The Country Music Association recently revealed the 2023 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame – Bob McDill, Patty Loveless and Tanya Tucker.
McDill will be inducted in the “Songwriter” category, which is awarded every third year in rotation with “Recording and/or Touring Musician” and “Non-Performer” categories. Loveless will be inducted in the “Modern Era Artist” category and Tucker will be inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category.
“All three of this year’s inductees are truly one-of-a-kind storytellers,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Tanya, Patty and Bob each have a distinctive voice and an ability to share stories that precisely represent American life. While their impact is felt in very different ways, their songs are reflective of their generation and experience, vividly illustrating an authenticity that will last forever. We are honored to welcome these three very deserving inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
“I am thrilled and honored to be included,” says McDill.
“I’m still trying to believe that I’m going to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” says Loveless. “I just feel so incredibly privileged to be invited into this incredible family. Having my name included in the museum’s Rotunda with so many legendary artists, musicians, songwriters and industry icons is such an honor!”
“I’m more than proud to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” says Tucker. “It was wonderful to have all three of my kids beside me when I got the news. The only way it could’ve been any better is if my parents Beau and Juanita Tucker could have been there too. They are the reason and the root of all my success in music. And the fans – they are everything! When I walk in that Hall they will all be with me.”
A formal induction ceremony for McDill, Loveless and Tucker will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater this fall. The Museum’s Medallion Ceremony, a reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, is the official rite of induction for new members.
Songwriter Category – Bob McDill
Only a handful of Nashville songwriters write so distinctively that their name becomes its own brand of song — not because of their track record of success, though that often follows, but because their work possesses a recognizable style and soul that no one else can replicate. A Harlan Howard song. A Kris Kristofferson song. A Bobby Braddock song. A Dean Dillon song. A Bob McDill song.
For nearly 30 years, Bob McDill graced Country Music with songs full of rich imagery, a deep empathy for their characters, and a literary sensibility that set him apart from his peers. From the early 1970s until he retired in 2000, McDill had hundreds of cuts, placing more than 30 songs at the top of Billboard magazine’s Country charts, among them classics like Don Williams’ “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Alabama’s “Song Of The South,” and Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country.”
Born in Walden, TX, McDill grew up in the Gulf Coast region of the Lone Star state, where he began viola lessons in the fourth grade and started playing guitar at 14. He studied English Literature at Lamar State College of Technology, now Lamar University in nearby Beaumont. There, the night air carried the clear-channel sounds of “John R” Richbourg on 1510 WLAC-AM in Nashville, playing the latest in R&B. From the west, but practically next door on the radio dial at 1570, Wolfman Jack spun rock and roll on border station XERF-AM out of Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Young McDill soaked it all in, especially once he fell in with Cowboy Jack Clement and Bill Hall, who had opened Gulf Coast Recording Studio behind the hotel bar where McDill and his folk group played. Dickey Lee and Allen Reynolds were part of that crew, too, and when McDill entered the Navy, Reynolds and Lee started pitching his songs, landing him cuts with Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs and Perry Como.
After his discharge from the Navy, McDill followed Lee and Reynolds to Memphis and then to Nashville. There, he had to learn to love Country Music before he could learn to write it. A key lesson occurred in the back of a Cadillac when George Jones’ recording of Jerry Chesnut’s “Good Year For The Roses” came on the radio. It was an epiphany.
“I started studying Country Music like a seminary student studies the gospels,” McDill said during a “Poets & Prophets” interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008.
He recorded one album, Short Stories, for Clement’s JMI Records in 1972, but soon realized he didn’t want to be a performer. So, he focused on writing songs for other people. Johnny Russell gave him his first Country successes, with “Catfish John” and then “Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer,” penned with Wayland Holyfield and Chuck Neese. Then the floodgates opened.
Don Williams released more than a dozen of McDill’s songs as singles, including chart-toppers “(Turn Out The Light And) Love Me Tonight,” “Say It Again,” “It Must Be Love,” and “If Hollywood Don’t Need You.” Bobby Bare had a hit with McDill’s “Put A Little Lovin’ On Me” in 1976, then recorded an entire album of his songs the following year.
