Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Fred Foster headed to Hall of Fame

Charlie Daniels speaks after being announced as the next inductee into The Country Music Hall of Fame March 29, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.  Samuel M. Simpkins / The Tennessean

 Cindy Watts, ciwatts@tennessean.com


Singer and blazing fiddle player Charlie Daniels, country music trailblazer Randy Travis and famed music industry executive Fred Foster will be the 2016 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Brenda Lee announced Tuesday during a news conference in Nashville.

The men will officially become members of country music's most exclusive club when they are inducted during the Hall’s Medallion Ceremony later this year.

Randy Travis, with his wife Mary Davis Travis, speak after being he was announced as the next inductee into The Country Music Hall of Fame March 29, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.  Samuel M. Simpkins / The Tennessean

“Each year, the announcement of the new Country Music Hall of Fame inductees is always a cause for celebration,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “This year’s class features three individuals who are revered for their respect of Country Music’s deep traditions, but are equally regarded for forging their own unique paths, taking the industry in new directions, and growing the fan base.”

Fred Foster speaks with the media after being announced as the next inductee into The Country Music Hall of Fame March 29, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.  Samuel M. Simpkins / The Tennessean

Daniels, Foster and Travis all hail from North Carolina and will be the 128th, 129th and 130th members of country music’s most esteemed organization. The Country Music Association created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 as a way to trumpet the genre’s most accomplished and beloved members and preserve their legacy.

Charlie Daniels: Veterans Era Artist

Charlie Daniels performs during his Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam VI at Municipal Auditorium on Jan. 12, 1980.  Ricky Rogers / The Tennessean

Charlie Daniels was born Charles Edward Daniels on Oct. 28, 1936, in Wilmington, N.C. Growing up, he was musically inspired by church music, local bluegrass bands andNashville’s WSM and WLAC that streamed country and R&B music from Music City all the way through Daniels’ radio speaker in North Carolina.

Daniels merged those sounds in 1955 to create rock band The Jaguars, which had a song picked up by Epic Records for national distribution. From there, Daniels grew as a songwriter and musician penning songs for artists including Elvis Presley and appearing as player on albums by artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Marty Robbins.

Daniels stepped into the spotlight with his self-titled first album in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1974’s “Fire on the Mountain” that music fans started to take notice.  The album included Daniels’ hits “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Long Haired Country Boy,” which drove “Fire on the Mountain” to platinum status.

His crossover, signature hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was included on his next album “Million Mile Reflections” that came out in 1979 and was included on the soundtrack for “Urban Cowboy.” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” won a CMA Award for Single of the Year in 1979 and also led The Charlie Daniels Band to a Grammy Award.

Thirty-seven years later, the hard-driving song about a fiddle duel with the devil remains a staple at Daniels’ concerts. And the singer still puts out new music. In 2014, Daniels released a tribute to the music of Bob Dylan. About one year later, he put out a 14-song live album, “Live At Billy Bob’s Texas.”

Daniels was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009. The signer said his induction into The Grand Ole Opry was a “life-long desire” but was “weak” and speechless when he was surprised with the news he would be inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame.

“I was 70-years-old when I got on The Grand Ole Opry,” Daniels said. “I had decided I made it on pretty good without it and if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Now I’m almost 80 and I had developed the same feeling (about being inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame.) If it don’t happen, it’s not going to kill me. But I’m so glad it went this way.”

Randy Travis: Modern Era Artist

Randy Travis shows off one of the five awards he won at the TNN Viewer's Choice Awards show in Nashville April 26, 1988. Robert Johnson/The Tennessean

Randy Travis’s deep, pure baritone and North Carolina accent lent to sounds and lyrics that often echoed his audience’s lifestyle altered the direction of country music and became a leading, distinctive voice of a new generation of country singers. Three decades after Travis’ major label debut album “Storms of Life,” he remains one of country music’s most beloved and respected artists.

