Ray Charles, the Judds, Eddie Bayers, and Pete Drake have been announced as the 2021 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The announcement was made by Reba McEntire and Sarah Trahern, the CEO of the Country Music Association, in a livestream on the CMA’s YouTube channel today (16). The four confirmed artists – two were tied in the musician category – will join the existing 142 inductees into the hallowed hall in a ceremony in May 2022.
The Veterans’ Era inductee is “The Genius” himself, Ray Charles, who was part of the inaugural class for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Charles was also welcomed into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2015 and won the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame’s Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 1993. His vast contribution to the country genre includes his two Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums of the early 1960s and later work including the No.1 single “Seven Spanish Angels” with Willie Nelson.
Naomi and Wynonna Judd were on hand to react to the announcement of their induction in the Modern Era category. The Judds racked up 20 Top 10 country hits, 14 of them No.1s, between 1984 and 1991, including “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me,” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘bout the Good Old Days).” They won nine CMA Awards and seven ACM Awards in a recording output cut short by Naomi’s retirement in 1991, due to chronic hepatitis.
Eddie Bayers, whose 58-year career continues to this day, becomes the first drummer in the CMA’s Recording and/or Touring Musician category. He was named the ACM’s top drummer 14 times between 1991 and 2010, winning the title 11 years in a row during that run. He played on some 300 gold or platinum records and worked with such country greats as Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, George Jones, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Tammy Wynette, and Trisha Yearwood. Beyond country, he also played with such rock and pop notables as the Beach Boys, John Fogerty, Mark Knopfler, Richard Marx, Aaron Neville, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger, and Steve Winwood.
Pete Drake joins Bayers in the Recording and/or Touring Musician category, as the first pedal steel player in that winners’ circle. Appearing on 118 gold or platinum albums, his credits include such timeless country recordings as Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl,” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” He also played with Elvis Presley, including on his 1966 How Great Thou Art album, and with the likes of Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Ronnie Milsap, the Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, the Statler Brothers, Hank Williams Jr., and Ray Charles.
“The works of this year’s inductees span crucial timestamps of Country Music history,” said Trahern. “This impressive career landmark is the pinnacle of accomplishment in Country Music and I’m so proud to see Eddie, Ray, Pete, Naomi, and Wynonna getting their much-deserved plaques on the wall of the Rotunda. Today’s fans and generations to come will forever be reminded of the distinct impact each made on this genre.”
In the lead-up to the announcement, the fans’ chat room on the official CMA YouTube channel was abuzz with discussion about which country greats might make the class of 2021. On the male side, names included Ralph Stanley, Keith Whitley, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt, while Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker, and Crystal Gayle were among the female artists getting namechecks.