Ray Charles, The Judds, and musicians Pete Drake and Eddie Bayers have all been named new inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame (CMHoF).
The inductees were announced August 16 over livestream by country music star Reba McEntire, who was inducted into the CMHoF back in 2011. New members of the Country Music Hall of Fame are elected annually by a panel of industry executives chosen by the Country Music Association.
The Country Music Hall of Fame inducts honorees in three distinct categories: modern era, veterans era, and one of three rotating categories including non-performer, songwriter, and recording and/or touring musician. The Judds are under the modern era, while Ray Charles is this year’s veterans era selection. Drummer Bayers and pedal steel player Drake are in the recording and/or tour musician category.
Modern era inductees Naomi and Wynonna Judd are a mother-daughter duo who first hit the country music charts in 1983. They reached stardom in 1984 with their groundbreaking track "Mama He's Crazy," and the song became the first of eight consecutive No. 1 hits. Naomi later retired from the duo due to a chronic hepatitis infection, while Wynonna launched a successful solo career, releasing hit songs like “No One Else on Earth.”
"It's about damn time!" Wynonna said during the CMA inductees announcement, later clarifying to PEOPLE that the reason she's been so impatient isn't about her.
"I'll be honest," the 57-year-old musician said, "I've talked to three people, and immediately the first thing they said was, 'It's about damn time,' and as a daughter, I went, 'Yes, it is.' My mother, to me, is the queen of my parade — and it's time to celebrate her."
“As an artist, it’s wonderful to be included in the family of country and as a believer, I thank God for my gift. As an American, it’s just wonderful to celebrate anything,” Wynonna also said during the announcement. The Judds are the first all-female duo or group to be inducted into the CMHoF so far.
Two inductees have been named posthumously: Ray Charles and Pete Drake. Charles is undoubtedly part of the 2021 class thanks to his foundational 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The record helped connect the dots between blues, soul, R&B, and country music, widening the last genre’s audience. While Charles' legacy is primarily based in R&B, soul, and blues, he continued to keep country music in his repertoire throughout his lifetime, collaborating with country artists such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. He passed away in 2004.
Drake passed in 1988 and becomes the first pedal steel player to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He played on several iconic country recordings, including Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and even on sessions for Ringo Starr, Elvis Presley, and more. He was part of Nashville’s famed A-Team, and played on 118 Gold and Platinum albums throughout his career. In 2007, he was posthumously inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.
As for Bayers, he becomes the first drummer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has played on sessions for Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Garth Brooks, and others. His work can be heard on the 1980 Urban Cowboy movie soundtrack and on Dolly Parton's classic 9 to 5 album. Bayers has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry’s house band for 18 years, has been selected ACM drummer of the year 14 times, and like Drake, was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019.
Last year’s Country Music Hall of Fame inductees included Marty Stuart (modern era artist), Hank Williams Jr. (veterans era artist) and songwriter Dean Dillon, who penned many hits for George Strait, Kenny Chesney, George Jones, Chris Stapleton, and more.
Their ceremony, postponed because of COVID-19 concerns, will take place this November. As for the 2021 class, their induction is scheduled for May 2022.
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Article Image: Ray Charles smiling after finishing a show at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in October 1994, Naomi and Wynonna Judd performing at the Grand Ole Opry while the Band of the Air Force Reserve and Air Force Strings perform in the background during the 2008 Holiday Notes from Home concert. (John Matthew Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0], Ken Hackman [Available through Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.)