Announcement Made at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum With Special Guests Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell and
Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell
NASHVILLE – The Country Music Association announced today that influential radio and television
personality Ralph Emery, multi-award-winning entertainer Vince Gill
and legendary singer/songwriter Mel Tillis will become the newest members
of the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame.
Emery will be inducted in the “Non-Performer” category, which is awarded every third
year in a rotation with the “Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II”
and “Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980” categories. Gill will
be the third artist inducted in the “Career Achieved National Prominence Between
1975 and the Present” category, which was created in 2005. Tillis will be
inducted in the “Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975” category.
“Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the highest musical honor
a Country Music artist and industry veteran can attain,” said Tammy Genovese, CMA
Chief Operating Officer. “All three of these extraordinary men are highly deserving
of this honor.
“Ralph Emery brought more than just Country Music into our homes via radio and television.
His entertaining and thought-provoking interviews have always provided a unique glimpse into the
personal side of our favorite performers.
“As a singer, songwriter and performer, Mel set a high standard for all entertainers.
His presence in movies and TV alongside the top actors of that time gave Country
Music a higher profile in the ‘70s and made Mel a pop culture icon.
“Vince is the ultimate triple threat: a singer with the voice of an angel, a songwriter
who conveys the joys and heartbreaks of life with every word he writes, and a
consummate musician, who is equally at home playing guitar with Chet Atkins or Eric
Clapton. As the longtime host of the CMA Awards, Vince also represented Country Music with
dignity and humor for 12 years.”
Emery, Gill and Tillis will be officially inducted in October during the traditional,
invitation-only Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.
“It is with great pride that CMA will induct these three outstanding artists
and personalities into the Country Music Hall of Fame, where they will join a
small yet monumental group of entertainers and industry veterans whose influence
on Country Music is enormous,” said Genovese.
“The Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony, which takes place during the annual
reunion of the membership, has historically been the occasion where new inductees are
presented the keepsake medal commemorating their ownership of Country Music’s paramount
honor,” said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Director Kyle Young.
“The medals traditionally are presented by a member of the Hall of Fame during
an intimate and emotional evening of homecoming, storytelling, music, memories and
“We are honored that CMA sees our ceremony as the appropriate setting for the official induction
of new members. Including the formal induction as part of the evening will certainly
seal the event’s reputation as Country Music’s most prestigious night.”
The announcements were made this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
in a press conference hosted by Genovese. Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell congratulated
the new inductees on behalf of Music City U.S.A. Emery was introduced by his longtime
friend and former two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, Barbara Mandrell. Gill was introduced
by Young, while Tillis was introduced by his good friend and Country Music Hall
of Fame member Brenda Lee.
All inductees are chosen by CMA’s Hall of Fame Panel of Electors, consisting of more than
300 anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors. Emery, Gill and Tillis
will increase membership in the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame from 98
to 101 inductees.
Ralph Emery – Walter Ralph Emery was born March 10, 1933 in McEwen, Tenn.
From an early age he loved Country Music and the artists who performed it, and developed a
passion for radio. After high school graduation, he worked a variety of jobs in Nashville
before enrolling in the Tennessee School of Broadcasting. Soon after, Emery took the first
step in his radio career by accepting a job at WTPR/Paris, Tenn. in 1951. He later worked
at WNAH/Nashville and WAGG/Franklin before obtaining a job at his first major network radio
station WSIX/Nashville. He made a brief sojourn to a Baton Rouge radio station before
returning to Nashville at WMAK.
The pivotal moment of Emery’s career was in 1957 when WSM/Nashville hired him to be their
late-night disc jockey. Due to the 50,000-watt, clear-channel broadcasting range of the
station at night, Emery’s Country Music show was heard over much of the southern and
central United States, making him one of the most listened to DJs in the nation. Emery
interviewed all the Country Music artists of the day, from the top names to the aspiring
stars, and often hosted impromptu jam sessions on air when artists dropped in to be on
his show. If a Country artist wanted to increase the national exposure of their current
single, one of their first bookings was a live interview on Emery’s late night radio show.
But Emery was more than just a radio host to most of the artists. He soon grew to be a
friend and trusted confidante to the biggest Country stars while also winning the Country
Disc Jockey of the Year Award six times.
