Your Take: Bluegrass in the Country Music Hall of Fame

Staff | March 30th, 2013

It’s getting to be that time of the year where the Country Music Hall of Fame announces the 2013 class of inductees, which means it’s time for the annual debate on who should be inducted. Today, we’re going to look at the bluegrass side of the HOF. Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs are inductees, but Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley, Del McCoury, and Mac Wiseman (who are all Bluegrass Hall of Famers) are just a few of the artists who, it could be argued, are worthy of induction as well.

So let’s hear your take: which bluegrass artists deserve induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame? Do you think current stars like Alison Krauss & Union Station or the Del McCoury Band will eventually be inducted?

  1. Janice Brooks
    March 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

    The Stanley Brothers no question. Also Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper.

  2. Paul W Dennis
    March 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

    The Osborne Brothers
    The Stanley Brothers
    Jim & Jesse (McReynolds)
    Jimmy Martin
    Mac Wiseman

    That’s enough for right now – once the above get in I’d be willing to contemplate others

    Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper are like Jimmie Skinner – not necessarily claimed by either side as they straddled the line and performed on both sides of the line as well

  3. Jon
    March 30, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Saying there’s a line between bluegrass and country is like saying there’s a line between apples and fruit.

  4. Donald
    March 30, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Based on what little I know about the Country Music Hall of Fame, of the acts mentioned I only see one that even has a reasonable chance of being inducted in the next ten years, and that would be AKUS. I just don’t see the others making it.

    I would disagree with Jon’s apple/fruit analogy, perhaps because I see bluegrass (ambrosia, the finest apple) and country (gala, a misunderstood cousin) both as part of folk music (the fruit).

  5. Barry Mazor
    March 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Country and bluegrass are professional, commercial music. They have never, ever been folk; that is partly what defines them. I don’t know what Donald does or doesn’t know about he HoF, but there is certainly an inclusive interest in bluegrass there; my observation would be that there aren’t more bluegrassers in there for mainly practical, logistical reasons: the Stanley Brothers, Mac Wiseman and perhaps the Osbornes, and Jimmy Martin ( rightly, but he made a lot of trouble for himself) are more or less in the same generation, in country years, and would inevitably draw from many of the same Hall of Fame voters, dividing the vote. Getting more than Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs in will take breaking that logjam. Ralph Stanley didn’t quite do it for himself or (more likely) for the Stanley Bros, at the height of O Death-mania, when it might have happened. I think the one with the best chance now would be Mac Wiseman, who also had a non-bluegrass county career, was a founder of the CMA, an A&R man, and made a lot of friends. We’ll see. I think having those greats all backed up makes it tough for a Del or AKUS to get anywhere in the short term.

  6. Luckyoldsun
    March 31, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Didn’t folk also become professional, commercial music, for a time? Folk was so big that artists like Waylon and Bobby Bare were marketed as folk country.

  7. Barry Mazor
    March 31, 2013 at 4:56 am

    There certainly was a commercial folk genre–and boom. It was distinctive enough that it was rarely mistaken for country–and distinctive enough that, yes, “marrying the two” was tried for Jennings and Bare, and certain country artists were successful in marketing themselves TO that boom market. Bluegrass was indeed marketed to folk for a spell, when it fell off country radio, but it to present itself differently to do it. Performers from Johnny Cash to Eddy Arnold to Maybelle Carter appeared on “folk” TV shows like Hootenanny and played the Newport Folk Festival–and again, presented themselves differently to do it. I’ve made the case before that those country artists crossing into “folk” (Merle Travis had pulled it off earlier) in effect, carved out the “Americana” space first.


  8. Jon
    March 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Thinking of “folk” as a genre is kind of problematic anyhow. But even if you think of “folk” as indicating the vernacular music primordial ooze out of which country and several other genres emerged in the early 20th century, bluegrass wouldn’t really qualify, as it was born wholly within a fully formed country music industry context.

  9. BRUCE
    March 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Recognizing bluegrass artists that have had a significant impact beyond their genre would be worthy. Just like the Rock HOF including some pop acts.

    To that point the debate can begin as to the artists that should be included based upon their impact not just in bluegrass but overreaching into country music as well.

    To that end, Ricky Skaggs would be my personal choice for artists that are still currently active. He had handled both bluegrass & country deftly. He has certainly had an impact on both.

  10. Barry Mazor
    March 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Mr. Skaggs, IMHO, has a very reasonable chance of Country Hall of fame induction, sooner or later. He was, all else in a varied career momentarily aside, a major country star of the 80s whose “New Traditionalist” approach made a substantial difference on the country music of the era..and then he did more than that. No predictions on when it would happen, but it could.

    And, of course, I agree with Jon about the problem of seeing “folk” as a genre–but there;s no doubt that, for a spell there, they attempted to market Commercial “Folk” as a genre–which was fully produced, arranged and targeted music with a commercial target audience in mind. But then, that “folk” only occasionally had all THAT much to do with historic, organic, non-professional regional music at all..

