The Prospects of Linda Ronstadt & Freddy Fender for Country Hall of Fame
Early summer is traditionally the off-season for Country Music Hall of Fame talk. The 2022 class was just announced less than a month ago, and we’re likely a good 9 to 10 months out from when the secret committee selected by the CMA (Country Music Association) will begin to convene to consider the class of 2023.
But a recent petition launched to coincide with Freddy Fender’s birthday, and subsequent media reporting, has stimulated a healthy amount of discussion about the prospects for Freddy Fender being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s also stimulated a greater discussion about Hispanic contributors in country music; none of whom are in the Hall of Fame presently.
Whenever discussing the Country Music Hall of Fame, the first thing you must appreciate is the severe austerity with which the CMA approaches adding new inductees. There is no other Hall of Fame, in the United States or perhaps the world, that is more stingy with its inductions to the point where only words such as “extreme” are viable for describing how difficult induction is. This is on purpose, to keep the Hall of Fame exclusive, and to maintain the gravity of the honor once it is finally bestowed.
Each year, only two entertainers are inducted in two primary classes, 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.” There is also a third rotating category for touring/studio musicians, songwriters, and non-performers, changing every three years. Except for instances of a tie, three inductees is all you get each year, and only two from the performer class.
To read the full Country Music Hall of Fame rules as we know them presently, CLICK HERE.
So fans of Freddy Fender, Linda Ronstadt, or any other artist awaiting induction should not feel like their favorite artists are somehow special because they haven’t been picked yet. Basically every artist who is not in the Hall of Fame is being purposely excluded, because that’s how the Country Hall of Fame system works, with the line of worthy and qualified artists standing in the wings only getting longer and longer each year, and frustrated fans feeling like their favorite artists are being conspired against for various reasons.
Removing all forecasts and prognostications, and just assessing the situation at face value, would I consider Freddy Fender a Country Music Hall of Famer in the long term? Yes, I would. Does he have the gaudy sales numbers or awards to make him a shoo in? No, he doesn’t. With only four #1 singles, and a Top 10 career that only lasted just over two years, there are dozens of artists whose resumes outpace Freddy’s also awaiting induction, including other artists with active campaigns to get them in.
But numbers are not the only consideration when it comes to Country Hall of Fame induction. And when it comes to intangibles, Freddy Fender scores very high. First, two of those four #1 singles are all-time country music standards that also saw major crossover appeal: “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”—the first of which was also a #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and later won the 1975 CMA for Single of the Year.
Like Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Charles, Freddy Fender also had an outsized impact on country music because he opened the music to wider audiences, and also helped break down stigmas that country music was solely the arena of white Americans. Freddy Fender’s work with The Texas Tornadoes also deserves to be considered, which Fender formed in 1989 with Doug Sahm, Flaco Jiménez, and Augie Meyers, even if the band’s impact was more regional, and not exclusive to country.
Freddy Fender won a Grammy in 1990 for his work with the Texas Tornadoes, and another one for Best Latin Pop Album in 2002 for La Musica de Baldemar Huerta. Veronique Medrano, who is a Tejano artist from Brownsville, TX is the one who has stepped up to spearhead the effort to get Freddy Fender into the Country Music Hall of Fame, starting a petition, and writing a lengthy column about why she feels Freddy Fender is worthy.
But as we know, being worthy of Hall of Fame induction, and actually receiving it are two very separate things, even when there is a very dedicated campaign behind the effort. Lorrie Morgan and others worked for some half a dozen years to get Keith Whitley indicted, which finally is happening in 2022, and this was a campaign from someone in Nashville with deep connections to the industry. A movement called Bocephus Belongs was started in 2015 to try and get Hank Williams Jr. in who’d been passed over for two decades, and they finally broke through five years later in 2020.
But don’t pin five years as the magic number. A petition out there for Vern Gosdin was started seven years ago, and The Voice isn’t even rumored yet for Hall of Fame contention. A movement to get Gram Parsons in is well over 15 years old now, and currently seems out of reach.
Considering that Freddy Fender would be going in via the Veteran’s Era category, and with the stacked list of contenders ahead of him based on a host of factors including the rumors of the names on the final ballots over the last five years, those looking to induct Fender in the Country Music Hall of Fame should realistically consider it to be at least five years out, and only then be considered as a possibility only with an constant and dedicated campaign.
In 2023, the Veteran’s Era inductee has to be Tanya Tucker. With 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, and a 2019 album that won multiple Grammy Awards, Tucker has remained commercially relevant for going on 50 years. With the Hall of Fame’s austere system, there is always one artist that seems scandalously overlooked to the point of it almost being comical. Right now, that’s Tanya Tucker.
Other names that have been rumored to be on the five-name Veteran’s Era final ballot that is ultimately pared down to the one inductee are Lynn Anderson, Crystal Gayle, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, and though you haven’t seen her name in a couple of years, Linda Ronstadt.
If you’re looking for an artist with Hispanic heritage who also was unafraid to express that throughout her career that could help represent all Hispanic artists in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Linda Ronstadt would be the first name you choose. Though final ballot rumors are not verified, around and after Ronstadt’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease which was later clarified as PSP, there appeared to be a strong effort to get her into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s very possible she could be the Veteran’s Era inductee as early as 2024, and has to be considered a strong contender in the next 3 to 5 year
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 Ronstadt 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.
It’s very possible Linda Ronstadt could be inducted soon, since her PSP diagnosis could limit her capability to participate in person in any induction in the future. It’s also likely Linda Ronstadt would need to be inducted before Freddy Fender is seriously considered, not necessarily because they’re both Hispanic, but because of the incredible backlog, and Linda is arguably the superior candidate.
A part of this discussion has been the accusation that the Country Music Hall of Fame has been purposely exclusionary to Hispanic artists. If the current CMA committee was opposed to inducting Black and brown artists at the moment, they wouldn’t have just inducted Ray Charles in the 2021 class, nor would they have considered Linda Ronstadt in the past. If anything, the Country Music Hall of Fame is looking to answer those calls for more diversity, even if the austerity of the process could make that excruciatingly slow.
I just don’t know that the statistics or career track of either Freddy Fender, Linda Ronstadt, or other Hispanic contributors such as Johnny Rodriguez, The Mavericks, or others is strong enough to make the assertion they’re being specifically overlooked, especially with so many white artists with monster numbers such as Tanya Tucker, Shania Twain, Clint Black, and many others still awaiting their induction as well. Eddie Rabbit had 20 #1 singles in country music, and he very well may never be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Freddy’s battles with drugs and alcohol just helped to dampen his career by the late 70s into the 80s—and also delayed its beginning when he was imprisoned in Louisiana (marijuana possession), recusing him from being a Hall of Fame slam dunk.
It’s also fair to point out that the CMA and Hall of Fame haven’t exactly overlooked Freddy Fender. He won a CMA Award in 1975 for “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” and though this was not mentioned in Veronique Medrano’s original article, or a follow up in My San Antonio that took an even more accusatory tone, the Country Music Hall of Fame actually did honor Freddy Fender in 2021 as part of their American Currents exhibit.
Though the Hall of Fame’s annual American Currents distinction certainly isn’t the same as an officially induction, often an installation in the museum portion of the Hall of Fame can be a precursor to an eventual induction, similar to the Hall of Fame’s “Artist in Residence” program. Both Keith Whitley and The Judds were given floor displays shortly before they received their official induction, so this should be taken as a good sign for Freddy Fender fans. It means Freddy is at least on the Hall of Fame’s/CMA’s radar.
But still, when it comes to trying to get an artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, regardless of who they are, a good long game is what is needed because of both the severely limited amount of opportunities, and the significant line that only grows longer each year to take advantage of those opportunities. Starting a petition, and putting together convincing arguments like what is being done for Freddy Fender at the moment is a good place to start. So is understanding that if Freddy Fender does get in, it won’t be in spite of being Hispanic, it will be because of it, at least in part. This is one of the things makes his career Hall of Fame worthy, and the Hall of Fame should work to make sure the Hispanic heritage and influence is represented within its membership.
As Freddy Fender advocate Veronique Medrano points out, “Before his death in 2006, Freddy Fender did an interview with Associated Press in 2004 discussing what it would mean to be considered for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, ‘Hopefully, I’ll be the first Mexican-American going into Hillbilly Heaven…’” he responded.
Hopefully that eventually will happen. But just like everything when it comes to the Hall of Fame, it might take time, while the bigger issue facing the Hall of Fame in general is how many artists remain on the outside that deserve to be in, and eventually probably will get in, but it may not be in their lifetime.
“It absolutely breaks my heart, it breaks my spirit to think that this man at the end of his life, all he wanted was this and they still couldn’t give it to him and still have not had the respect to give it to him,” says Veronique Medrano. This has been the case for too many country artists, and why a bulk induction, or the addition of another performer category perhaps for passed legends and early performers is long past due.
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To see a more detailed breakdown of Country Hall of Fame prospects and prognostications from 2022, CLICK HERE.
June 13, 2022 @ 10:31 am
Really hope Freddy gets in- he’s absolutely deserving. But as you alluded to Trigger, there’s such a massive backlog in the Veteran’s category.
Would the Hall ever consider upping the number of inductees to two or three a year for a limited number of years (like two or three) to help ease the bottleneck of worthy veteran’s candidates like Freddy Fender, Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, Ralph Stanley, etc? There’s a long list of worthy candidate I think we can all get behind, and they shouldn’t have to wait as long as they’ve been having to because of an arbitrary and some would say antiquated rule.
June 13, 2022 @ 10:50 am
I appreciate and respect that Hall of Fame’s approach to keep this distinction exclusive. That said, there is clearly a backlog, and it’s a real travesty when artists pass, or even sometimes their next of kin pass before every seeing the distinction ,especially if they’re going to get in eventually.
I think adding an additional category could help, or they could do a bulk induction like they did in 2000. It really wouldn’t take a ton. Even just having one year when three inductees go in via each performer category as opposed to one would make a significant difference in pushing this entire process forward and finally getting recognition to these artists.
June 13, 2022 @ 10:54 am
Yep. My thoughts exactly. An additional category, or a bulk induction, or a limited run of more inductees per year would go a long way. Like you, I appreciate that it’s exclusive but at somepoint it feels like it’s too exclusive to the point where it doesn’t capture all of country’s music’s rich history in my opinion.
June 13, 2022 @ 10:48 am
I definitely agree with modifying the rule to allow 2-3 eligible veterans each year into the Veterans Era category. The backlog of overlooked and waiting candidates is terrible. Making this change would certainly be appreciated by all to honor highly deserving country music entertainers who have not been elected into the CMA Hall of Fame due to the currently limited candidate process.
June 13, 2022 @ 10:55 am
It pains me to think that the chart numbers and CMA awards we use to justify getting an artist into the HOF will eventually be used on the current crop of mainstream artists. I kinda hope the backlog continues long enough so I don’t have to endure seeing Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, or — ugh — Sam Hunt being inducted into the Hall. Let’s face it — ignore who they are (and the kind of music they make) and take just the numbers and on the surface they stack up competitively to a lot of artists in the hall or awaiting induction. It’s a crime the CMA let mega-corporate radio hijack what is defined as “country music.”
June 13, 2022 @ 12:14 pm
I think/hope that the Bro-Country era will be like the asterisk era in baseball, with the top stat getters still getting shut out. Some artists whose careers bisected that era like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean may still have a chance because they actually did some decent stuff early in their career, even if it makes us all shudder to think about. But with the way Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt were shunned by awards, and ultimately have only a small body of work to fall back on, I think it’s going to be difficult, especially if the Hall of Fame continues to try and keep it so exclusive.
June 13, 2022 @ 12:34 pm
I, too, have compared the bro-country era with the steroid era in baseball. Big but tainted numbers. At least if Jason Aldean gets in, we can take some solace in that “Amarillo Sky” was one of the best farming songs ever.
June 13, 2022 @ 11:08 am
Hey Trig, just want to clear up that Linda Ronstadt has PSP not Parkinson’s. PSP is Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and is very rare. I only know this because my dad suffers from the same horrible disease. It has hardly any mainstream attention which is why I want to clear this up. I’ve seen other media outlets say she has Parkinson’s too but PSP needs and deserves the correct distinction and attention.
Thanks for all you do bud – CW
June 13, 2022 @ 11:11 am
Thanks for clarifying that. I do remember now it was announced as Parkinson’s, but then clarified later. The media (myself included) has been slow to pick up on that.
June 13, 2022 @ 11:29 am
No female ever sang a country song better than Linda Ronstadt. I’ve never seen Johnny Cash and George Jones speak so highly of a female singer, and they were right.
Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, etc. were directly influenced by her. She certainly belongs and is overdue, just as her Rock and Roll HOF induction in 2014 was long overdue.
As for the males, Gene Watson and Vern Gosdin belong before just about anyone else.
June 13, 2022 @ 11:48 am
Hard disagree. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, and Reba McEntire all sang country songs better than Linda Ronstadt, and that’s just the top of my head.
June 14, 2022 @ 7:29 pm
“There’s only three real female singers. Barbra Striesand, Linda Ronstadt, and Connie Smith. The rest of us are just pretending.” Dolly Parton. If Dolly (and Emmylou) want Linda in the Hall of Fame, she’s in.
July 5, 2022 @ 3:19 pm
I completely agree with you they are all better singers than Ronstadt and I’d add the way overdue to HOF Lynn Anderson and Crystal Gayle as superior singers to Ronstadt who both know when to belt and when not to, which is not true of Linda, who at times does not know the difference between belting and yelling, she’s the Ethel Merman of pop music. I don’t dislike her but she’s overrated in terms of talent and most of her hits anyway were remakes which should put Wanda Jackson and Skeeter Davis over her as well as they were innovative talents with very distinct records.
If you look at the Joel Whitburn Billboard chart books three of the five highest ranking artists not yet elected are women – Tanya, Lynn, and Crystal. That kind of suggests the industry is not taking it’s female artists as seriously as it should, especially considering even in the best of times women are no more than 20-25 of the chart yet three women who are true icons of the industry are repeated ignored.
July 5, 2022 @ 7:34 pm
Who are the two men?
July 7, 2022 @ 6:33 pm
Mickey Gilley and David Houston. Alas, Houston while a huge star in the 60s and early 70s has been dead for almost 30 years and completely forgotten by the industry. I don’t see him getting in without a push from a major personality, perhaps his former duet partner Barbara Mandrell.
July 7, 2022 @ 6:36 pm
Should have added percent to my comment on women on the charts; even in the best years the ladies were only 20-25 percent of the chart, now of course it’s much lower. But the fact that they are 60 percent of the top five charting artists not in the HOF according Whitburn’s country singles book covering 1944-1994 is alarming.
July 8, 2022 @ 11:28 am
If one wants to make the case for Lynn Anderson and Crystal Gayle, and Tanya Tucker, for CMHoF induction, you won’t get any arguments from me–on that basis by itself. They should obviously have been in there some time ago, Lynn especially (though of course she is now no longer alive to get the honor even if it happened, an all-too-common thing with this body).
That said, though, Tom R., while I won’t engage in bashing anyone else’s favorites, including yours, because that is not something I go out doing like some others do on this dais, to compare Linda Ronstadt to Ethel Merman not only doesn’t strengthen the argument you made for the other three, good as it is, but it strikes me as sophomoric at best, and downright ridiculous at its most extreme. I’m less insulted by that hopped-up comparison of yours than I am just shaking my head at it because I’ve heard much of the same things said about Linda from so-called rock “historians” like Dave Marsh over the last 45 years.
Lynn, Crystal, and Tanya–yes, they should go in, even though Lynn’s induction would be posthumous. If you want to make the case for them, hype it with the facts, but then kindly leave the bashing of others out of it.
