Randy Travis’ Song Caps 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductions [WATCH]
The 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday night (Oct. 16) was filled with touching tributes, once-in-a-lifetime musical performances and stirring speeches -- but no moment was more special than hearing Randy Travis sing.
Since his 2013 stroke, Travis has been largely unable to speak (or sing); in mid-January, one of Travis’ good friends told a newspaper that the country icon’s recovery prognosis is good, and at the announcement of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in late March, his wife, Mary Davis, called his progress a series of "giant baby steps." Still, with the exception of a private funeral in early February, Travis has not sang or even spoken much in public since his stroke.
So to watch him lead the audience at the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony in a verse of "Amazing Grace" was unexpected and surprising, and also incredibly beautiful. Although he faltered on a few words, Travis' brief performance showed his tenacity and bravery as an artist, as a country music fan and as a human being.
Other than his brief performance, Travis did not speak during his induction, but he was all smiles during the performances and tributes in his honor. Alan Jackson sang Travis' "On the Other Hand" and took time to applaud Travis for his pioneering work in country music, "open[ing] the door for a lot of guys and girls wanting to sing real country music, and ma[king] it easier for us."
"I appreciate that. We appreciate what you did for us back then," Jackson admitted. "I don’t think, since Randy first started, that there’s been another country singer that’s come along that’s authentic as he is and was at that time."
Brad Paisley, who sang "Forever and Ever, Amen," echoed Jackson's sentiments: "You were a beacon of light on the radio, when you first started," he said, "and to this day, you’re one of the greatest singers we’ve ever had."
Garth Brooks performed double duty, singing "Three Wooden Crosses" and, also, at Travis's request, officially inducting him into the Hall of Fame. (Davis accepted the honor on Travis' behalf, with him standing by her side.)
"Today, the world is spinning right," Brooks told The Boot prior to the show. "Never will you ever have to say, ‘Randy Travis isn’t in the Hall of Fame?’ It’s long overdue, well deserved, and I would not be standing here, I would not be [Trisha Yearwood's] husband, I would not be in this town [without him], because he was the forefather that kind of laid it down.
"Tell me some other artist in some other genre, ever, in the history of mankind, who’s taken a format, turned it around back to where it was coming from, and made it bigger than it was," Brooks added. "It’s never happened. It will never happen again."
During the ceremony itself, with Travis sitting in the front row, Brooks delivered a heartfelt tribute to his close friend.
"We can talk about the Hall of Fame all day. We can talk about the CMA. We can talk about every hall that has these great names in it," he said. "People, it’s not the walls. It’s the names that make this the honor it is."
In addition to Travis, Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster were also added to the Country Music Hall of Fame in its Class of 2016. Foster, who is credited with helping start the careers of Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson and more, was inducted by Vince Gill, who recounted how Foster was one of the first people that he met after moving to Nashville in the early 1980s.
"When you’re young and just trying to figure stuff out, there’s nothing better than finding somebody that’s kind to you. Fred was that for me," Gill shared. "He was welcoming of me. He liked the way I sang -- I think he liked the way I sing because I sing like a girl; he was kind of fond of those kind of singers over the years. We made fast friends, and we knocked around together all the time, and I value those days and those times so very much."
In Foster's honor, Parton sang "Dumb Blonde," her first hit single, which was produced by Foster, while Brandy Clark sang "Blue Bayou," and Kristofferson sang "Me and Bobby McGee."
"Originality is the love of his life," Kyle Young, CEO of the Hall of Fame, shared of Foster. "He can spot it from 100 paces, he can hear it a mile away, and he can draw it out of places that are hidden to the rest of us. To everyone else, Kris Kristofferson was a songwriter. Fred knew that he was more than that. Fred knew that he was a communicator. Fred knew that he was an original."
On Sunday night, Daniels was still trying to grasp the reality of his induction into the prestigious hall, and his part in country music history: "I feel like a Little Leaguer that found himself at bat at the World Series and knocked it out of the park," the 79-year-old told The Boot.
During Daniels' induction, Yearwood sang "It Hurts Me," a song written by Daniels and recorded by Elvis Presley; Jamey Johnson sang "Long Haired Country Boy;" and Trace Adkins joined violin virtuoso Andrea Zonn on Daniels' biggest hit, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
"Charlie Daniels came to Nashville on April 13, 1967. He came with a wife, Hazel, a 2-year-old son, Charlie Jr., a $20 bill and a busted clutch. He had talent and hope and fear," Young recounted. "He kept the wife and son and talent. He fulfilled the hope, he defeated the fear, he fixed the clutch."
Daniels, wearing a special, newly bought cowboy hat for the ceremony, was emotional as he shared his thoughts from stage.
"The grandiose words it would take to adequately describe the gratitude of the mountain of honor that I’m feeling tonight simply do not exist in my vocabulary," he admitted. "And I’m not sure that the words to describe the emotions I feel in my heart right now exist at all.
"A plaque on these walls is not an award or an accolade," he continued. "It’s a page in the history book, an unending history book, a story that will go on and on as long as talented young men and women who have a desire in their hearts and a fire in their belly continue to write and record the songs, travel the miles and pay their dues."
See Photos From the 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony