10 Artists Who Deserve to be Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

Asleep At The Wheel's Ray Benson attends the world premiere of "A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story" during the South by Southwest Film Festival on Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

The Country Music Hall of Fame is one of the most exclusive clubs in all of music. Situated in downtown Nashville, it comprises some of the most influential and legendary artists from the genre.

Elected by the Country Music Association, up to three artists receive the designation per year. The process involves one "modern" artist (eligible 20 years after national prominence), one "veteran" artist (eligible 45 years after prominence) and one non-performer (which could be a songwriter, producer, musician etc.).

Though in 2001, they had a massive induction of 12 artists. Perhaps they should consider another, because we've certainly got some suggestions.

Since this list originally ran in 2017, two of our original top 10 picks (Brooks & Dunn and Dottie West) got that call from the Hall. More recently, three obvious snubs (Hank Williams Jr., Marty Stuart and Dean Dillon) earned spots in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's rotunda alongside Jimmie Rodgers, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Ernest Tubb and other legends.

Let's take a look at 10 artists who, as of August 2020, deserve to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Hopefully in three years' time, we'll once again be batting .200 when it comes to Hall of Fame projections.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Of all the artists vying for a spot in the hall, Lewis may have both the best shot and raise the most eyebrows. Conventionally, Lewis was always kind of the anti-hero in country music. A rockabilly pioneer who famously rocked the Grand Ole Opry (completely ignoring its unspoken and spoken rules), Lewis doesn't strike people as the prototypical country star. But just like Elvis Presley or Ray Charles, his mark on the genre deserve serious merit.

Many, including Lewis himself, don't get why The Killer isn't already a Hall of Famer.

-- Jeremy Burchard

John Denver

As we covered awhile back, John Denver is every bit deserving of country music's praise and respect as anyone else in the hall. Though some will forever associate him with the famous envelope-burning incident when he won the 1975 Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards, Denver's deft optimism and lyrical poetry are more than deserving of country's highest honor. He again shows how country saturates American culture in many different genres.

-- Jeremy Burchard

Bobbie Gentry

Honestly, Bobbie Gentry not being in the Country Music Hall of Fame is a real head scratcher. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that fewer than 20 women altogether are in the hall of fame, and that's a serious problem. Perhaps it's her awards in both country and pop, or her desire to no longer play music since the early 1980s. But Gentry's fierce, unique style captivated fans. She had four albums chart on the country charts, including two No. 1 albums. And her work with hall of fame member Glen Campbell essentially set the standard for future country duets.

-- Jeremy Burchard

Guy Clark

Honestly, any songwriter should protest the hall of fame until Clark gets his rightful induction. Really, anybody at all. That's it, we're protesting. Because Guy Clark is the definition of country. And here's the crazy thing -- after his work in the 1970s helped establish outlaw and progressive country, he only got better. So many legendary artists recorded Clark's songs, from Johnny Cash to modern hitmakers like Brad Paisley. Yet somehow, they were always just better when Guy sang them. You are missed, Guy.

-- Jeremy Burchard

Alison Krauss

If inducted within the next few years, Alison Krauss would be the youngest member by a mile. The 45-year-old bluegrass legend still has a lot of music left to make. But when you get famous around age 14, that tends to happen. Besides owning a staggering 27 Grammy Awards (tied for second-most ever), Krauss played a major roll in the rebirth of American bluegrass music. If Elvis gets to be in the hall, you're darn tootin' Alison Krauss should, too.

-- Jeremy Burchard

June Carter Cash

June Carter Cash deserves her own recognition in the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1970, The Carter Family singers were inducted, but only in the form of A.P Carter, Sara Carter and Maybelle Carter. June, meanwhile, is responsible for writing some of the best country songs of the time, not to mention her own beautiful solo and duo work and being a part of country music's most endearing love story. And let's be honest, without June Carter, Johnny Cash never would've made it out of the 1960s.

-- Jeremy Burchard

Keith Whitley

Though he died so young and tragically, Keith Whitley left an unmistakable mark on country music. During his brief run, Whitley did the unthinkable and made it cool to be a sad country singer again. His voice and style felt counterintuitive to everything that was "in" at the time. And just ask any modern country artist if Whitley deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame to see his impact on modern country.

While we're talking Whitley, his widow Lorrie Morgan is a strong candidate from country music's Class of '89.

-- Jeremy Burchard

Ray Benson

Honestly, Ray Benson could be in the Hall of Fame for any number of things. Sure, his work as frontman for Asleep at the Wheel (which has won nine Grammy Awards) qualifies him. Benson may be one of the last true saviors of Western Swing. Or heck, how about his work as a producer, with artists like Dale Watson, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Aaron Watson and more. And his presence and effect on the world of country in Texas and beyond is formidable. He's a towering presence in the world of country music both literally and figuratively.

-- Jeremy Burchard

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Ray Charles

Charles' 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music gets deserved credit for blurring the lines between country, soul and pop music. In the 21st century, it represents the country music genre's biggest missed opportunity to acknowledge its African American roots by embracing an outsider's success. Inducting Charles wouldn't negate past sins, but it might open up necessary discussions about the whitewashed elements of country music history.

-- Bobby Moore

Tanya Tucker

Plenty of artists from throughout the history of country music deserve consideration for this 10th spot, ranging from Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper to Steve Wariner. Yet the most likely new member if we're predicting the next few years has to be Tucker. She's consistently churned out great albums and memorable singles since age 13, and she shows no signs of slowing down as she nears the 40th anniversary of her commercial breakthrough.

--Bobby Moore

This story originally ran on March 9, 2017.

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10 Artists Who Deserve to be Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame