2023 Country Music Hall of Fame Picks & Predictions

It’s that time of year again to consider who might be in the running for the precious few spots as the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A secret committee commissioned by the CMA is going over their final ballots and whittling down the names to the few who will make it into one of country music’s most hallowed institutions.

Unlike other Halls of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame tries to keep the institution distinguished by letting only a few names in each year. This way a bad name never slips through the process, hypothetically. This has also caused a glut of good names being left out in recent years, stirring controversy in itself. But it also keeps the Hall of Fame honor exclusive and distinguished.

The Rules

The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the Country Music Association (CMA). Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era – Eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence.” 2) Veterans Era – Eligible for induction 40 years after they first achieve “national prominence.” 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 – Rotates every 3 years. If there is a tie in voting in any category, two names can be selected, as we saw in 2021.

With musicians Eddie Bayers (drummer) and Pete Drake (steel guitar) selected in 2021, and a non-performer, Joe Galante, selected in 2022, it would be a songwriter to be selected in 2022. Though this could also be a performer, the point of this category is to highlight someone primarily known for songwriting, and someone who may not get into the Hall of Fame otherwise. The last songwriter inducted was Dean Dillon.

Another important rule to note is that no candidate is eligible for the Hall of Fame a year after they pass away. This is to avoid sympathy votes in the aftermath of an artist dying, so check the 2022 In Memoriam List for those who would be ineligible. In recent years, this has accelerated artists being inducted before they die to avoid the one year penalty, and to honor them while they’re still living.


Potential Modern Era Inductees

2023 is the year when we legitimately need to begin thinking about artists that many country fans may consider more “modern” than their tastes allow to be considered legitimate contenders for the Hall of Fame—Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, and more. Dwight Yoakam and Clint Black feel like old timers in the category. They’re also top contenders.

• Last Year’s Modern Era Inductee: Keith Whitley
• Saving Country Music Prediction: Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Allison Krauss
• Saving Country Music’s Picks: Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black.

Clint Black: If it wasn’t for his career’s disappearing act, his name would be a no brainier for the Hall of Fame. Instead, Clint Black’s impact is commonly overlooked, and unfairly so. Nobody was more successful in country music in the 90’s decade than Clint Black, save for Garth Brooks. A whopping thirteen #1 singles including his first four consecutively, and a total of 29 Top 10 hits puts Clint Black in an elite class in regards to numbers. Clint Black also kept it (mostly) country, and was always seen as a good guy in the industry.

When Clint Black’s wife Lisa Hartman had their first child in May of 2001, he decided to take three years off to enjoy his young family. Aside from “Spend My Time” in 2003 that peaked at #16, the rest of Clint’s singles all stayed outside the Top 40 after the hiatus. “It ended up not being a smart career move, but it was a real smart dad move. … I wouldn’t go back and try to do anything for my career in exchange for that,” Black says. It shouldn’t cost him a Hall of Fame induction either.

Dwight Yoakam: You’d think with 25 million records sold, Dwight Yoakam should definitely be considered for Hall of Fame distinction. But being based in California as opposed to Nashville may put him a bit out of the purview of voters—an always important factor. Yoakam’s greatest contribution beyond the gaudy sales numbers comes in the influence he had in country music in his time, and that he still wields today over generations of performers. Dwight Yoakam made country music cool to millions, just like Hall of Famer Buck Owens and other Bakersfield legends did in their time.

Dwight’s also not showing any signs of slowing down, and has earned additional stripes as a country music ambassador through his acting career. With his own SiriusXM station where he’s hanging out with Post Malone, it feels like Yoakam has finally graduated from a future hopeful for the Hall of Fame to a bona fide front runner, though it still may take a few years for him to get in.

Alison Krauss: There may be no other single performer who did more for spreading the love and appreciation for bluegrass throughout the 90s and 2000s than Alison Krauss. The solo albums, the work with Union Station, the collaborations with Robert Plant and others have made her one of the most critically-acclaimed artists of our generation, with enough commercial success to also make her a household name.

Krauss has won 27 Grammy Awards, putting her only behind Beyoncé, Quincy Jones and classical conductor Georg Solti as the most-awarded artist in Grammy history. She has also received 42 nominations. This includes the all-genre Album of the Year for Rising Sand with Robert Plant. Krauss was also critical to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, as well as the soundtrack to Cold Mountain. She’s also a National Medal of Arts winner. Krauss most certainly has the resume to be a Hall of Famer.

Kenny Chesney: Though it may feel like Kenny Chesney is more of a current artist than a Hall of Fame candidate, he was officially eligible for the Hall of Fame starting in 2015. Chesney released his first major label album with BNA in 1995, and had two Top 10 singles, “Fall In Love” and “All I Need to Know.” With 4 out of 5 CMA Entertainer of the Year Awards between 2004 and 2008, 32 #1 hits, and over 30 million albums sold, Chesney’s resume for the Hall of Fame is undeniable.

Consider this: Kenny Chesney has been country music’s only active and consistent stadium draw for going on 20 years. From the mid to late aughts before Taylor Swift came onto the scene, Chesney was far and away the biggest artist in country music. Possibly the only thing keeping Kenny Chesney back is that he feels like a current artist as opposed to an aged-out performer that deserves to be venerated. But there’s no denying Kenny is getting in, and probably in the next few years.

Tim McGraw: McGraw never had that consecutive string of years when he was the biggest thing in country music like many Hall of Fame inductees, but he has shown a longevity in his career that few others have matched. McGraw’s had 27 #1 hits, and in a span covering over 20 years, and some well-recognized hits within there like “Don’t Take The Girl,” “Live Like You Were Dying,” and even more recently with Lori McKenna’s “Humble and Kind.” McGraw also won the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 2001.

Here in recent years though, Tim McGraw’s success commercially and on radio has slowed down. Though this may not be great for his pocketbook, it might be a great time for McGraw’s career to be honored by the Hall of Fame. Some Modern Era nominees may not want the distinction yet, almost like it symbolizes the end of their popular career. McGraw would be in the sweet spot where it would give him a boost of attention right as he reaches a twilight.

Shania Twain – Make no mistake about it, Shania Twain will be in the Country Music Hall of Fame some day. During her era, nobody was a bigger commercial success than Garth Brooks. With over 100 million records sold, she is the best-selling female country artist of all time, and one of the best selling music artists in all of music, period. She is the undisputed queen of country pop, and though traditionalists love to shake their little angry fists at her for ushering in the pop era of country, her influence is undeniable.

Something to always consider when talking about the Hall of Fame is proximity to voters. As a Canadian living in Switzerland, Shania may not be in the best position to lobby for her spot in the rotunda. But make no mistake, it’s coming, and likely sooner than later.

Trisha Yearwood: It’s the timeless songs, and how Yearwood was one of the most important women throughout the 90s that makes her an eligible candidate for the Hall of Fame. Her debut single “She’s In Love with the Boy,” is a bonafide country music standard, and one of five #1’s she enjoyed. Her 1991 self-titled album became the first debut female country album to sell one million copies, and has since gone double platinum. She followed that up with “Walkaway Joe,” and a Platinum sophomore album. Trisha’s also had five #2 songs, including the country version of “How Do I Live,” and a total of 18 Top 10 hits in the 90s.

Trisha Yearwood definitely has the Hall of Fame numbers. It probably also doesn’t hurt that she’s married to a big voice in the Hall of Fame voting room and an inductee himself in Garth Brooks.

Martina McBride: With five #1 singles, and twenty Top 20 singles, Martina McBride has comparable numbers to other recent Modern Era inductees and current candidates, even if they were earned while being more of a country pop crossover star as opposed to more loyal to the country genre.

Nonetheless, country was loyal to Martina McBride, bestowing her with four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards, and nominating her for 14 Grammys to go with her 14 million records sold. Similar to Trisha Yearwood, McBride helped define 90s country, but didn’t push it completely into the pop realm like Shania Twain. It wasn’t just the numbers when it comes to Martina. It was the voice, and the emotion it carried that makes Martina McBride a viable Hall of Fame candidate.

Travis Tritt: Since two of his brethren from the “Class of ’89” are in (Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson), as well as his “No Hat” buddy in Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt will start to be much more heavily considered in the next few years. There’s probably still a few names ahead of him, and since his commercial career cooled off somewhat quickly—and he hasn’t kept completely free of controversy by speaking his mind on the ills of the industry (and politics)—his induction ceremony may still be some years away, but it’s inching closer.

And why not consider Tritt, with two Grammys, four CMAs, five #1 singles, and 19 Top 10’s? Travis Tritt helped put the drive into country, both sonically and commercially. Also, with a new Dave Cobb-produced album released recently, it makes for a good reminder he’s still out there doing his thing.

Other Potential Modern Era Inductees:

Other Potential Modern Era Inductees:

  • Patty Loveless – One of the defining artists of country music in the 90s, Patty Loveless was commercially successful with music that included neotraditonal and bluegrass influences, while also being a critical favorite—something the Hall of Fame loves to highlight.
  • Steve Wariner – With a surprising nine #1 singles throughout the 80’s, Wariner is not one of those flashy characters that immediately jumps out at you as a Hall of Fame contender, but he quietly put together a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He’s also a guy who hangs around the right places in Nashville to make sure selection committee members don’t forget about him, so don’t be surprised if his name pops up as an inductee. He’s been rumored to be on the final ballot the last couple of years.
  • Toby Keith – Officially eligible because his first success was in 1993, Keith is probably on the outside-looking-in for the next few years since he didn’t start to peak until the 2000’s, and he remains a fairly controversial character.
  • Lorrie Morgan – With 6 millions records sold worldwide and 40 charting singles, she’s a contender for the future for sure.
  • Earl Thomas Conley – (Petition)
  • Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and The (Dixie) Chicks are some other names that are officially eligible.

Potential Veterans Era Inductees

This feels like Tanya Tucker’s to lose in 2023. Similar how it felt with Hank Jr. for many years with the Hall of Fame kicking his clearly-deserved nomination continuously down the road, Tanya Tucker is the name on the tip of more people’s tongues than anyone else’s when it comes to the Hall of Fame. However, the Veteran’s Era can be wildly unpredictable, so we’ll have to see.

• Last Year’s Inductee: Jerry Lee Lewis

• Saving Country Music Prediction: Tanya Tucker, The Stanley Brothers/Ralph Stanley, John Anderson

• Saving Country Music’s Picks: Tanya Tucker, Maddox Brothers & Rose

Tanya Tucker: Though hypothetically, the selection committee is supposed to be agnostic on current events when making Hall of Fame decisions, often a resurgence in an artist’s career can coincide with an induction. Tanya Tucker would certainly meet that distinction with a comeback record in 2019 that received two Grammy awards in 2020, and great critical acclaim, along with a new documentary that was released recently, an big sets at important festivals. 

But beyond the short term, Tanya Tucker’s career has spanned five decades, with amazing longevity. Starting as a a prodigy star with her debut hit “Delta Dawn” in 1972, she amassed ten #1 singles, another nine #2’s, and 35 total Top 10 hits, including 24 from the mid 80’s into the late 90’s in her career’s second resurgence, starting as more of an Outlaw singer, but landing big mainstream hits. Tanya Tucker has lived many lives and seen it all in country over the last 50 years. Her career has certainly been Hall of Fame worthy.

John Anderson: One of the most beloved living characters in country music, John Anderson was never a hit machine, but he had a solid mainstream career for some 20 years, staring in the late 70s, and still finding success into the late 90s. The John Anderson story is just too good for the Hall of Fame to pass up. He started as a construction worker building the roof on the new Grand Ole Opry House in the 70s, peering down at the stage, hoping some day he could play there.

“Straight Tequila Night,” “Swingin'” and “Wild and Blue” are bonafide country standards, and they may have never been without John Anderson’s voice. One of the most unique singers in country history, it was once described as a voice being run through a volume pedal. Knowing how to put the emphasis on the right notes is what has made Anderson so legendary. It also helps that he’s had a resurgence in his career, with a tribute album released by Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound in 2022.

The Maddox Brothers & Rose: The Maddox Brothers & Rose set the very foundations for both The Bakersfield Sound, and California Country at large that would become wildly influential in the future. Their flamboyant stage dress inspired by the cowboys of the silver screen directly sparked the Nudie Suit craze in country music that is still en vogue today. And Rose Maddox was one of the very first successful women in country music, and opened up the role of women as country entertainers for generations to come.

If groups like The Jordanaires and The Sons of the Pioneers are in The Hall, certainly The Maddox Brothers & Rose should be. Their worthiness for the Hall of Fame was underscored in the 2019 Ken Burns country music documentary where the group was featured prominently. Unfortunately, this band getting in still feels more like a wish than a potential reality. 

Ralph Stanley / The Stanley Brothers: Ralph Stanley and The Stanley Brothers continue to be a glaring omission in the ranks of Hall of Fame members. A seminal figure in the emergence of bluegrass in both the original era, and during its second wind after the success of O Brother Where Art Thou, Ralph Stanley and his brother Carter are the type of influencers and ambassadors the Hall of Fame rotunda was built for. Universally beloved inside Nashville and beyond, a former Grand Ole Opry member, and a powerful name to represent the bluegrass side of country, The Stanley Brothers would be a strong pick few would quibble with, and is well past due.

Johnny Paycheck: For many years it’s felt like a fairytale that Johnny Paycheck would ever get into the Country Music Hall of Fame. But as other guys with checkered pasts have seen their musical legacies supersede these concerns and finally see induction, it has moved Paycheck further up in contention to the point now where he’s been rumored to have made it as one of the finalists for consideration. If Jerry Lee Lewis can get in, so can Paycheck. 

Johnny Paycheck (real name Donald Eugene Lytle) was never a hit machine. He only had one #1, but it was a massive one in “Take This Job and Shove It”—which might be one of the most recognized country songs of all time. “She’s All I Got” was also a big hit. But similar to inductees like Keith Whitley and Marty Stuart, it is the intangibles, and the work with others that make Paycheck Hall of Fame worthy. While playing bass and steel guitar for George Jones, it’s said that Paycheck helped influence George’s singing (some dispute this). Either way, Johnny Paycheck is synonymous with country music, and seems like a glaring omission in the Hall of Fame. 

Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers: With 33 Top 40 singles and 15 Top 5’s and three 1’s, Larry Gatlin likely accrued the numbers throughout the 70’s and the 80’s to be a Hall of Fame contender, not to speak of the influence he wielded in country music through that period, both as a solo artist, and with brothers Steve and Rudy. But also bolstering Larry Gatlin’s case is he’s one of these “men about town” types that seems to be at every function and gala in the country music realm, is active in the community, and is willing to help keep the legacy of country music alive, which the Hall of Fame selection committee often rewards. Larry Gatlin is a name that is hard to forget, and rumors have had his name on the final ballot over the last few years.

Linda Ronstadt: Of course it could be easy to cast off Linda Ronstadt as a legitimate candidate for being a country artist who eventually crossed over into pop and rock. But few paid their dues as much as Linda did early in her career, including her years in the Stone Poneys, her debut solo album in 1969, Hand Sown…Home Grown, 1970’s Silk Purse that included cover songs of “Lovesick Blues” and “Mental Revenge,” and her 1972 self-titled album where she recorded “Crazy Arms” and “I Fall To Pieces.” Even when she achieved her breakout pop rock success, Linda Ronstadt was always honest about the genre and approach of her music, and then returned to country in the groundbreaking “Trio” project with Hall of Famers Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

Other Veterans Era-eligible artists may deserve an induction more than Ronstadt at the moment due to the crowded backlog. But with the wild way the Veterans Era is picked, don’t be surprised if she ends up as an inductee in the coming years, and has been rumored to have made it on the final ballot recently.

