Kristin Barlowe and Courtesy of The Ray Charles Foundation

The Judds and Ray Charles Headline the Country Music Hall of Fame's Class of 2021


Reba McEntire announced the newest Country Music Hall of Fame inductees during a Monday morning (Aug. 16) live stream event on the Country Music Association's (CMA) YouTube channel. The list of honorees is headlined by two foundational acts: modern era representatives The Judds and veterans era artist Ray Charles. Two were inducted in the recording and/or touring musician category because of a tie: the first drummer to be honored in the Hall of Fame rotunda, Eddie Bayers, and the first Hall of Famer inducted as a pedal steel guitarist, Pete Drake.

The mother-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd needs no introduction, due mostly to a relatively short yet genre-altering run from 1983 to 1991.

"As a daughter, it's about damn time," Wynonna told Wide Open Country and other media outlets during an online Q&A session. "Twenty years is a long time for the queen to wait with all of her spectacular sparkles."

The family group's roots-bound approach offered traditional country fans a nice change of pace at a time when crossover pop ambition flavored most of the music coming out of Nashville.


"We were there in 1984 when Urban Cowboy was a big sound, and then we came in with an acoustic guitar and stripped through to the heart of the matter," Wynonna added.

Charles' selection points to his No. 1 pop album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and its sequel, both released in 1962. Those projects weren't his first or last interactions with country music. The soul icon grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, and in 1984, his Willie Nelson duet "Seven Spanish Angels" topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

"During a recording career that spanned more than 50 years, Charles rarely conformed to anyone else's notions about country music, how it should sound or how it could sell," read a CMA press release. "His genius extended beyond country music, but it always included it. And when Charles performed country and western music, he didn't just create modern sounds. He created timeless ones."

Bayers, a longtime member of the Opry house band and the Country Music Hall of Fame's Medallion All-Star Band, has played drums on around 300 gold or platinum recordings. While his greatness cannot be defined simply by his ties to his Hall of Fame classmates, it's worth noting that Bayers regularly drummed on The Judds' albums and Wynonna's solo material.


Read More: The Judds Hit the Campaign Trail in 1984 With Presidential Hopeful John Glenn

Drake's known primarily for two things: 1) his groundbreaking work as a pedal steel guitarist for not just country artists but also the likes of Bob Dylan and George Harrison and 2) his invention of the "talk box" technology that made the guitars of Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh sing.

"He loved his work," said his widow, Rose Drake, during the livestream. "He even dreamed in licks."


In addition, the induction ceremony for last year's Hall of Fame class--Marty Stuart, Hank Williams Jr. and songwriter Dean Dillon-- is tentatively planned for November.

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