The 1960s and ‘70s were a great period for Emery that saw him stretch beyond his all-night
radio duties. In 1961, he became an announcer on the legendary Grand Ole Opry, which was
broadcast nationally on WSM. A few years later he began hosting and producing a 90-minute,
live morning television show on WSM-TV/Nashville that would run uninterrupted for nearly
30 years. The television show featured an in-studio band of local session musicians and
rising singers. Lorrie Morgan and The Judds were among the featured performers on “The
Ralph Emery Show” who later became nationally known Country artists. In its prime,
two out of three Nashville homes tuned into “The Ralph Emery Show” every weekday morning,
establishing the program as the strongest lead-in for NBC-TV’s “Today” of any NBC
affiliate in the nation at the time. Using the same format, he also hosted “Sixteenth Avenue
South,” an afternoon program for WSM-TV in the late ‘60s.
Emery appeared as himself in three movies: “Country Music on Broadway” (1965); “Nashville
Rebel” (1966); and “The Road to Nashville” (1967). He acted alongside good friend Tex Ritter
in the 1966 film “The Girl from Tobacco Row” and with Loni Anderson and Linda Hamilton
in the 1982 television movie “Country Gold.” He gave up his all-night radio show in 1972
because of the demands on his time and his growing television popularity; however, he
continued to work in radio and radio syndication throughout the next several decades.
From 1974 to 1980, he hosted the syndicated television series “Pop! Goes The Country”
and in 1976 he served as the announcer for Dolly Parton’s syndicated television series
“Dolly.” In 1981 and 1982, Emery hosted “Nashville Alive,” a television show filmed in
the Stagedoor Lounge at the Opryland Hotel. The program aired on the WTBS cable channel,
marking Nashville’s first foray into cable television.
WSM created The Nashville Network (TNN), a national cable network devoted to Country Music,
in 1982. One year later, Emery was a natural choice to host the network’s flagship program
“Nashville Now,” a nightly interview and performance program similar to “The Tonight Show.”
Infused with Emery’s personable style, and introducing his new sidekick puppet Shotgun Red,
during the 10 year run of the show Emery interviewed every major and rising Country artist.
The show’s popularity also drew non-Country guests including then-President
George H.W. Bush, future President Bill Clinton, and non-Country celebrities Steve Allen,
Jay Leno, Mickey Rooney, Cybill Shepherd and Lily Tomlin, among others. In 1986,
Cable Guide Magazine named Emery its Favorite Cable Personality of the Year over
competition including Dick Cavett and Larry King. In 1989, he was inducted into the
Country Music DJ and Radio Hall of Fame.
While still at “Nashville Now,” Emery released his first book Memories: The Autobiography
of Ralph Emery in 1991, co-written with Tom Carter. Filled with anecdotes about his life
and the artists he had known and interviewed, the book was a huge success and stayed high
on the New York Times Best-Seller List for more than six months. Three more books were
released over the next decade, including More Memories (also with Carter) in 1993; The
View From Nashville (with Patsi Bale Cox) in 1998; and 50 Years Down a Country Road
(also with Cox). These memoirs established Emery as a true historian and master
storyteller, relating the behind-the-scenes stories about the Country Music artists
After ending “Nashville Now” in 1993, Emery moved on to produce and host a variety of
specials for TNN. Among the most popular were his “On the Record” specials that featured
in-depth interviews with celebrities such as Vince Gill, Andy Griffith, Reba McEntire,
Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette, and the first, nationally televised in-depth interview
with former President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush after leaving the
White House. He also hosted TNN’s first daytime talk/variety television series and
produced “Ryman Country Homecoming” and “Ralph Emery’s Country Homecoming,” a series
of specials featuring the legends of Country Music performing and sharing stories from
their lives. In 2000, Emery was named “Country Radio’s Greatest Personality” in a
survey of broadcasting professionals conducted by Radio and Records.
Remaining active on both the local and national scene, Emery launched a new live morning
television show on WZTV-TV/Nashville in 2001, but left soon after it began due to health
reasons. He continues to share Country Music and its artists with viewers nationwide on
“Ralph Emery Live,” his current television series on RFD-TV.
Earlier this year, Emery celebrated 40 years of marriage with his wife Joy. He has three
children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Vince Gill – Vincent Grant Gill was born April 12, 1957 in Norman, Okla. His father
encouraged him to learn to play guitar and banjo, which he did along with bass, mandolin,
dobro and fiddle. While in high school, he performed in the bluegrass band Mountain Smoke,
which built a strong local following and opened a concert for Pure Prairie League.