Eddie Rabbitt: Aside from maybe Gary Stewart, the case could be made that Eddie Rabbitt is the most wrongfully overlooked star in country music history. Gary only had one #1 song in his career though. Eddie Rabbitt had 20 of them, and 34 total Top 10 hits, most of which he wrote himself. And all 34 of Rabbitt’s Top 10 hits came in a row, one after another, between 1976’s “Drinkin’ My Baby (Off My Mind)” and 1990 “Runnin’ With The Wind.” Eddie Rabbitt’s career wasn’t just accomplished, it was downright Hall of Fame worthy. But you never hear Eddie Rabbitt’s name brought up in the context of the Hall of Fame. Actually, you barely ever hear his name at all, in part because he passed away at the relatively young age of 56. But Eddie Rabbitt definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame discussion.

Gram Parsons: Gram’s inclusion in Hall of Fame consideration is always a topic of great discussion. In 2013 there was a greater push than ever to induct him, with influential country music writer Chet Flippo personally making the case for Parsons. But it wasn’t meant to be, and it may be many years before it is, especially with the current backlog in the Veterans Era. But his name is always in the field for this accolade, and looking at the influence Gram had turning on millions of rock and roll fans to the importance and coolness of country music, it always should be.

Other Potential Veterans Era Inductees:

  • Vern Gosdin (sign the petition) “The Voice” has to be considered a strong candidate in the long term, but the log jam in front of him may have to break before he’s given serious consideration.
  • Johnny Horton – One of the most recognizable country artists from the 50s and early 60s, since he died in 1960 in an accident, he never had the opportunity to fulfill the promise of his career. But many believe what Johnny Horton contributed before he passed was Hall of Fame worthy, similar to Keith Whitley and Patsy Cline.
  • Lynn Anderson: Lynn Anderson and Dottie West were the two ladies that lead the field for female veteran inductees for many years. Now that Dottie is in, it moves Lynn one step closer. It’s only the strong backlog in front of Lynn that makes it seem difficult for her to get the nod in 2023. But with the continued movement to be inclusive to women, Lynn and other women will benefit from elevated consideration.
  • Rosanne Cash- Folks sometimes forget just how big Rosanne Cash got in the 80’s with ten #1 hits, and a huge influence on the genre at the time. She’s not just Johnny Cash’s daughter, or an Americana icon. Rosanne Cash could be a legitimate Hall of Famer in her own right.
  • Mickey Gilley – With 42 Top 40 singles and the role he played during the Urban Cowboy era, Mickey should be considered a contender.
  • Gene Watson – With five #1’s across country and Gospel and 76 total charted singles, Gene Watson was an understated superstar, and the fact that he continues to remain active in trying to keep both is own legacy and the legacy of country music alive makes him a name worth considering.
  • Crystal Gayle – Loretta Lynn’s sister and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” singer has fans and allies in the industry, and expect her name to be bandied about for the Hall of Fame in the coming years.
  • Jimmy Martin – You probably have to put Ralph Stanley and the Stanley Brothers in before Jimmy Martin gets considered. His personal antics might also hold him back as well. But the “King of Bluegrass” should be put in eventually.
  • Tompall Glaser & The Glaser Brothers: Perhaps a long shot, or at least until the Veteran’s Era backlog is cleared, brothers-in-Outlaw-country-arms Bobby Bare and “Cowboy” Jack Clement were inducted over the last decade, so many the proprietor of Hillbilly Central will get his due in the coming years.
  • John Hartford – The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum works like a timeline as you walk through the displays that weave around the massive archive in the center of the building. As you start from the beginning, each artist and their impact is displayed on a plaque that includes their Hall of Fame induction date. When you come to the John Hartford display, he is the first in the timeline to have a display, but no Hall of Fame induction date. He may not be a flashy name, but he’s a name who should be considered.
  • The Wilburn Brothers 
  • The Bellamy Brothers
  • Johnny Rodriguez
  • June Carter Cash
  • John Denver
  • Jack Greene
  • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • Slim Whitman
  • Wanda Jackson
  • Wynn Stewart – (Petition)
  • Jimmy C. Newman
  • Sammi Smith
  • Jeannie Seely

