The Oak Ridge Boys, The Browns & Grady Martin Inducted Into Country Music Hall of Fame

Jim Ed, Maxine & Bonnie Brown

 

BY LORIE LIEBIG Wide Open Country

    The Oak Ridge Boys, classic country trio The Browns and innovative guitarist Grady Martinwere celebrated during the Country Music Hall of Fame’s 2015 Medallion Ceremony this week.

    During the ceremony, Garth BrooksTrisha Yearwood and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna paid tribute to The Oak Ridge Boys with a special medley of their hits. The group has been playing together since 1973, and have earned seventeen career number one hits.

    “‘Y’all Come Back Saloon,’ that’s that whole record that changed everything,” Brooks told the crowd. “They’re also the group that did ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ first. It all goes back.”

    Dierks Bentley, Carolyn Martin, Chris Scruggs, Jimmy Capps and The Isaacs paid tribute to the Browns and member Jim Ed Brown, who passed away earlier this year. “Every time I played the Opry, he’d be out there just welcoming us,” Bentley said of Jim Ed. “He’s really made a big impact on me on attitude and gratitude and just being nice.”

    Fellow Hall of Fame member Vince GillMarty Stuart, Duane Eddy, Mandy Barnett, Pete Wade and Buddy Miller also assembled to celebrate Grady Martin. The guitarist, who passed away in 2001, played on some of the most recognizable country tracks of his time, including Merle Haggard’s “A Place to Fall Apart”, and Marty Robbins‘ “El Paso”.

    “In Nashville and in other parts of the world, what Grady Martin played is part of the fabric of what we all do,” said classic country vocalist Brenda Lee. “So often what we did, he did it first. And so often, he did it best.”

    Each artist was presented with their own commemorative plaque, which features a bronze portrait and short biography, which will be permanently displayed inside the round of the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville.

    Oaks, Martin, Brown join Country Music Hall of Fame's stars

     Cindy Watts, ciwatts@tennessean.com 10:28 p.m. CDT October 25, 2015

     

    Oak Ridge Boy Duane Allen’s 8-year-old granddaughter Tallant Martin sang bass singer Richard Sterban’s famous line “Oom papa mow mow” from the group’s signature hit “Elvira” as her proud grandfather, eyes glistening, beamed from the front row of the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

    Tallant, her parents Jamie and Paul Martin and siblings March, Kell and Texas make up Martin Family Circus.

    “Seeing the honest look of love in those four guys’ faces, especially my dad’s, was just incredible,” said Jamie Martin, Allen’s daughter, of singing during her father’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    It was one of many family moments that shined during the Country Music Hall of Fame’s 2015 Medallion Ceremony. In addition to The Oak Ridge Boys, guitar wizard Grady Martin and smooth-singing sibling trio The Browns, featuring Jim Ed Brown, Maxine Brown and Bonnie Brown, were welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday night.

    After the Browns stopped recording together in the 1960s, Jim Ed Brown went on to have a distinguished solo career with songs including “Pop a Top.” Sunday’s inductions came via a star-studded ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum that also included The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, who also sang for The Oak Ridge Boys. Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives with Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill, Duane Eddy, Mandy Barnett, Pete Wade and Buddy Miller performed during Grady Martin’s segment of the ceremony. Carolyn Martin and Chris Scruggs, Jimmy Capps and The Isaacs, and Dierks Bentley sang for Jim Ed Brown and The Browns.

    “These men and women distinguished themselves through virtuosity, harmony and heart,” said Jody Williams, BMI’s vice president of writer/publisher relations, who led the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony, of this year’s of inductees. “They have made music that endures through decades, beyond belief, even beyond the grave. Tonight, we honor them, respectfully, formally and enthusiastically, as country music masters.”

     

     

    Grady Martin

    Recording artist Brenda Lee and Joshua Martin (son of inductee Grady Martin) with the plaque honoring Grady Martin during The Country Music Hall of Fame 2015 Medallion Ceremony. (Photo: Rick Diamond / Getty Images)

    Recording artist Brenda Lee and Joshua Martin (son of inductee Grady Martin) with the plaque honoring Grady Martin during The Country Music Hall of Fame 2015 Medallion Ceremony. (Photo: Rick Diamond / Getty Images)

    Born Jan. 17, 1929, in Chapel Hill, Tenn., Martin began making music as a child, learning to play guitar, bass and fiddle. At 17 years old, he had already played recording sessions and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage.

    “Guitar, fiddle or six-string bass,” Williams said, “Electric, acoustic, thrusting rockabilly. Delicate lead runs, fuzz-tone, twang, if you were a song, (Grady Martin) would give you whatever you needed. Anything. Every time.”

    Martin played on songs including Merle Haggard’s hit "A Place to Fall Apart," Red Foley’s 13-week No. 1 single “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and “Don’t Worry.”

    “He was a consummate pro, and it was limitless what he could do in a studio,” said country singer and fellow guitar player Steve Wariner. “Those guys are unsung heroes in a lot of ways. I’m glad he’s getting his due. There’s a lot of young players that don’t even realize that’s the style they’ve come to emulate.”

    After doing more than two decades of session work, Martin spent 16 years as a touring musician, first with Jerry Reed and then Willie Nelson before retiring from the road in 1995.