June 13, 2022 @ 12:02 pm
“No female ever sang a country song better than Linda Ronstadt.”
LeAnn Rimes did.
June 13, 2022 @ 1:39 pm
Nah, Linda put personality into her singing and her hits and other records have a lot more staying power than LeAnn’s.
June 13, 2022 @ 1:55 pm
Not saying Linda is not a powerhouse with an incredible voice.
Clearly, she is. And, Honey? If Dolly Parton is going into the Rock Hall, all bets are off for any singer’s qualifications for whatever Hall elects them. i too, think Linda belongs in the CMHOF.
LeAnn Rimes “Blue” was an astounding achievement. An incredible success, & rocketed her to the top (think upper echelon)
June 13, 2022 @ 3:23 pm
LeAnn Rimes is not an “upper echelon” artist– a la Linda Ronstadt or Patsy Cline–in my book, but I’ll grant you that Curb managed to sell a lot of CD’s on her in the wake of Blue, including weird or slapped-together stuff like “The Early Years.”
June 13, 2022 @ 4:11 pm
Respectfully disagree with you, Lucky.
Rimes certainly is an “upper echelon” talent, with her beautiful, and natural powerhouse vocals.
Certainly agree with you here … “but I’ll grant you that Curb managed to sell a lot of CD’s on her in the wake of Blue, including weird or slapped-together stuff like “The Early Years.””
That statement brought a smile.
Preposterous, isn’t it?
She’s not even 40 years old.
I don’t give a crap who, or what, the popular thing of the moment is. I make my own decisions.
And you know as well as i do, that “success” & popularity in many cases, are not proportional to talent
(Still) The Ghost Of OlaR
June 13, 2022 @ 11:34 am
Sooner: Tanya Tucker & Jeannie Seely.
Later: Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan.
Maybe…maybe not: Steve Wariner & Alison Krauss.
Gone (but not) & forgotten: K.T. Oslin, Earl Thomas Conley & Eddie Rabbitt.
The 70s/80s ladies (& gentlemen): Janie Frick(i)e, Kathy Mattea, Charly McClain & Lacy J. Dalton, Juice Newton, Johnny Lee & Lee Greenwood.
Oh…& Freddy Fender…well…oops…i meant Johnny Rodriguez.
June 13, 2022 @ 5:19 pm
You forgot Patty Loveless!
(Still) The Ghost Of OlaR
June 14, 2022 @ 12:27 am
Shame on me.
June 13, 2022 @ 11:44 am
Linda is the female version of Elvis in so many ways. Stunning looks, unparalleled voice, and transcends genres. They both made lots of good country, country rock, and folk music. Elvis was inducted in 1998.
June 13, 2022 @ 1:41 pm
Ronstadt belongs. She has influenced more modern females acts than some of the current female Hall of Famers. Will it happen sooner than later? Probably not. With her advancing condition it likely will become a posthumous induction, like Keith Whitley, Jerry Reed, and Dottie West.
As far as Freddy Fender- well “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” were huge records. But I am sorry, I do not see a Hall of Fame career. I personally feel Johnny Rodriguez would be more worthy. His career on the charts started sooner and lasted longer than Fender. And Johnny is praised for his commitment to traditional country music, much like Gene Watson, Gary Stewart and Vern Gosdin. There was more said about Rodriguez on the Ken Burns country music documentary than Hall of Famers, Conway Twitty, Don Williams, and Ronnie Milsap combined.
If we start campaigning for artists for induction into the Hall of Fame based on race, musical genre, or style, it will open the doors for people who are not worthy.
Don’t get me wrong, DeFord Bailey for example was worthy. Some felt his induction was singled out as being solely based on him being an African American. But in the days prior to Acuff and Monroe, DeFord Bailey was the Opry’s biggest calling card. Regardless of race, he was worthy.
Artists that come to mind (much like Fender and Rodriguez in the Hispanic music field) include, Riders In the Sky (western, won several Grammys), Boxcar Willie (hobo? railroad? he was just unique and sold millions of records!), Jimmy C. Newman (Cajun country king), Jimmy Martin (King of Bluegrass), and Albert E. Brumley (gospel songwriter, “I’ll Fly Away” and dozens upon dozen of others that influenced country artists). These mentioned folks were the kings of their own trade. Do they belong in the Hall of Fame?
Food for thought.
June 13, 2022 @ 1:46 pm
I mentioned my thoughts about an extra category on a previous article:
I’ve been thinking recently about this “Legacy/Pioneer” category idea that was mentioned. If it were to be added as a 4th rotating category, that might be the best of both worlds. Then they could have 2 rotating categories each year: Songwriter/Musician one year, Legacy/Other the next year. You would give what the fans and industry want (more people being inducted) while also giving what the Hall wants (keeping the honour exclusive).
Just my two cents.
King Honky Of Crackershire
June 13, 2022 @ 2:51 pm
Put ‘em in. Put ‘em all in…every last one of ‘em. I want every single son of a gun who’s eaten a biscuit and plucked a guitar string to be in that glorious hall of fame. And I mean ASAP.
