The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced its class of 2021, with the Judds and Ray Charles representing superstar inductees and musicians Pete Drake and Eddie Bayers joining the hall’s ranks as well.
Drake and Bayers have something in common: Drake is the first steel guitar player ever to get voted into the Hall of Fame, and Bayers the first drummer to be thus included. They tied in the voting for the recording or touring musician category, which is why the hall has four inductees this year instead of three.
“Speaking as a daughter, it’s about damn time,” said Wynonna Judd in a live web Q&A that followed the announcement, as her mother, Naomi, slightly winced.
None of the other inductees were present to add remarks. Charles died in 2004, and Drake passed away in 1988. Bayers is alive but was unable to make it for the virtual announcement.
Charles may seem like a surprise choice to some since, obviously, most of his success happened outside the country genre. But his early ’60s album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” is considered a landmark and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart, the first country album to make it that high; it spawned two sequels. He fills the “Veterans Era Artist” slot this year.
Wynonna may not be alone in thinking the Judds are overdue. They were inducted in the “modern act” category, even though they officially broke up in the early ’90s and have reunited only occasionally since.
“Wy and I didn’t know what we were doing,” Naomi said of the duo’s early days, as Wynonna mouthed the words “I do.”
Among Drake’s credits as a steel player is George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” from the “All Things Must Pass” album, which coincidentally reenters the top 10 this week due to a newly released box set. He also played on Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” Charlie Rich’s “Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
“Pete would be just ecstatic,” his wife, Rose Drake, said in a live Q&A. “He was the most creative person that I knew and still know. He loved his work. He even dreamed licks.”
Bayers said in a statement: “My heartfelt thanks to those who voted for me. 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.”
Bayers’ credits include sessions with fellow inductee the Judds and Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs.
A formal induction ceremony for Bayers, Charles, Drake and the Judds will likely take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater at a to-be-determined date next year. The induction ceremony for the class of 2020 — Dean Dillon, Marty Stuart and Hank Williams Jr. — has been on hold but is temporarily scheduled for this November.