One week in February 1985, McDill had songwriting credits on four of the top eight records on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, starting with Mel McDaniel’s “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On.” Ed Bruce’s recording of “You Turn Me On (Like A Radio)” followed, as did Dan Seals’ “My Baby’s Got Good Timing” and Gus Hardin’s “All Tangled Up In Love.”
The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) gave him their Songwriter of the Year award that year.
Three years later to the month, Alabama took his “Song Of The South” to No. 1. The following week, it was succeeded by Seals’ “Big Wheels In The Moonlight,” which McDill had co-written with Seals.
He took home the NSAI Songwriter of the Year award that year, too.
At various times, both ASCAP and BMI named him their Songwriter of the Year. BMI gave him so many awards that word around Music Row for years was that the acronym stood for “Bob McDill Incorporated.”
McDill kept office hours on Music Row, one of the city’s first songwriters known for doing so, viewing writing not as a business but as a profession, and writing his songs on 217 yellow legal pads that now reside at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Though he collaborated on songs with the likes of Reynolds, Holyfield, Seals and Paul Harrison, he most often wrote alone. He didn’t write quickly, describing his process as “blood, sweat and tears,” but he wrote thoughtfully.
His inspirations came from an array of sources. “Amanda,” a single for both Williams and Waylon Jennings, was triggered when a musician friend said he had apologized to his wife for not being able to give her a better life. “Good Ole Boys Like Me” was inspired by reading Robert Penn Warren’s “A Place to Come To.”
“It was kind of an attempt to show the world that everybody in the South wasn’t from the cast of `Dukes of Hazzard,’” he told Chicago Tribune’s Jack Hurst in 1989.
He wrote “Song Of The South” after reading “I’ll Take My Stand,” a defense of the old agrarian South written in the 1930s. “Don’t Close Your Eyes” began with an overheard line of dialogue spoken by Maggie Smith to Michael Caine in the 1978 film adaptation of Neil Simon’s “California Suite.” In some songs, he offered social commentary. To others — like McDaniel’s “Louisiana Saturday Night” or Shenandoah’s “If Bubba Can Dance (I Can Too),” he gave a deft, lighthearted tone.
Sometimes, he did both, as was the case with “Gone Country.”
“If Country songwriters had to pick one of their own to represent that bridge between the traditional and the modern styles and sensibilities, they probably would turn to Bob McDill,” Ed Morris wrote in MusicRow in 1985, the year the NSAI inducted him into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
So, what do you do with a good ole boy like Bob McDill?
You put him in the Country Music Hall of Fame, of course.
Modern Era Artist Category – Patty Loveless
Patty Loveless has said she liked to imagine herself as a combination of Linda Ronstadt, Loretta Lynn, Ralph Stanley and Molly O’Day — singers who, depending on the dictates of the song, felt equally comfortable singing rock-edged roots music, straightforward traditional Country, or high lonesome mountain music. No matter the song, no matter the style, Loveless approaches her music with such transparent honesty it once prompted TIME magazine to proclaim that she “sings the truth and serves it up raw.”
Born in Pikeville, KY, on Jan. 4, 1957, Patty Lee Ramey was the youngest daughter of John and Naomie Ramey’s seven children. She was raised a few miles southeast, near the Virginia state line in Elkhorn City, where John worked in the Federal Coal Mines.
The Ramey family loved music, regularly listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights, and Loveless and her brother, Roger, often played and sang together.
When Loveless was a teenager, she and her brother, Roger, traveled to Nashville going down to Music Row, hoping to play some of her songs for the Wilburn Brothers. They were out on the road, so Roger decided they should try Porter Wagoner’s office, which happened to be nearby. Wagoner happened to be in.
Not only did Wagoner encourage Loveless in her musical endeavors, he also introduced her to Dolly Parton, and the two singers invited the aspiring artist/songwriter to stay over in Nashville so she could accompany them to the Opry.