BUBBA-JACK NEEDS A PLAQUE
June 13, 2022 @ 8:03 pm
This is the can do attitude I’ve been looking for! My uncle once played tambourine with Willie Nelson for 3 nights straight. All us kids brag about it every time we get together for grannies parole hearing. But those smug yuppies at the HOF won’t even acknowledge him! Basically a dream candidate for the new “inclusive” hall of fame. LET UNCLE BUBBA-JACK IN YOU COWARDS!!!
Kyle is a big gay retard
June 13, 2022 @ 8:30 pm
*Kyle edited out the funniest part of this reply, because it used the word queer.
June 13, 2022 @ 8:38 pm
Knock it off, Honky
June 13, 2022 @ 3:08 pm
Linda Ronstadt is wonderful, one of my favorite country-rock artists, but country-rock isn’t country. Like The Eagles, she has been properly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She ought to follow Dolly Parton’s classy lead and remove herself from consideration for the sake of genre clarity. There should be an agreement that an artist shouldn’t be in both halls with very few exceptions, like Jerry Lee Lewis.
June 13, 2022 @ 3:12 pm
Sorry, but I never considered Freddy Fender as anything much more than a novelty act; a curiosity more than a serious country artist. His voice was not something that made me turn the radio volume up, in fact, most often, the opposite was the case.
June 13, 2022 @ 4:32 pm
I 100% agree. I really don’t mean this maliciously but in my opinion his music is so bad, especially his voice. He may well get in someday and he was obviously very popular for a time, but honestly he was just not good at all.
July 5, 2022 @ 3:24 pm
I was not a fan of his singing but he indisputably made a major mark on country music in the 1970’s as one of the biggest stars in the industry for several years, He absolutely should be on the consideration list, the fact that he was Latino in an era of almost all Caucasian stars should also underline the fact he was a trailblazer and an important figure.
David: The Duke of Everything
June 13, 2022 @ 3:15 pm
I’m not sold on Linda Ronstadt but I understand she has her fans. Tanya Tucker I can see. Freddy fender Im inbetween. I think his top hits are so great and iconic, it’s hard to not put him in. But he didn’t have a long success of chart success but I felt the same way about whitley. If you asked me between those two who deserves it more, I would without fail say Freddy fender.
June 13, 2022 @ 5:11 pm
Setting aside Linda’s ethnicity for a second, here are some things to consider about whether her induction into the CMHoF is appropriate.
First off, Linda’s prime country influences were what she heard either on the radio or on records roughly from 1948 to 1961, a period that spans what is most often regarded as the genre’s first classic era, and includes the C&W material she is most famous for covering: “Lovesick Blues”; “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”; “I Fall To Pieces”; “Crazy Arms”; “Silver Threads And Golden Needles”; “I Still Miss Someone”; and “Crazy”. So she does understand the genre at its heart
Second, another added country music component to Linda is the revival of mountain music and bluegrass as a result of the late 50’s/early 60’s folk music movement/scare, which is how she came upon “I Never Will Marry”, and, thanks to her own Southwestern upbringing, the traditional Western folk ballad “Old Paint”.
Third, she is not averse to more contemporary country material, as can be seen through her covers of John Loudermilk’s “Break My Mind” and Waylon Jennings’ “The Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” (as “The Only Mama”) on her 1969 album HAND SOWN, HOME GROWN, and Matraca Berg’s “Walk On” on 1995’s FEELS LIKE HOME.
And if we wish to go into the artists she has influenced, all of whom are women (natch!), the list would be at least a mile long, maybe even longer than that. It would include Rosanne Cash, Carlene Carter, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Patty Loveless, Terri Clark, Pam Tillis, Tift Merritt, Margo Price, Caitlin Rose, Kelsey Waldon, Carrie Underwood, and many, many others. When you have sold 100 million records over the course of 55 years, it really only takes a few thousand of those copies ending up in the hands of an aspiring young girl singer to make someone influential, and this is unquestionably the case with Linda.
Of course, the issue really is not her ethnicity, but the fact that she was never a one-genre singer, having done R&B, jazz, blues, gospel, Mexican rancheras, Afro-Cuban, opera, American pop standards, and, naturally, rock and roll. Even her own approach to country on her records is far removed from what Nashville would consider “country” because she grew up in Arizona and established herself as very much a California artist. She respects country music’s traditional spirit, but does so in a way that moves the traditions forward and makes them relevant for contemporary audiences, and for her rock and roll fans, who might otherwise, especially at the start of her career in the late 1960’s, have found the genre decidedly “unhip”.
Where Linda might rub the current Nashville higher-ups the wrong way is that she isn’t exactly shy about stating her less-than-charitable opinions about what passes for most modern country music, having called it “Mall Crawler Music” on more than one occasion. But given what often gets played on country radio these days, and given her own personal knowledge of the genre, you can’t say she wasn’t onto something.
And of course, there’s the thing about how badly she wants it. As she has said on many occasions, getting awards wasn’t why she became a professional singer in the first place, it was the love of the music and the work: “If you’re working for prizes, you’re in big trouble”.
If Linda Ronstadt does get in, however, she’d certainly be deserving of such an accolade, and she’d get a staggering amount of love from her female fans in the industry (IMHO).