After graduating high school in 1975, Gill moved to Louisville, Ky., to be part of the band
Bluegrass Alliance. After a brief time in Ricky Skaggs’s Boone Creek band, Gill moved to Los
Angeles and joined Sundance, a bluegrass group fronted by fiddler Byron Berline. In 1979,
he joined Pure Prairie League as lead singer and recorded three albums with the band, the
first of which yielded the Top 10 pop hit “Let Me Love You Tonight” in 1980. Departing the
group in 1981, Gill joined Rodney Crowell’s backing band the Cherry Bombs, where he met
and worked with Tony Brown and Emery Gordy Jr., both of whom would later produce many of
his future solo albums.
In 1983, Gill signed with RCA Records and moved with his then-wife Janis and daughter
Jenny to Nashville to pursue his dream of being a Country Music artist. His debut mini-album
Turn Me Loose (produced by Gordy) was released the following year, featuring his first
charting solo single, “Victim of Life’s Circumstances.” The Things That Matter, his first
full album that was released later that year, featured two Top 10 hits ¬¬-- a duet with
Rosanne Cash on “If It Weren’t For Him” and a solo hit with “Oklahoma Borderline.” In 1987
he achieved his first Top 5 single, “Cinderella,” from his album The Way Back Home. In
addition to performing as a solo artist, Gill also worked frequently as a studio musician,
wrote songs for other artists and toured with Emmylou Harris.
Gill signed with MCA Records in 1989, reuniting with Brown as a producer, and released
the album When I Call Your Name. While the debut single “Oklahoma Swing” (a duet with Reba
McEntire) reached the Top 20, it was the title cut that firmly established the singer as
new force on the Country Music scene. The song peaked at No. 2 and earned Gill his first
CMA Award (Single of the Year) and his first Grammy Award (Best Male Country Vocal
Performance) in 1990. The next single, “Never Knew Lonely,” peaked at No. 3 and the album
was certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales of more than 1 million copies.
Declining an offer from Mark Knopfler to join Dire Straits as a full-time member, Gill
went on to record his next album Pocket Full of Gold, which also became a Platinum certified
album after it was released in 1991. The album featured four Top 10 hits including the title
cut, “Liza Jane,” “Look at Us” and “Take Your Memory With You.” That year he also earned his
first CMA Vocal Event of the Year Award for his performance with Mark O’Connor and the New
Nashville Cats (featuring Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner). In 1992 he released the
quadruple-Platinum certified I Still Believe In You. The title cut became Gill’s first No. 1
single, followed quickly by “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away.” The album also
featured the hits “One More Last Chance,” “Tryin’ to Get Over You” and “No Future in the
Past.” Gill also topped the charts with “The Heart Won’t Lie,” his second duet with
McEntire, which was featured on her album It’s Your Call.
Gill co-hosted the CMA Awards for the first time in 1992. He continued to host “Country
Music’s Biggest Night™” for 12 consecutive years, ending his run in 2003. Gill not only
set a record for the most times anyone has consecutively hosted a televised awards show,
but he set the bar for other television awards emcees with his mix of respect for his peers
and the audience, quick ad libs and gentle humor.
Gill recorded his first Christmas album Let There Be Peace on Earth in 1993, before
releasing When Love Finds You in 1994. This album also sold more than 4 million copies
and featured six hits including the title cut, “What the Cowgirls Do,” “Whenever You Come A
round,” “Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Burn),” “You Better Think Twice” and “Go Rest
High On That Mountain.” Becoming an in-demand duet partner, Gill sang with Amy Grant on
“House of Love,” the title cut of her 1994 album, which became a hit on adult contemporary
radio stations. That same year he also sang with Gladys Knight on “Ain’t Nothing Like the
Real Thing” from the all-star Rhythm, Country and Blues album, and with Dolly Parton on a
duet version of her signature “I Will Always Love You” from her Something Special album
that earned the duo the CMA Vocal Event of the Year Award in 1996.
His 1996 album High Lonesome Sound leaned back towards his bluegrass days, with hits
including the title cut, “My Pretty Little Adrianna,” “Worlds Apart,” “You and You Alone”
and “A Little More Love.” The Key, released in 1998, was a return to hardcore Country
while chronicling the turmoil in his life including the death of his father and the breakup
of his first marriage. The album, which was one of his most critically acclaimed releases
and his first to top the Billboard Country Albums Chart, featured the hits “If You Ever
Have Forever In Mind,” and his duet with Patty Loveless on “My Kind of Woman/My Kind
of Man.” His status as an in-demand duet partner continued with his 1999 duet “If You
Ever Leave Me” with Barbra Streisand on her album A Love Like Ours.
