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Reba McEntire, Jean Shepard and songwriter Bobby Braddock received one of the highest honors in the country music industry last night (May 22) when they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A solid A-list of artists, including Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Kelly Clarkson, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton came out to help salute the evening’s three inductees.
The occasion was enough to make even the unconquerable Reba a bit nervous. “I haven’t been nervous until now that we are going in the doors of the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Reba confessed prior to the event, looking elegant in a demure black dress. “I even have been over at the Country Music Walk of Fame and did that and it was a huge time for me, but to have my bronze plaque on the wall with all my heroes and people who I’ve learned and studied from all these years, that’s a dream come true. It’s like the first time I got to sing on the Grand Ole Opry, [then I got to] become a member [of the Opry] and now here we are at this event.”
Vince Gill opened the show with a performance of the enduring spiritual “Down by the Riverside” with the McCrary Sisters.
Dolly Parton was on hand to induct Reba into the Hall of Fame. “Reba and I, I kinda feel like we’re sisters,” Dolly said. “Through the years we’ve had enough hair to stuff a mattress. I look back at all the CMA shows and think, 'What were we thinking?' Of course, we do basically the same things. We've both spent time on Broadway. We both had TV shows. Hers was a hit; mine was not," she said with a laugh. "She's always been so kind and great to do things for me through the years. She was at the Kennedy Center Honors.” A Country Music Hall of Fame member herself, Dolly shared a bit of insight into her own induction in 1999: “When I was inducted into the [Country Music] Hall of Fame, I partied like it was 1999."
Trisha Yearwood and Reba's sister, Susie McEntire, performed "How Blue.” Trisha’s husband Garth Brooks gave an emotional rendition of Reba’s 1986 ballad "Whoever's In New England" while Vince Gill sang "Somebody Should Leave.”
Kelly Clarkson and Martina McBride brought some attitude and powerhouse vocals to a cover of “Does He Love You,” Reba’s 1993 duet with Linda Davis.
In addition to her musical family, Reba was surrounded by her own family as well, including husband Narvel Blackstock, Narvel’s son Brandon Blackstock, stepdaughters Shawna Blackstock and Chassidy Standefer, son Shelby Blackstock, mother-in-law Gloria Blackstock, Reba’s sisters Susie and Alice, and Reba’s mother, Jacqueline McEntire, who said of her daughter’s induction, “As Ray Price said one time, 'It’s about time.' Country music has been our forte all these years. We started when the children were little. They sang church songs and country music.” Reba’s father, who is recovering from an infection, was not able to attend the event.
Songwriter Bobby Braddock, who has penned 13 No. 1 singles and was a 1981 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, was also inducted. Interestingly, newlyweds Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton performed the Bobby Braddock-penned song “Golden Ring,” which was recorded by George Jones and Tammy Wynette in 1976, and others stars turned out to sing more of Bobby's best-known compositions. George Jones performed the 1980 classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today” with Bobby, Millie Kirkham (who performed the female background vocals on George’s original recording of the song), Jimmy Capps and Charlie McCoy. Billy Currington sang his 2009 hit “People Are Crazy,” while Tracy Lawrence performed “Time Marches On.” “That was one of the finest pieces of art that Bobby ever crafted,” Tracy Lawrence said of his 1996 No. 1 smash prior to the induction. “That was the biggest record of my career. It said so much about life in such a short period of time. To craft a song that is able to get that much visual imagery into it in three minutes—absolutely amazing.”
Singer Jean Shepard, who blazed a trail for women in country music in the 1950s, was also inducted. Bill Anderson and Elizabeth Cook performed Jean's 1953 No. 1 debut single “A Dear John Letter,” while Vince Gill sang Jean's 1958 hit “I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me.” “Thanks for showing up,” Jean Shepard later said to George Jones, a nod to George’s one-time nickname, No Show Jones, which drew a roaring laughter from the crowd. “I’m happy to be able to induct this lady into the hall of fame,” said George, who once toured with Jean. “She’s a trooper and one of the most funny girls—and serious, too.”
Jean accepted her honor with characteristic wit and humor. Referring to the large absence of female country singers in the 1950s, she said, “There was none of us, but I was happy to do my part. I hung in there like a hair on a grilled cheese,” she said to the delight of the crowd.
Reba accepted her induction with grace. “Winning awards are fun, but it’s the camaraderie and the people you get to hang out with while getting there. Red Steagall [took] a chance on a little redheaded kid who barely knew her way around.”
To her husband, Narvel, she said, “I love you and appreciate you very much for putting up with me and guiding me and being my partner, my buddy, my husband.”
Acknowledging her family in attendance, she said, “You’ve always supported me, been there for me all the time—don’t forget it and don’t quit me now.”
She also acknowledged Jean Shepard. “Thanks for coming and paving the way for girl singers. It’s an honor to be inducted the same night as you. There’s lots of memories to come, and I just pray the Lord allows me to be part of those memories in the future,” she concluded. “Thank you for being my friends and helpers along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you, and by God, I wouldn’t have wanted to.”