June 13, 2022 @ 6:27 pm
I knew you would weigh in, and you didnt disappoint Erik North. Of all the commenters, you regularly bring up Linda Ronstadt. I assume you must run a fan club or facebook site to her. Good insight. 100 million records is a LOT! Ive got the first Trio album, which is a masterwork for certain. Honestly, never felt she was a career Country singer, more like a pop rock star who dabbled in Country now and then. I do feel like Tanya Tucker, Jeannie Seely, Patty Loveless, and Crystal Gayle ought to be considered first. But, there is no doubt she is a bigger star than those gals. I prefer to see the folks who devoted their career to the genre go in first, before the “outsiders”.
June 13, 2022 @ 9:16 pm
Yep. Career country artists first. That’s how I feel.
June 13, 2022 @ 5:46 pm
Fender ok. Ronstadt no.
June 13, 2022 @ 5:49 pm
From left field…thought I would see something about the Toby Keith cancer story on this site. I know he is not the most popular artist here but he is a pretty important part of Country music history and seems to have got a lot of love from fellow singers such as Willie & Merle in the past.
June 13, 2022 @ 7:35 pm
I posted this on Twitter yesterday evening:
“No matter our taste in music, no matter our takes on politics, we’ve all been affected adversely by Cancer at some point. In that struggle, we all share, and we’re all the same.
Here’s hoping for renewed health, and a full recovery for Toby Keith as he battles stomach Cancer.”
I was not around the computer when the story broke. Believe it or not, I have a life. And when I got back, it was everywhere. They mentioned it on The Nightly News. Nobody at that point needed to hear it from me, and trying to stretch a 2-sentence announcement into a few paragraphs feels click-baity to me. I might have something to say about it soon when I have something of value to share.
June 13, 2022 @ 8:02 pm
“No matter our taste in music, no matter our takes on politics”.
For the life of me I do not understand why these types of disclaimers need to be said about someone. And no, it is not equal on both sides. I am talking about this in general and not specifically referencing Trigger’s comment. He is fairly even-handed.
For example, Dan Rather on “The Big Interview” gave a disclaimer of sorts when interviewing Kid Rock. However, no such disclaimer was given for the John Mellencamp interview among others. And I will say that Rather was fairly complimentary of Kid Rock, disclaimers notwithstanding.
Oh well, the world we live in.
Robert's Country Blog
June 13, 2022 @ 6:48 pm
I’ll say this for Freddy Fender. When I moved to Texas a few years ago, I quickly discovered that his hits are covered VERY frequently by every sort of Texas band. I’ve heard country, bluegrass, rockabilly, western swing, rock, conjunto, mariachi, and polka covers of Freddy Fender.
June 13, 2022 @ 8:52 pm
I think we need about 5 years in a row that to play catch up and induct these artists!
Carl Butler and Pearl
George Hamilton IV
Homer and Jethro
Johnnie & Jack
Lonzo and Oscar
Sam & Kirk Magee
Uncle Jimmy Thompson
Wilma Lee Cooper
June 14, 2022 @ 9:00 am
Linda because she is authentically the Western in C&W. Back in the 70s in NY – Long Island- never heard of Dolly Parton or Hank Williams or the steel pedal until Ronstadt brought them to our rocking attention. I remember reading her liner notes, her interviews and hearing her clear powerful Southwestern pipes in Concert while discovering a whole bunch of music that was until then rarely beyond Roy Rogers in the Northeast. Her crying into a microphone is pure and second to none. And now I have been from Tucson to Tucumcari.
July 7, 2022 @ 6:41 pm
All of them important names in the industry to be sure but quite a lot of them only had light success on the charts if that so the majority I’m sure will never be considered, indeed I suspect even many of the JUDGES on the HOF elections may not be that aware of them, forget about the current industry which obviously more influenced by rock stars from the past than country stars.
June 14, 2022 @ 12:01 am
If petitions work, I think I’ll start one of my own.
June 14, 2022 @ 4:58 am
I am an admin on the Linda Ronstadt Fans Discussion Forum. Come check us out. I know Erik’s writings well and appreciate the time he took for his reply and that it is spot on. I think the timeliness of Linda’s cross over material really boosted country music for the masses per se. Linda, of course, has my vote.
June 14, 2022 @ 5:08 am
Hope Freddie makes it but Doug, Augie, and Flaco should go too. I drive my wife crazy yelling “AUGIE!!” to mimic Doug Sahm when I play their songs.
The Bottle Rockets did a Sahm album and I think Son Volt will release a Sahm tribute next year. At least those in the know appreciate Doug Sahm.
Also, c’mon guys. Why isn’t Eddie Rabbitt in?
June 14, 2022 @ 6:39 am
Freddy absolutely deserves to be there. One of my father’s favorites, I still know the words to most of his songs years later. Think I’ll go listen to some Freddy now,
June 14, 2022 @ 8:27 am
June 14, 2022 @ 9:34 am
I like both. They both might be deserving but they are not 2 names that instantly jump at me as deserving as being ahead of others. There are in my opinion others who might deserve the honour more such as John Anderson, Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Vern Gosden etc.
June 14, 2022 @ 10:16 am
I don’t understand how Tanya Tucker is not in the HOF. Trig, what’s your take on that? It’s a real head-scratcher, unless she got crossways with the Nashville establishment somehow.
June 14, 2022 @ 12:34 pm
I would vote an enthusiastic “yes” for Linda, Freddie and Tanya.
I didn’t know Linda had been diagnosed with such a horrible disease – very, very sad.
These artists have spoken to me for the last 40-50 years.