    Martin died Dec. 3, 2001, at age 72.

    “You wanted him to like you,” said Brenda Lee, who inducted Martin posthumously into the Country Music Hall of Fame. “You wanted him to be your friend. He was just a big old teddy bear. He was my mentor. In Nashville and in other parts of the world, what Grady Martin played is part of the fabric of what we all do. So often what we did, he did it first. And so often, he did it best.”

    Lee presented a framed medallion to Grady Martin’s son Josh Martin, and announced his father as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame under the recording and/or touring musician active prior to 1980 category.

    “It’s a bit of an emotional experience at times just because I miss him and I wish he was here,” Josh Martin said. “I would give anything to see him. I know he would be here. I know he would love it.

    “He was the best dad a kid could ever have. I always wanted to be just like him. And may the name Grady Martin live on forever in the Country Music Hall of Fame.”

    Jim Ed Brown and the Browns

    From left, Jody Williams, Maxine Brown, Becky Brown, Bonnie Brown, and Bobby Bare with the plaque honoring Jim Ed Brown and The Browns during The Country Music Hall of Fame 2015 Medallion Ceremony Sunday night.  (Photo: Rick Diamond / Getty Images)

    Jim Ed Brown started recording hit country songs in 1955 with sisters Bonnie and Maxine Brown. The sibling trio called itself The Browns, and in 1959 the group used one microphone to record “The Three Bells” at RCA’s Studio. The song was No. 1 on the Billboard country chart for 10 consecutive weeks, which set a record for country groups that would stand for 56 years.

    Maxine and Bonnie Brown retired in the late 1960s, and Jim Ed Brown launched a solo career that produced hits including "Pop a Top," "Morning" and "That Time of Night."

    “Jim Ed Brown was just such a nice guy,” said Bentley, who performed “Pop a Top” in the ceremony. “Every time I played the Opry, he’d be out there just welcoming us. He’s really made a big impact on me on attitude and gratitude and just being nice.”

    In 1976 Jim Ed Brown started recording with Helen Cornelius. The pair won the CMA's Vocal Duo of the Year trophy the next year and notched hits including "I Don't Want to have to Marry You" and "Lying in Love with You."

    Jim Ed Brown died on June 11. Shortly before he died, Bill Anderson, along with other members of the country music community, visited Brown in the hospital to induct him into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Anderson slipped the commemorative medallion over Jim Ed Brown’s head as he laid in the hospital bed.

    “This means more to me than you’ll ever know,” Jim Ed Brown said.

    Bobby Bare was present Sunday night to formally induct Maxine Brown and Bonnie Brown, who recently revealed she was battling advanced lung cancer, into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the veterans era artist category. Jim Ed Brown’s wife, Becky, represented her husband.

    The Oak Ridge Boys

    Left to right are Jody Williams, William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Kenny Rogers, Joe Bonsall, and Richard Sterban onstage during The Country Music Hall of Fame 2015 Medallion Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 25, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.   John Shearer / Getty Images for CMHOF

    Left to right are Jody Williams, William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Kenny Rogers, Joe Bonsall, and Richard Sterban onstage during The Country Music Hall of Fame 2015 Medallion Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 25, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.   John Shearer / Getty Images for CMHOF

    The current lineup of The Oak Ridge Boys started singing together in 1973 — about four years before the one-time gospel group successfully transitioned to country music.

    The harmony-rich act originated in 1945 as the Oak Ridge Quartet and changed its name to The Oak Ridge Boys in 1962. William Lee Golden (who was replaced by Steve Sanders from 1987-1996) joined the Oaks in 1965, Allen in 1966, Richard Sterban in 1972 and Joe Bonsall in 1973. Golden returned after Sanders left the quartet.

    In 1977 — after the group released a couple of gospel albums— members landed their first hit on country radio, "Y'all Come Back Saloon." The men went on to score 26 top 10 country hits, of which 17 went No. 1. The group’s biggest hits include: “I’ll Be True to You,” which was performed acoustically by Brooks and Yearwood Sunday night; “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” which Jeff Hanna sang in the ceremony; and the quartet’s biggest hit “Elvira,” which was covered by Martin Family Circus.

    “This was high school for me,” Brooks said of the Oak Ridge Boys’ music. “‘Y’all Come Back Saloon,’ that’s that whole record that changed everything. They’re also the group that did ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ first. It all goes back.

    “‘I’ll Be True to You’ was not a duet,” Yearwood added. “But everything the Oak Ridge Boys did was four-part harmony, so it was easy to figure out and make it into a duet.”

    Today, the Oaks still play about 150 concerts a year.

    The quartet was inducted by Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers in the modern era artist category.

    “In a lifetime and in a career of incredible things, this is the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to the Oak Ridge Boys,” Bonsall said. “We run our group as a family, trying to be honest, like our parents taught us. Treat people right. I really think that’s why we’re here today.”

    Reach Cindy Watts at 615-664-2227 or ciwatts@tennessean.com.

    The inductees

    Grady Martin — Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980 category

    Jim Ed Brown and The Browns — Veterans Era Artist category

    The Oak Ridge Boys — Modern Era Artist category