Country Hall of Fame Inducts 2020 Members. But You Can’t See It

c/o Country Music Hall of Fame

In so many ways, the County Music Hall of Fame is superior to its Rock and Roll counterpart in Cleveland. Though many country fans might be frustrated at the austere approach to new inductees the Country Music Hall of Fame takes, they can see the cautionary tale of what happens when you throw the barn doors wide and let almost everyone in like the Rock and Roll Hall does, diluting the honor.

But where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and really, most all Halls of Fame throughout American culture get it much more right than the Country Music Hall of Fame is how they use their nomination and induction process as a way to promote their institutions and engage the public in the history of them. Hall of Fame talk is the ultimate fodder for around the water cooler, and barroom debate, and Holiday chit chat with friends and family. But when it comes to the Country Hall process, it all transpires behind closed doors, and for a very exclusive crowd.

Sunday evening, November 21st, the Country Music Hall of Fame finally honored its 2020 inductees after a delay in the Medallion Ceremony due to COVID-19. Hank Williams Jr., Marty Stuart, and songwriter Dean Dillon were fêted with performances by legendary country stars and contemporary understudies alike, and speeches were made both by the inductors, and the inductees.

Marty Stuart was inducted by his wife and fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Connie Smith. Hall of Famer George Strait was there to induct Dean Dillon, who wrote so many of the songs that made Strait a superstar, with Kenny Chesney also on hand to perform and honor Mr. Dillon. Alan Jackson and Eric Church were on hand to honor Hank Williams Jr., with the Mother of all things Hall of Fame, Brenda Lee, there to place the medallion around Hank Jr.’s neck.

Tribute was paid, songs were performed, invocations about the importance of country music and the performers who were being inducted were delivered. But you’ll have to take my word for it, because unless you were one of the very few and exclusive individuals invited into the prestigious, but small CMA Theater, you didn’t get to experience any of it.

It’s not that there isn’t a strong case for keeping these ceremonies somewhat cozy and exclusive. Again, one of the things that makes the Country Music Hall of Fame so special is its exclusivity. Perhaps we don’t need a bunch of rowdy superstars stage crashing each others performances and vomiting into ice buckets backstage.

But it’s almost like the Country Music Hall of Fame is going backwards in an era when presentations like this are opening up due to online streaming, and the ease of it. It was a surprise to most country fans that the induction ceremony even happened on Sunday. Maybe it’s due to this particular class being three white males (and one a rather polarizing political character in Hank Jr.) , and the Hall of Fame not wanting to awaken the woke mob. But honestly, it’s like this every year, and unless something changes, it will be like this for the next induction ceremony when Ray Charles is scheduled to go in.

We don’t even have video of it at this point aside for a 6-minute summation of a 3-hour presentation. I’m sure at some point there will be one, maybe two videos released of specific moments of the festivities, as the Hall of Fame normally does. After all, they have a full video production crew on hand. In the days after we should all be sharing these videos and discussing them like you do after an awards show, along with who said what, the cool collaborations and performances that transpired.

Instead, all we have is a few local press reports. Marty Stuart is know for his brilliant and eloquent speeches. Did you see him in the Ken Burns Country Music documentary? When he talks, you listen. But all we have at this point is a few excerpts from the few press members who were in the room to attempt to glean what was said.

This is not a pleading for the Country Music Hall of Fame to completely open up the process to where it becomes a circus. But the nomination and induction of Hall of Fame members is the perfect opportunity to promote the Hall of Fame institution, and all of its great inductees. It’s 2021, and the technology is there to stream it, or at the least, release videos so we can all experience the best moments for ourselves, and not weeks or months afterwards after we’ve all moved on, but when it’s top of mind.

I just selfishly want to see Hank Jr. being inducted after years of advocating for it. I want to hear Marty Stuart’s speech. And I want to see George Strait honor the songwriter who helped put him in the Hall of Fame. Because that’s country music, and since the very beginning of the genre, country music has been about artists sharing their experiences with their fans as opposed to exclusive engagements behind gilded walls only accessible to a select few.

It’s time for the Country Music Hall of Fame to smartly, reverently, and respectfully move its induction ceremony into the modern era, and make it accessible to everyone.

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If you want, a 6-minute summation of the presentation can be seen here.

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