Loveless eventually connected with the Wilburns, too, joining their touring company at 16 and signing with their Sure-Fire Music publishing company — following in the footsteps of her distant cousin, Loretta Lynn. When not on the road she worked at a record store in downtown Nashville owned by Doyle Wilburn. Loveless eventually left the Wilburns and relocated to North Carolina playing in rock and Country bands around the North Carolina area. With the urging and encouragement of her brother and first manager Roger, Loveless returned to Nashville in 1985 continuing to pursue a record deal.
With her return to Nashville, she recorded a five-song demo that Roger took to producer Tony Brown at MCA Records. With the support of Brown and her future husband, Emory Gordy Jr., Loveless was signed to MCA. She kept an alternate spelling of her first husband’s surname, Lovelace, for her MCA debut.
Loveless released her first MCA single, “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” in 1985. It failed to crack the Top 40, as did four subsequent releases. She convinced the label to let her record and release a full album — and that’s when things started to change, starting with a cover of the George Jones hit “If My Heart Had Windows” that reached the Top 10 in 1988.
Quickly, Loveless was a regular presence near the top of the charts, releasing 34 Top 40 singles between 1988 and 2003. Loveless’ best records flirted with rockabilly, gospel and bluegrass, as well as Country shuffles, and she had an ear for under-appreciated gems, especially when they possessed memorable melodic arcs. She had hits with songs written by Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams and members of Lone Justice, NRBQ and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. She also recorded songs written by Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett, Richard Thompson and Billy Joe Shaver, working in some Hank Williams and Carter Stanley on occasions.
The Grand Ole Opry welcomed her as a member during CMA’s Fan Fair in June 1988; the same month her first Top 5 single, a cover of Earle’s “A Little Bit In Love,” hit the charts.
The first of Loveless’ five Billboard No. 1 singles came with “Timber I’m Falling In Love” in 1989, just a few months after she married producer and bassist Gordy, who had co-produced her first two albums with Brown and would produce her for most of the rest of her career, especially after she left MCA for Epic Records in 1992.
Though Loveless had found frequent success with MCA, including a second chart-topper, “Chains,” in 1990, she found even more acclaim at Epic. Her first single for the label, a Harlan Howard/Kostas tune called “Blame It On Your Heart,” gave her a third No. 1, and BMI Song of the Year. Songs like “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” and “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” tapped into the deepest emotions of human experience. “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” was another No. 1 and one of four Top 10 singles from Loveless’ When Fallen Angels Fly, which won CMA’s Album of the Year award in 1995 — making her the first woman to take that category in more than a decade. In 1996, CMA awarded her its Female Vocalist of the Year.
Loveless hit No. 1 twice in 1996, first with “You Can Feel Bad,” then with “Lonely Too Long.” She won a CMA Vocal Event of the Year award in 1998 for “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me” with George Jones, her second win with the Possum in that category.
She won the CMA Vocal Event award again with Vince Gill for 1999’s “My Kind Of Woman/My Kind Of Man.” She and Gill have often appeared on each other’s records. She sings on Gill’s “When I Call Your Name,” “Pocket Full Of Gold,” and “Go Rest High On That Mountain,” among others.
Loveless made a career shift in 2001 with the release of Mountain Soul, an album that found her exploring her eastern Kentucky Appalachian roots. With songs like “Sounds Of Loneliness” — a song she had played for Wagoner as a teenager and one that had appeared on her debut album — with Darrell Scott’s harrowing coal-mining tale “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” Loveless found herself able to reconnect with memories of her father, who had died of black-lung disease in 1979. A sequel album, Mountain Soul II, earned Loveless a Grammy award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2011.
Veterans Era Artist Category – Tanya Tucker
“Hi, I’m Tanya Tucker,” read the cover of Rolling Stone dated Sept. 26, 1974, “I’m 15, You’re Gonna Hear From Me.”
By the time that rock and roll magazine hit newsstands, Country Music fans already had heard enough from the teenage singer from Seminole, TX, to know they liked what they heard.
Tucker was already an established Country act with three No. 1 singles to her credit. Eventually, she would place 41 singles in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart, including 10 chart-toppers. She would earn a dozen Gold and Platinum albums.
Nearly 50 years later, Tucker still has plenty to say. She also has one of Country Music’s most expressive voices, once described by journalist Robert K. Oermann as “somewhere between healthy, outdoorsy cowgirl and cigarettes-and-whiskey barroom buddy.”
Born Oct. 10, 1958, Tucker spent her formative years traipsing around the Southwest — Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Utah — with parents Beau and Juanita Tucker and their other children. Beau managed Tanya’s career from its beginning until his death in 2006. Because of him, Tanya wrote in her 1997 autobiography “Nickel Dreams: My Life,” “I grew up believing I could do anything.”
Homemade demos her father cut of 9-year-old Tanya didn’t generate any interest in 1960s Nashville, but in Arizona she appeared on “The Lew King Ranger Show,” a long-running Phoenix-based television talent show that also provided early platforms for Marty Robbins, Wayne Newton and Lynda Carter. She landed an uncredited role in Robert Redford’s 1972 Western, “Jeremiah Johnson.” While living and performing in Nevada, another demo landed in the hands of a Las Vegas agent who brought it to the attention of producer Billy Sherrill.
This time, Nashville took note. Sherrill signed Tucker to Columbia Records and put her in the studio with credulous session musicians in March of 1972. Even at 13, Tucker didn’t lack for grit. “Well, I know my part, boys,” she announced. “Do you know yours?”
Before the summer was out, Tucker had her first Top 10 single with “Delta Dawn.”
Tucker began her recording career with six consecutive Top 10s, three of which — “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” and “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field Of Stone)” — went to No. 1.
Tucker’s knack for picking hit material borders on the legendary, and back then her tastes leaned toward Southern Gothic — a spurned woman with a tenuous grasp on reality, an illegitimate daughter, a drunkard desperately searching for his estranged green-eyed daughter, a double murder, a love song that begins in a cemetery. Tucker came through Country Music like a Texas tornado with a “wild child” persona she sometimes lived up to. Her mature choices in material only added to her adolescent allure.
On her 16th birthday, Tucker signed to MCA Records where the hits continued with 1975’s “Lizzie And The Rainman” and “San Antonio Stroll,” and 1976’s “Here’s Some Love.”
She recorded with MCA for seven years, by which point the tales of her personal life, including a tumultuous, well-publicized relationship with Glen Campbell. Still, Tucker has said, “If I’d done half the things people say I do, I’d be dead.”
After recording briefly for Arista Records, Tucker brought her career back to life when she signed with Capitol Records in the mid-1980s. “Just Another Love” gave the singer her first No. 1 in a decade, and she followed that in short with three more chart-toppers: “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love” with Paul Davis and Paul Overstreet, “If It Don’t Come Easy,” and “Strong Enough To Bend.”
In 1991, she won a CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year as she watched from a Nashville delivery room where she was giving birth to the second of her three children.
In 1994, she took home the CMA Award for Album of the Year for her contribution to the collaborative album, Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles.
During her career, Tucker has released singles written by Country Music Hall of Famers Bobby Braddock (“I Believe The South Is Gonna Rise Again”) and Don Schlitz (“I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love,” “Strong Enough To Bend,” “My Arms Stay Open All Night”).
In 2014, she was the subject of a Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition, “Tanya Tucker: Strong Enough to Bend.”
In 2019, she teamed with Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings to release her first album of original material in 17 years, While I’m Livin’. The album returned her to the spotlight, earning her the first Grammy awards of her career, for Best Country Album and Best Country Song (“Bring My Flowers Now,” which she wrote with Carlile, Tim Hanseroth, and Phil Hanseroth). Appearances at events like Bonnaroo and Stagecoach Music Festival raised her profile with a new generation of music fans. That comeback was documented in the 2022 film “The Return of Tanya Tucker.”
Tucker, of course, might counter that she’d never actually left. And now, as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, she never has to. “People ask me, ‘How do you think you lasted so long?’” she told Billboard in 2022. “I won’t go away, so you’ll just have to put up with me.”