The Country Music Hall of Fame hosted its annual Medallion Ceremony on Sunday at the behest of the Judd family, one day after inductee Naomi Judd unexpectedly passed away.
Each artist was feted by members of the music community in honor of the lasting contributions they made to country music.
Pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake (1932-1988) was inducted in the recording and/or touring musician category. In addition to country music, Drake also performed on folk and rock records by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, George Harrison and Country Music Hall of Fame member Elvis Presley.
Elizabeth Cook delivered “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” and Wendy Moten sang “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy performed the induction.
Eddie Bayers was also inducted in the recording and/or touring musician category. Bayers, one of the most sought after, prolific studio drummers in modern country music history, has spent more than four decades recording with artists including The Judds, Kenny Chesney, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait and Alan Jackson.
Trisha Yearwood sang “Walk Away Joe” for Bayers, and Vince Gill stepped with “When I Call Your Name” before also presenting Bayers with his Medallion.
The Judds, comprised of Naomi and Wynonna Judd, were honored in the Modern Era Artist category. Naomi Judd’s daughters – Wynonna Judd and Ashley Judd – said she died of “mental illness” on Saturday but wanted the program to proceed as scheduled. They both attended the emotional evening and cried when Ricky Skaggs presented them with the medallions. Wynonna held hers, and Ashley studied her mothers while tears ran down her face.
Between 1984 and 1991, The Judds earned 20 Top 10 hits, including 14 No. 1 songs, and won five Grammy Awards, nine CMA Awards and seven ACM Awards. Fellow Kentucky native Carly Pearce performed “Grandpa (Tell Me ’Bout the Good Ole Days)” during the ceremony, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings sang “Young Love,” and Tommy Sims delivered their “Love Can Build a Bridge.”
“I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew mom would probably talk the most,” Wynonna Judd said. “I’m gonna make this fast because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed.” She confirmed she planned to continue her music career.
R&B icon Ray Charles (1930-2004) was inducted in the Veterans Era Artist category. While Charles isn’t known for his work in country music, he was undeniably influential in country music.
In 1962, Charles released his “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” which left a lasting mark on the genre and broadened its appeal to a broader audience.
The War and Treaty performed “You Don’t Know Me,” while Country Music Hall of Fame member Garth Brooks sang “Seven Spanish Angels,” and Bettye LaVette reached back for “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
Country Music Hall of Fame member Ronnie Milsap formally inducted Charles before the ceremony concluded, per tradition, with a performance of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” led by Country Music Hall of Fame member Marty Stuart.