Don Williams, Jimmy Dean, Ferlin Husky and record producer Billy Sherrill are the latest additions to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Country Music Association announced the honor Tuesday via press release, with a formal induction ceremony promised later this year.
“I thought I was already in there!” Jimmy joked. “Seriously, it brought a huge grin to my face. I am honored.”
Each of the four has contributed significantly to the genre. Jimmy, whose name is synonymous with a line of sausage, gave country music plenty of TV exposure as the host of several different programs, most notably “The Jimmy Dean Show,” a 1960s ABC variety series. He often featured the likes of Roger Miller, Buck Owens or Faron Young. One 1964 episode aired live from the Grand Ole Opry, while a 1965 installment captured Eddy Arnold’s recording session for “Make The World Go Away.” The CMA also used “The Jimmy Dean Show” as a vehicle to announce the Hall of Fame inductees in 1966. As a recording artist, Jimmy is best known for “Big Bad John,” a recitation about a coal-mining accident that sold a million copies after crossing into the pop charts.
Ferlin’s hit “Gone” is often credited as the first example of “the Nashville Sound,” a recording approach that softened hillbilly twang in favor of string sections and/or lilting background singers. His “Wings Of A Dove,” which spent a whopping 10 weeks at No. 1 in 1960, has become a gospel standard. Ferlin has been hospitalized numerous time with heart problems — most recently in July — but has become a symbol of both faith and persistence.
“I’d like to thank my Lord Jesus Christ for dying for me, saving my soul and bringing me into the world as a country boy,” Ferlin said. “And also for giving me the talent to sing, entertain and help convert millions around the world to country music. I’m still a country boy and proud of it. In the words of my close friend, the late Stringbean, ‘I sure am glad I’m me!’”
Don is the most recent hitmaker of this year’s crew, having last occupied a Top 10 slot in 1991. He routinely couched his rich, masculine vocals in understated productions, putting the focus of his work squarely on the material he selected. And those songs were inevitably intelligent and mature, including the crossover ballad “I Believe In You,” the roots-aware “Tulsa Time” and the tale of a Southern man’s self-acceptance, “Good Ole Boys Like Me.” Don went into retirement following a 2006 tour, though he is still revered among the current generation of stars. Keith Urban has repeatedly cited Don as an influence, and Josh Turner — who duetted with the Gentle Giant in his final Nashville concert — included a remake of Don’s hit “I Wouldn’t Be A Man” on the new Haywire album.
“It is unbelievable,” Don said, “that CMA thought about me in this manner.”
Billy Sherrill might not be a household name, but he enters the Hall for his work behind the scenes as a record producer, songwriter and executive. He produced such hits as George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” David Allan Coe’s “The Ride” and Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It.” He also wrote or co-wrote Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl,” David Houston’s “Almost Persuaded” and Keith Whitley’s “Ten Feet Away.”
“Anything I have ever accomplished,” Billy said, “would have been totally impossible without the help and support of the greatest songwriters and musicians in the world — and, of course, what I stole from [producer] Owen Bradley!”
The new members bring the total number of Hall of Famers to 112. They will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame’s Rotunda with bronze plaques alongside such fellow inductees as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.