Gill married singer Amy Grant in 2000, and released Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye that
same year. The album commemorated his new relationship and featured the hit “Feels Like
Love.” The couple celebrated the birth of their daughter Corinna Grant Gill in 2001.
Three years later, Gill released Next Big Thing, his first solo-produced album, featuring
the title cut and “Young Man’s Town.” He reunited with Rodney Crowell, Tony Brown, Richard
Bennett and Hank Devito (as well as new additions Eddie Bayers, John Hobbs and Michael
Rhodes) as the Notorious Cherry Bombs, and the supergroup released an album in 2004 on
Universal South Records.
In 2006, Gill released These Days, a groundbreaking, four-CD set featuring 43 new recordings
of diverse musical stylings. The project featured a variety of guest performers including
John Anderson, Guy Clark, Sheryl Crow, Phil Everly, daughter Jenny Gill, wife Amy Grant,
Emmylou Harris, Diana Krall, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, LeAnn Rimes, Gretchen Wilson,
Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood and more.
Gill has sold more than 22 million albums. He has earned 18 CMA Awards, including Entertainer
of the Year in 1993 and 1994. He is tied with George Strait for having won the most
CMA Male Vocalist Awards (five), and is currently second only to Brooks & Dunn for
accumulating the most CMA Awards in history. Gill is a member of the Grand Ole Opry,
and has received 18 Grammy Awards to date, the most of any male Country artist. Gill
currently serves as president of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of
Officers and Trustees. An avid golfer, he helped create the annual Vince Gill
Pro-Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament (“The Vinny”) in 1993 in order to help support
junior golf programs throughout Tennessee. Besides being known for his talent as a
performer, musician and songwriter, Gill is regarded as one of Country Music’s best
known humanitarians, participating in hundreds of charitable events throughout his career.
Mel Tillis – Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born Aug. 8, 1932 in Tampa, Fla. At age 3, the
young Tillis suffered from malaria, which is believed to have caused his life-long stuttering
problem. Interested in music at an early age, he learned to play guitar, drums and violin.
His first public performance was at age 16 in a local talent show. After high school
graduation, Tillis joined the United States Air Force and served in Okinawa, Japan where
he joined a musical group called The Westerners that performed at most military clubs
in that city.
Tillis exited military service in 1955 and moved to Dover, Fla., where he worked as a
fireman on the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. This enabled him to use his railroad pass
to travel to Nashville. A year later he moved to Music City to follow his dreams of
being a songwriter. Webb Pierce recorded his song “I’m Tired,” which earned Tillis a
songwriter contract with Pierce’s Cedarwood Music Publishing Company. Pierce went on
to have success with several more Tillis compositions, including “I Ain’t Never,”
“No Love Have I,” “Honky Tonk Song,” “Tupelo County Jail” and “Sawmill.” During this
time other artists also recorded his songs, including Bobby Bare (“Detroit City”),
Patsy Cline (“Strange” and “So Wrong”), Stonewall Jackson (“Mary Don’t You Weep”),
Brenda Lee (“Emotions”) and Ray Price (“One More Time,” “Burning Memories” and “Heart
Tillis enjoyed writing songs for others, but he also wanted to be a performer in his
own right. His first single, a cover of “It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song”
was released in 1957. Tillis charted a Top 40 single in 1958 with his song “The Violet
and a Rose” (which later became a hit separately for both Little Jimmy Dickens and Wanda
Jackson) and again in 1959 with “Finally.” He also succeeded with “Sawmill” and
“Georgia Town Blues,” two duets with Bill Phillips. Heart Over Mind, his first album,
was released on Columbia Records in 1962. Tillis teamed with Pierce for the duet
“How Come Your Dog Don’t Bite Nobody But Me” in 1963. While on Columbia, Tillis also
released singles such as “The Brooklyn Bridge,” “Loco Weed” and “Walk On, Boy,” before
moving to Kapp Records.
In the mid-to-late 1960s, Tillis achieved greater success as both a performer and
as a songwriter. After reaching the Top 15 in 1965 with “Wine,” he had success
with “Stateside” in 1966 (he named his band The Statesiders after this song),
“Life Turned Her That Way” in 1967, and his first Top 10 hit “Who’s Julie?” in
1968. Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a Top 10 pop hit with the Tillis-penned
“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” in 1969. Other artists who recorded hits
with Tillis compositions include Waylon Jennings (“Mental Revenge”) and
Charley Pride (“The Snakes Crawl at Night”).
