Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Statler Bros. among newest Country Music Hall of Fame inductees



Emmylou Harris performs during a concert at Radio City Music Hall, in this June 22, 2006, file photo in New York. The newest members of the Country Hall of Fame are Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, the Statler Brothers and the late Ernest “Pop” Stoneman. Thei Stephen Chernin, The Associated Press

By John Gerome

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Country Music Hall of Fame has four new members: Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, the Statler Brothers and the late Ernest “Pop” Stoneman.

Their selection was announced Tuesday by the Country Music Association. They will be formally inducted later this year.

Harris, a native of Birmingham, Ala., first became known for her duet work with Gram Parsons in the 1970s. After Parsons’ death in 1973, she began a successful solo career that has spanned pop, country rock, and Americana, and earned her 12 Grammy Awards.

Her most commercially successful album was a 1987 project with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton called “Trio.”

“I’ve been thinking about this incredible journey I’ve been on and how I’ve been blessed,” Harris, 60, said. “It’s wonderful to be a member of this place that holds so much reverence for me.”

The Statler Brothers, originally from Staunton, Va., were first hired as a vocal backing group by Johnny Cash. They had their first hit in 1965 with “Flowers on the Wall.” They had several more Top 40 hits through the 1970s and 1980s, including “The Class of ’57,” ”Do You Know You Are My Sunshine” and “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You.”

“We feel like we’re in rarified air here, we never expected to be here,” said Don Reid, who, with Harold, was one of the only two brothers in the group. “We always looked at the Hall of Fame as a place where our heroes were.”

Tom T. Hall, originally from Olive Hall, Ky., is best known as a songwriter who jump-started his solo career following Jeannie C. Reilly’s No. 1 hit with his “Harper Valley PTA.”

Hall was a top touring and radio act in the ’70s, and has written children’s songs, several novels and produced a PBS special on bluegrass music.

Tex Ritter once called Hall a “storyteller,” and the tag stuck.

“It’s very spiritual,” Hall said of the honor. “I’m delighted to be standing where I am today.”

Traditionally, the Country Music Association inducts one recipient in three separate categories of career achievement: between 1975 and present, between World War II and 1975, and pre-World War II.

This year there was a tie in the voting for the period between World War II and 1975, so both Hall and the Statler Brothers will be inducted in that category.

Stoneman, a Galax, Va., native who died in 1968, wrote and recorded one of the biggest hits of the 1920s, “The Sinking of the Titanic.” It was one of the first country records to sell more than a million copies and began a string of recordings through the 1920s with Stoneman’s wife and family members.

He helped persuade record producer Ralph Peer, a Hall of Fame member, to go to the Bristol area on the Tennessee-Virginia border and hold recording sessions that are widely considered a watershed in country music.

Many of the “hillbilly” records released before these sessions were recorded in New York by crossover artists, and the Bristol recordings of the Stonemans, the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers marked the beginning of the commercial country music industry.

“Johnny Cash called it the Big Bang of country music,” Grand Ole Opry announcer and historian Eddie Stubbs said of the Bristol sessions. “If this is so, then Ernest Stoneman lit the match for it all.”