Potential Songwriter Inductees

Though some fans would love to see this award go to songwriting performers who loom large in their world like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, or Billy Joe Shaver, it often goes to more behind-the-scenes folks who nonetheless contributed greatly to country music. This is the reason dedicated songwriters have their own category. However, this tend to lock songwriter/performers out of the process. Hopefully in the coming years, some of these more well-known songwriters can find favor from the Hall of Fame.

• Last Songwriter Inducted: Dean Dillon (2020)

• Saving Country Music’s Prediction: Max D. Barnes, Bob McDill

• Saving Country Music’s Final Ballot:  Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver

– – – – – – – – –

Townes Van Zandt: There is no more revered and mythical name in songwriting than Townes Van Zandt. His life was like a song itself—so touching yet so fleeting. No other songwriter has made people feel as much emotion as Townes Van Zandt. The question is will the Hall of Fame committee consider Van Zandt more of a performer than a pure songwriter?

Rodney Crowell – A big success as a performer in the late 80s with five consecutive #1 singles, the performing legacy of Rodney Crowell still probably isn’t solid enough to go in as a Modern or Veterans era candidate, even if his career has been Hall of Fame worthy. That is why his name as been rumored to be considered in the songwriting category since he wrote so many great hits for others.

Guy Clark – Even though to many, Guy Clark will always be an original performer, his catalog of works recorded by superstars like George Strait, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Jerry Jeff Walker, and so many more means that as even as a pure songwriter, he deserves his shot at Hall of Fame recognition.

Billy Joe Shaver – An absolute legend in the Outlaw realm for writing all but one song on the Waylon Jennings album Honky Tonk Heroes, Billy Joe Shaver is a classic case of a performer/songwriter that should be in the Hall of Fame, and will never go in as a performer exclusively.

John D. Loudermilk – A cousin to The Louvin Brothers that had great commercial success as a songwriter in the 60’s and 70’s, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, and certainly deserves consideration for this distinction.

Shel Silverstein – That’s right, he didn’t just write the children’s books A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends. He also wrote “A Boy Named Sue” and other strong country offerings, making Shel one of the quintessential behind-the-scenes songwriting stars.

Larry Cordle – The writer of “Against The Grain,” “Highway 40 Blues,” and hits for George Strait, Kathy Mattea, and Trisha Yearwood. But Larry Cordle really made his biggest mark when he penned “Murder on Music Row” with Larry Shell. The song went on to be the 2001 CMA Song of the Year.

Paul Overstreet – Writer of “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “When You Say Nothing At All” with Don Schlitz, and performer/writer of “Daddy’s Come Around.” Discounted slightly because he’s also the writer of “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and other unfortunate hits, but still a significant songwriter in country history.

Max D. Barnes – Writer of “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” “Drinkin’ & Dreamin” (Waylon), “Look At Us” (Vince Gill), and many more. He won a total of 42 songwriter awards during his decorated career.

Curly Putman– Wrote songs for Roger Miller, Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, Don Williams, Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby Bare, Charley Pride, Tom Jones, and many more. Best known as the writer of “Green Green Grass of Home.”

Sonny Throckmorton – Wrote more than 1,000 songs that were recorded by performing artists, including songs for Merle Haggard, The Oak Ridge Boys, John Conlee, and others. Sonny was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association in 1978, 1979, and 1980.

Jimmy Webb – Songwriter for “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “MacArthur Park,” and many more, including many non-country songs for artists such as Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and R.E.M. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1990.

Kostas – Greek-born songwriter for Dwight Yoakam, George Strait, Travis Tritt, The Dixie Chicks, Marty Stuart, and many more.

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