Drummer Eddie Bayers, the legendary Ray Charles, steel guitarist Pete Drake and award-winning duo The Judds will be the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The new class of honorees was announced by the Country Music Association during a virtual livestream hosted by Reba McEntire. Charles will be inducted in the Veterans Era Artist category and The Judds will be inducted in the Modern Era Artist category. Musicians Bayers and Drake tied and will both be inducted in the Recording and/or Touring Musician category, which is awarded every third year in rotation with the Non-Performer and Songwriter categories.
“I don’t know what to say because it’s so crazy,” a visibly emotional Naomi said during the livestream.
“As a daughter, it’s about damn time, 20 years is a long time for me to wait to see the queen honored,” Wynonna said of her mom during a Zoom with media following the announcement. “And as artist, I just look at the community around me and I think it’s important to celebrate and to honor the pillars of the community, Dolly, Reba, the women that were there before us that paved the way. Loretta Lynn says, ‘Get out there and sing your butt off girl’… She’s the same person she was in 1984 when I met her. These are the heroes and sheroes I look up to.”
Wynonna also thanked God for her gift and commented, “As an American, it’s just wonderful to celebrate anything, to show up and say, ‘Thank you.’”
The Judds burst on the scene in late 1983 with the ear-grabbing hit “Had a Dream (For the Heart)” and the mother/daughter duo became one of the most successful acts in country music, scoring 20 Top 10 hits, and 14 No. 1s, including such classics as “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘bout the Good Old Days).” They won their first CMA Award in 1984 when they took home the Horizon Award. They went on to win nine CMA Awards and seven Academy of Country Music Awards. Naomi retired in 1991 due to hepatitis C and Wynonna embarked on a successful solo career. As her health returned, Naomi has become an actress and best-selling author.
When asked how proud she was of daughter Wynonna, Naomi responded, “I’m a 10 on the 1 to 10 scale. I’m very proud of the way that she has had personal integrity, that she won’t let anybody else bamboozle her or tell her what she needs to do or be. She’s really true to herself. That’s the key to creating good music.”
She also praised Wynonna’s good heart. “She’s very compassionate,” Naomi continued. “She has 30 cats, and she has nine dogs. She’s very sensitive toward anything that is suffering, animals, people.”
“Musicians,” Wynonna interjected with a playful grin.
The Judds have had their ups and downs over the years and Wynonna acknowledged it in her remarks to the press. “We went to hell and back so many times,” Wynonna said of their sometimes volatile relationship. “I’m just grateful to celebrate today, to show up and say, ‘We did something right.’ With all the failures and lessons, I’ve learned from my mistakes and the choices I’ve made. I woke up today with my daughter Gracie and [my son] Elijah gave me flowers said, ‘I thought you were already in the Hall of Fame Mom’… We just talk in terms of living and showing up for each other no matter what.”
Bayers and Drake’s inductions will be historic as Bayers is the first drummer to become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Drake is the first steel guitar player inducted. “My heartfelt thanks for those who voted for me,” Bayers said in a statement. “I’ve been blessed to be a recording musician for 58 years, and it continues. I’ve been in the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Band for 18 years, and it continues. I’ve been in the Opry Band for 18 years, and it continues. Now I’m blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame which will be everlasting.”
A native of Patuxent River, MD, Bayer has played drums for the top names in country music, among them Alabama, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Dolly Parton, Anne Murray, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis. A 1985 car accident crushed his wrist and he had to learn to play drums all over again, but he did and resumed his successful career. He has also played with such pop and rock acts as The Beach Boys, John Fogerty, Mark Knopfler, Richard Marx, Aaron Neville, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger and Steve Winwood.
Inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019, Bayers was named the Academy of Country Music’s top drummer 14 times between 1991 and 2010, including an 11-year stretch where he won every year. The Country Music Association has nominated him for Musician of the Year 10 times. DRUM magazine named him one of the Top 10 Session Drummers of All Time.
Like Bayers, Drake is a legend in the music industry. The Augusta, GA native played steel guitar on some of the most enduring classics in country music, among them Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” He was also an inventor and the “talk box” he created as a means to help his deaf neighbors experience music became an innovative piece of equipment favored by such rock legends as Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh who got their talk boxes from Drake.
Drake, who died in 1988 due to complications from emphysema, was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1987. In addition to performing on country recordings, he also worked with Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Elvis Presley, among others.
“He was the most creative person that I knew,” Drake’s wife Rose said during the livestream. “He loved his worked. He even dreamed licks.”
When asked which were her favorite tracks among all those her husband had recorded, Drake replied, “Actually, I have four—Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man,’ George Jones’ ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ and George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet.’ Those are my favorites of his career.”
Willie Nelson has often said that Ray Charles did more for country music than any single artist has ever done. Charles’ landmark album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music became Charles’ first album to top Billboard’s pop albums chart. It spent 14 weeks at No. 1, an achievement it would take a country album from Nashville 30 years to match. The collection featured such iconic hits as “Bye Bye Love” and “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.” Charles also released another dozen songs, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Volume 2, which included covers of Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine,” Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and Fred Rose and Hy Heath’s “Take These Chains From My Heart.”
Those albums weren’t Charles only forays into the country genre. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer revisited country numerous times, including remakes of Buck Owen’s “Crying Time” and “Together Again” and albums like 1965’s Country and Western Meets Rhythm and Blues and 1970’s Love Country Style.
“I’d like to thank everyone who voted to induct Ray Charles into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Valerie Ervin, Ray Charles Foundation President said. “Needless to say, Ray Charles loved Country Music. As a matter of fact, he risked a lot in 1962 when he decided to record Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. I cannot express enough how happy and honored Ray Charles would be at this moment in time, as I am for him. Congratulations to all the fellow inductees and as Ray Charles would say, ‘That is so nice.’”
Bayers, Charles, Drake and the Judds will be formally inducted in an upcoming ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater at a yet to-be-determined date. The induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020, which includes Dean Dillon, Marty Stuart, and Hank Williams Jr., is scheduled for November, pending public health guidance and the state of the pandemic.