June 14, 2022 @ 12:44 pm
The CMHOF has always been very Nashville-centric, but Nashville country music is only a slice of the overall country music pie. California-influenced artists like Linda Ronstadt and Gram Parsons would be deserving inductees, and Texas-influenced artists like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver, and Asleep at the Wheel would be worthy and well-received inductees.
June 14, 2022 @ 9:46 pm
The CMHOF has also been very hit-centric, and apart from Ronstadt, the artists you named above, did not make hit records.
Guy, Townes and Shaver would probably each have a better shot in a hypothetical combined songwriter-and-artist category.
June 14, 2022 @ 7:26 pm
LYNN ANDERSON!! How is she not already in the HOF? She was one of a handful of country artists that literally opened the door to country music’s acceptance on a worldwide basis. She was the first female country artist to appear on most of the network TV variety shows, paving the way for all the others to follow. She had a dozen top ten country singles, and several #1’s. She was the first artist to headline at Madison Square Garden, and was named the artist of the decade by Record World magazine twice! The list goes on and on. It’s long past time she be recognized for her many contributions to the country music industry.
June 14, 2022 @ 11:16 pm
Lynn Anderson has a strong case for being in the Country Mucic H-o-F, but throw away the “fact” that she headlined at Madison Square Garden as a basis.
The claim struck me as bizarre, so I Googled it. And I found dozens of articles on the Internet that make that statement–more specifically that she sold out Madison Square Garden in 1974. But all the articles that I found that make that claim are bios of Lynn Anderson from decades later, like the 2000s, and obituaries from 2015. And they contain no additional details. As a perrennial skeptic, it struck me suspiciously like they’re all getting this tidbit from the same possibly bad source.
It piqued my interest, so I dug a little deeper. I Googled “Madison Square Garden Events 1974.” I found that there’s actually a Wikipedia page called “List of entertainment events at Madison Square Garden.” It goes from the inception of the current MSG in 1967 through today. I looked at 1974. Something like 25 entertainment acts performed that year. They ranged from Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Yes, Deep Purple, Stevie Wonder, Grand Funk Railroad, Johnny Winter, The Who, The Edgar Winter Group, Clapton, Cat Stevens, the Beach Boys, Elton John, George Harrison with Ravi Shankar. The only act with connections to country that played there was John Denver for two nights. No Lynn Anderson. The one “wildcard” to play the Garden that year was Frank Sinatra in his famed “Main Event” comeback. Johnny Cash headlined at the Garden in 1969 and 1970.
I decided to search the entire page from 1967 through 2022. I typed in “lyn”. Only two entertainment acts came up in the entire history of the current MSG with lyn in their names–neither of them, headliners: Marilyn Manson, opening for Nine Inch Nails on December 8-9, 1994 and Lynyrd Skynyrd, opening for Kid Rock on May 15, 2008.
I typed in “Ander.” The only name that came up was “Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe,” which headlined in 1990. I learned that they were an offshoot of “Yes,” featuring Yes lead singer Jon (not John) Anderson.
I suppose it’s possible that Lynn Anderson sold out Madison Square Garden, and the details have been expunged from history. More likely it’s one of those bullshit items that gets regurgitated until it’s assumed to be true.
July 5, 2022 @ 3:53 pm
Besides your acknowledged revision that Lynn Anderson did perform at MSG’s Felt Forum aren she did play Madison Square Garden two year earlier albeit with several other country artists including Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Sonny James. She was apparently billed first if the article is any indication. Note the NYT critic felt the audio was not good for not only Lynn but Loretta and Conway as well. https://www.nytimes.com/1972/06/05/archives/tv-format-limits-country-musicians-at-2d-garden-fete.html?searchResultPosition=15
There’s a lot of half-truths in every star’s bio about their accomplishments but the claim for her MSG success seems more than a little factual. I do recall an article in the Music City News by Ellis Nassour in 1974 detailing her enthusiastic and packed reception at the Felt Forum, anyone know if MCN can be accessed online anywhere?
July 5, 2022 @ 7:13 pm
I noticed that Anderson’s appearance at the Felt Forum was with Dave Bromberg, not her own band. Bromberg, a multi-genre instrmentalist and singer based in New York for most of his career performed and recorded with country and folk artists like Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Dylan, John Prine–definitely artists likely to have more of a NYC following than Lynn Anderson.
Anyway, the thing that piqued my interest in the original post was the claim that Lynn Anderson played–and sold out–“Madison Square Garden.” The idea of Lynn Anderson headlining the main arena at the Garden in the era dominated by the likes of Willis and Clyde, Gilbert and Giacomon, Ali and Frazier, Jethro Tull, Yes, Little Richard, The Who, Johnny Winter, et al struck me as amusing and drew me to do a bit of keyboard research.
July 7, 2022 @ 6:52 pm
I think Bromberg was probably Lynn’s opening act. I wouldn’t dismiss her NYC fame, after all “Rose Garden” was a monster pop hit with several other songs crossing over in the Hot 100 and I think she had four or five top 20 Billboard Easy Listening hits in this period (a huge radio format in that era) plus she was on network tv on variety shows all the time at that point. Looking her up on the New York Times’ archive to get info on the MSG appearance I pulled up a exclusive NYT fashion layout of her modeling “country” fashions which would have been a plum publicity appearance for any name actress at the time. There was also a Willie-Waylon biography a decade ago that notes Willie opened by Lynn in New York sometime in the early 70s and it was cleared the audience was there for Lynn and so disinterested in Willie he was disheartened about his future as a performer.