Regardless of fame, the singer’s life has been far from smooth. Travis was born Randy Traywick May 4, 1959, in Marshville, N.C. He was raised on a farm and formed the music group The Traywick Brothers with his brother Ricky as a child. The singer didn’t get along with his father, dropped out of school and had run-ins with police that continued until he won a country music talent contest as a teen at a club in Charlotte run by Elizabeth Hatcher.

The pair started a personal and professional relationship that lasted 25 years. Hatcher was first Travis’s manager and then his wife. After they moved to Nashville, Travis was signed at Warner Bros. Records in the mid-80’s. His first single “On the Other Hand” failed to make an impact at country radio, but his second song “1982” was a Top 10 hit. The label then re-released “On the Other Hand” and it became the singer’s first No. 1 song and the first of 10 consecutive No. 1 hits. When “Storms of Life” was released, it was the first of eight platinum albums for Travis.

“Forever and Ever, Amen” was the first single from Travis’s 1987 album “Always & Forever” – an album that won the first of the singer’s seven Grammy Awards. “Always & Forever” also won Album of the Year, and Travis also won Male Vocalist of the Year and Single of the Year 1987 CMA Awards.

Over the span of his music career, Travis had 16 No. 1 songs and sold more than 25 million albums.

In the 1990s, Travis pursued an acting career and landed about 40 roles in movies and television shows.

By 2002, Travis’s music career received another boost – his song “Three Wooden Crosses” was a No. 1 hit on the Country and Christian charts and was the 2003 CMA Awards Song of the Year.

In 2013, the singer’s life took another dramatic turn when he suffered a life-threatening stoke as the result of a viral infection in his heart. Doctors had little hope for survival, but today Travis is able to walk and he’s working to improve his speech – currently, he can only give one-word answers.

Travis, 56, lives on a ranch in Texas with his current wife Mary Davis-Travis.

Fred Foster: Non-Performer

Fred Foster, left, Willie Nelson and Roger Miller talk during a reception before Nelson received an award from NARAS on June 20, 1989.  Rick Musacchio / The Tennessean

Music industry executive Fred Foster never saw his name on the spine of an album case or heard thousands of adoring fans chanting his name, but the decisions he made in the name of country music are the sparkling threads in the fabric of the genre.

“I thought it was a joke,” Foster said of news of his induction into The Country Music Hall of Fame. “That’s (not something) you ever expect. I know I’m a big dreamer, but I’m not ridiculous. I just tried to make good music.”

Foster was born July 26, 1931, in rural North Carolina. At 15, he took over the family farm when his father died and moved to Washington D.C. two years later where his sister lived. Foster wanted to be anything but a farmer and started to write songs.

A job in a record store was Foster’s first introduction to the music business. He was hired at Mercury Records in 1953 and worked his worked his way up to Head of National Country Promotion. After a brief run at ABC/Paramount in 1956, Foster started Monument Records and publishing company Combine Music in 1958. He moved the companies to Nashville two years later where he went on to launch the careers of Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. He also signed Roy Orbison, whose iconic songs including “Only the Lonely” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” inspired artists ranging from The Beatles to Bruce Springsteen.

Some recordings, Foster said, he loved more than others. Jeannie Seely’s “Don’t Touch Me” and Grandpa Jones’s “The Christmas Guest,” a song Foster helped complete, were at the top of his list.

“I tried to do the best I could every time,” Foster said. “I tried to do something time would not be critical of. It’s like Orbison said to me one time, ‘What’s the most important thing we’re going to do?’ I said, ‘We’re going to eliminate every gimmick you come up with. They don’t endure.’”

Foster, 84, sold his history-yielding companies in 1990. We was inducted into the Musician’s Hall of fame in 2009 and he was given a Trustees Award to honor his career in music from the Recording Academy in early 2016.

“Musically I’m most proud of the relationships I had with the songwriters, artists and engineers,” Foster said. “These people are responsible for me being here. I didn’t do it by myself.”

The Country Music Association created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 as a way to trumpet the genre’s most accomplished and beloved members and preserve their legacy.

The 2016 class of inductees will enter the Country Music Hall of Fame during the Hall’s Medallion Ceremony later this year. A date hasn’t been announced.\

This is a developing story that will be updated.