Pianist Floyd Cramer poses for a publicity photo circa 1961.

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Cramer's slip-note style of piano playing innovated country music in the '50s and '60s, making him one of several Nashville session musicians worthy of a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame's rotunda. The Class of 2003 inductee's wide-reaching influence got lauded that same year by the Rock Hall.

Brenda Lee

American singer Brenda Lee performs live on stage in London in 1964.

David Redfern/Redferns

As a teenager, Lee became a global country and pop phenomenon. In the '60s, she charted 47 songs overall— the fourth most of the decade behind Presley, The Beatles and Charles. More country hits followed in the '70s and '80s, including eight Top 10 entries. And yes, the evergreen appeal of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" surely helped her case with rock (Class of 2002) and country (Class of 1997) hall of fame voters.

Dolly Parton

HOLLYWOOD - SEPTEMBER 29: Singer Dolly Parton poses with a pair of Solstice sunglasses at the Distinctive Assets "Women in Rock" talent gift lounge, backstage at the Kodak Theatre on September 29, 2003 in Hollywood, California.

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Despite her aw-shucks protestations, Parton joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022. She's no less of a genre-transcendent influencer of pop culture than Williams, Cash or even Presley, making her a good fit for this list. Of course, Parton already claimed her spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 1999.

Willie Nelson

CIRCA 1976: Country singer/songwriter Willie Nelson plays acoustic guitar as he performs onstage in circa 1976.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

A songwriter-to-the-stars turned superstar in his own right, Nelson has long belonged on country music's Mount Rushmore. Thus, it was a no-brainer for Country Music Hall of Fame to enshrine him in 1993. Another 30 years of critically-acclaimed albums, memorable duets and must-see tours earned the 90-year-old pop culture influencer the same honor in 2023 from the Rock Hall.

This story was previously published on Nov. 5, 2022.

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