June 15, 2022 @ 6:58 pm
Interesting research! Kudos to you! If that is true, her bios for many many years have been incorrect on that particular matter. Whether or not she headlined a show at Madison Square Garden, she should still be inducted into the Hall of Fame for many other reasons.. Before she came along, most of the female singers (even the ones who are beloved icons), were relegated to singing in front of bales of hay or on fake front porches on syndicated shows. The country music industry owes a debt to the trailblazing Miss Anderson, and they need to make this right.
June 15, 2022 @ 9:30 pm
I did a little more looking up, figuring that maybe I was too harsh and there was some truth to the story.
The “new” Madison Square Garden, which is now over 50 years old and really needs to be replaced, is a 20,000-plus-seat arena that’s home to the New York Knicks and Rangers NBA and NHL franchises, other big time sports events, and concerts which are almost exclusively rock and pop stars. Johnny Cash seems to be the only country act to have headlined there prior to the 1990s. But there’s also a theater below the main arena that seats about 5,000, which was originally–and for several decades called the Felt Forum, and is now called the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The Felt Forum as been used for everything from a wide range of concerts, to Golden Gloves boxing, to school graduations (I actually had my H.S. graduation there.)
I tried Googling “Lynn Anderson Felt Forum,” figuring she might have performed there, and BINGO. It led to an archived issue of New York Magazine with a cover date of March 4, 1974. In the “In and Around Town” section under a heading “What’s Going on at the Garden?,” there’s this: “As for music, there’s DEEP PURPLE on the 13th and THE WHO on the 15thin the big Arena. the Felt Forum brings you a truly outstanding JAZZ CONCERT on the 8th, headlining famed drummer man Buddy Rich, lovely Carmen McRae, and the one and only Jimmy McGriff, while the third of our popular COUNTRY IN NEW YORK shows comes in there on the 16th featuring Lynn Anderson and David Bromberg.”
July 5, 2022 @ 3:28 pm
Lynn Anderson blazed so many paths for country women singers that she rarely gets credit for. The fact that she was one of the few country singers who bothered to be active in board activity at the CMA makes her lack of induction particularly deplorable.
June 17, 2022 @ 4:37 pm
It’s interesting to point out that 5 years was a number from petition to induction for other artists, because when Kenny Rogers’ got inducted in 2013 he said that he would fight to get Dottie West in there. And 5 years later in 2018, Dottie West was inducted.
June 23, 2022 @ 1:26 pm
Eddie Rabbitt isn’t in the Country Music Hall Of Fame ? (To say nothing of Clint Black,Tanya Tucker and fellow Windsor,Ont.Can. native Shania Twain ?) What are its criteria ? (And YES,Linda and Freddy merit enshrinement .)
July 2, 2022 @ 7:32 pm
You’re asking about the criteria for getting in the Hall Of Fame?
Well, anyone who has been around at least 20 years is eligible.
Then there are three categories every year. The “Modern” category is for all artists that have been around for approximately 20-40 years. The “Veteran” category is for all artists that have been around for 40 years or more. And then the third category rotates through three sub-categories each year: “Songwriters”, “Musicians” and “Other”. For the most part, there is only one person inducted in each of these three categories per year.
And with only three people (only two artists) getting inducted per year, it is extremely tough to get chosen. For the most part, you need to have a good career, a good case, someone within the industry pushing for you and the voters being on your side.
July 7, 2022 @ 7:36 pm
While she is talented, Twain has always been a pop artist masquerading as a country artist. Mutt Lange, her former husband and producer, was a knob twirling genius who simply blanketed Twain’s voice in a Def Leppard production (a sound Lange helped create). I don’t ever see her getting in. Not that she really cares, she can soothe her sorrow by counting the hundreds of millions of dollars she made. 😉
July 8, 2022 @ 9:44 am
I think for the time being the hall should remember some of our older artist who blazed a trail for the artist that followed them! Cowboy Copas was the biggest artist on the plane that He Patsy and Hawkshaw were on. Patsy was and is still great but her hit making days had just started Cope and Hawk had been around since 1944 and 1946 respectfully, Wanda Jackson belongs there because like Brenda Lee she started out Rockabilly and went country and had many hits over her 70 year career! Wanda is still with us and I would to see her go in while she is still with us!
August 1, 2022 @ 3:14 pm
Fender’s entire argument revolves around his heritage. That is not enough. His career was just too short. An entire candidacy shouldn’t solely rest on chart success but it needs to be part of the equation.
August 1, 2022 @ 3:44 pm
A “hall of fame” is by definition racist because all inequities are, at bottom, racial inequities. The CMHOF should include everyone who has ever made country music, or it should be burned to the ground.
December 15, 2022 @ 2:24 pm
This is the STUPIDEST thing I’ve read all week online. Not every performer is equally gifted or equally driven to succeed. THIS is where inequality factors into CMHOF selections. It has nothing to do with racial inequality whatsoever.
And NO, the CMHOF should not include “everyone who has ever made country music,” or else there would be THOUSANDS of inductees. That’s the point of a Hall of Fame — to honor the true greats in a chosen field and set them apart from everyone else. Should we induct every man who’s every played Major League Baseball into the Baseball Hall of Fame? No.