Moving from the ‘60s into the ‘70s, Tillis became a major force on the Country
charts. He hit the Top 10 twice in 1969 with “These Lonely Hands of Mine” and
“She’ll Be Hanging Around Somewhere.” The next year he reached the Top 5 twice
with “Heart Over Mind” and “Heaven Everyday” while also scoring big on the charts that
year with “Commercial Affection” and “Arms of a Fool.” He began a series of duets with
Sherry Bryce in 1971, including “Take My Hand” and “Living and Learning,” and in 1972
topped the charts for the first time with “I Ain’t Never.” Tillis recorded a series
of Top 5 smashes including “Neon Rose,” “Midnight, Me and the Blues,” “Stomp Them
Grapes,” “Memory Maker” and “Woman in the Back of My Mind.” Most of these songs
were recorded while Tillis was signed to MGM Records.
In 1976 Tillis was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year. That same year he was
also inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame and he
signed with MCA Records. During this time period he scored many No.1 hits including
“Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” “I Believe in You” and “Coca Cola Cowboy.”
Tillis moved to Elektra Records in 1979, achieving hits including “Blind in Love,”
“Lying Time Again,” “Your Body is an Outlaw,” “Steppin’ Out,” “A Million Old Goodbyes,”
and his No. 1 hit, “Southern Rains” in 1981. That same year he released Mel and Nancy,
a duet album with Nancy Sinatra featuring the hit “Texas Cowboy Night.” Switching back
to MCA Records, Tillis recorded several more hit singles including “In the Middle
of the Night” in 1983, and his Top 10 hit, “New Patches” in 1984. Tillis would
later record for RCA Records, Mercury Records and Curb Records. To date, Tillis has
scored 36 Top 10 singles, six of which peaked at No. 1.
After making his acting debut in a 1973 episode of the television series “Love,
American Style,” Tillis acted in several television and movie productions over the
next decade. He made guest appearances on the television series “Nashville 99” (1977),
“The Dukes of Hazzard” (1979), “The Tim Conway Show” (1980) and “Love Boat” (1983). He
co-hosted a short-lived ABC television series with Susan Anton in 1978 entitled “Mel
and Susan Together,” and acted in several made-for-television movies, including “Skinflint:
A Country Christmas Carol” (1979), “The Stockers” (1981) and “Bandit: Bandit Goes Country”
(1994). Tillis also graced the silver screen, beginning with “W.W. and Dixie Dancekings”
in 1975 alongside Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed. He went on to appear in several other
movies including “The Villain” (1977) with Kirk Douglas and Arnold Schwarzenegger,
“Every Which Way But Loose” (1979) with Clint Eastwood, “Smokey and the Bandit II” (1980)
with Reynolds, Reed, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason, “Cannonball Run”
1980) and “Cannonball Run II” (1984) both alongside Reynolds and an all-star cast
and “Uphill All The Way” (1986) with Roy Clark and Glen Campbell.
In the 1980s, Tillis remained an in-demand songwriter, writing a No.1 hit for
Ricky Skaggs (“Honey (Open That Door)”) among others. He opened a theater in Branson, Mo.,
where he performed more than 4,000 shows, entertaining sold-out audiences regularly until
2002 when he sold his theater and returned home to Florida. He wrote his autobiography
Stutterin’ Boy in the late ‘80s and released his first gospel album, Beyond the Sunset,
in 1993. He teamed with Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed in 1998 as The Old Dogs.
The quartet recorded a two-CD set of songs written by Shel Silverstein and was nominated
for CMA Vocal Event of the Year a year later. In 1999, BMI named Tillis the “Songwriter
of the Decade” for two decades. He was named the Golden Voice Entertainer of the Year
in 2001, the same year he received the Golden R.O.P.E. Songwriter Award. In 2002, Tillis’s
daughter, Country Music artist Pam Tillis, released the album It’s All Relative: Tillis
Sings Tillis, a tribute album to her father. The projectfeatured father and daughter
performing together on the last track, “Come On and Sing.” Fulfilling his long-time dream,
Tillis joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in June.
Tillis, who has six children and six grandchildren, continues to perform approximately
100 concerts per year with his band The Statesiders. He currently resides in Florida,
where he enjoys painting, fishing, gardening, cooking and University of Florida ballgames.