  11. Ken Morton, Jr.
    March 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Barry, do you think Mac Wiseman has a chance in the non-performing category first and performing artists second? Also, is it the commercial vacuum (Jon, don’t get mad- Oh Brother Where Art Thou notwithstanding, it just doesn’t have as a high of profile as country) of bluegrass that keeps viable CMHOF candidates from being considered more readily?

  12. Jon
    March 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    “… there;s no doubt that, for a spell there, they attempted to market Commercial “Folk” as a genre–which was fully produced, arranged and targeted music with a commercial target audience in mind.”

    For sure, but that can’t be what Donald was referring to when he said he saw both bluegrass and country as parts of a larger folk category. The point being that, when the country music industry began and it began to be considered as a genre, its roots were in the other, broader concept of folk music – and therefore could possibly be seen *for a time* as a part of folk music, bluegrass was a product of the commercial country industry, and hence related to that older folk matrix only indirectly. And its connection to the commercial folk genre came later, and was both more fleeting and more tenuous.

  13. Barry Mazor
    March 31, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Jon, I know..I’m with you. Just wanted to expand a little on “What’s ‘folk’–when..”

    I’m don’t mean to suggest that Mac would be inducted as a non-performer Ken–and don’t think that he would be, just that those other aspects of his story, which I have no doubt would be duly noted if the time comes, give him an additional leg up. I for one, don’t think the relative commerciality of bluegrass is an issue for the CMA, although I do wonder sometimes–just wonder, don’t know–if for some voters the grassers seem less urgent to get to because there’s the Bluegrass Hall if Fame out there that they’re all in already.. Nit sure. It’s true for a Jerry lee Lewis, already in the Rock Hall, too, I’d think.

  14. Ben Foster
    April 1, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Ricky Skaggs was the first name that came to my mind, though I imagine Alison Krauss will also get in eventually.

  15. Jonathan Pappalardo
    April 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Now that Ben mentions it, Ricky Skaggs would be the next logical choice for a Bluegrass artist to enter the Hall of Fame. I think of him more in terms of his mainstream 80s success, but he’s been just as prolific as a bluegrass artist.

    I cannot wait to see who the class is this year!

  16. Luckyoldsun
    April 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    “Ricky Skaggs would be the next logical choice for a Bluegrass artist to enter the Hall of Fame.”

    Funny, seems Skaggs isn’t even in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame–Of course, he also seems to be at least 10 years younger than anyone who is in the Bluegrass hall.
    I guess that once the Country H-o-F inducted Vince Gill, it all of a sudden made it seem like Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis are past due!

  17. Donald
    April 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Actually, I was just trying to work with Jon’s apples/fruit analogy and make it make sense for me. For me, bluegrass is apples, and most of commerical country is blackberries.

    I fully understand that bluegrass emerged from within a country music setting. However, for me, once that any ‘folk’ music stops sounding like it is made by folks, it loses its appeal- and I realize folk may mean something different to others. For me, and I am obviously in the minority, I associate bluegrass more with folk than country- with select exceptions, neither folk nor bluegrass are mainstream, both are in many cases participatory (and that includes non-professional playing and singing, are as often as not acoustic.

    Still, describing anything as anything (as we know from the many and pointless- we’re told- WIBA discusions that sprout up every once in a while) is increasingly problematic within the context where writers featuring and reviewing Mumford and Sons include ‘bluegrass’ in every third article.

    Barry’s statement about an ‘inclusive’ interest in bg within the country HofF may be true, but I don’t see it within the inductees.

    I actually thought Skaggs was already in; my bad. I don’g have any problem with any of those mentioned being inducted (how about Jerry Douglas?).I just don’t see it happening, for reasons Barry mentions, and others.

  18. Ken Morton, Jr.
    April 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    I’ve heard from two pretty good authorities today that the next CMHOF induction announcement is going to be on Wednesday, 4/10.

  19. Janice Brooks
    April 2, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Ken it’s about time. I do know Connie Smith is on tour this week in Europe.

  20. Barry Mazor
    April 2, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Janice, I’m missing something. What does Connie’s schedule have to do with this years’s announcement? This is not one of those announcements automatically intro’d by last year’s inductee..

  21. luckyoldsun
    April 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    They’re taking a page from the Masters. She’s gotta be there to place a Nudie jacket on the shoulders of the new inductee.

  22. Janice Brooks
    April 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    nothing. I just know Connie is away this week

  23. Barry Mazor
    April 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Ah. See what can happen when you put two sentences together

  24. Daniel Mullins
    April 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I have to agree with name mentioned above. Mac Wiseman should be an easy get due to his popularity outside of bluegrass, both as a performer and otherwise.

    The Osborne Brothers should be inducted as well. They had many songs hit the country charts from the late fifties to the early eighties, and their recordings of “Rocky Top” have made the song of the most recognizable songs of all time. Their popularity resulted in two of their hits becoming state songs: “Rocky Top” and “Kentucky.” They also were the first bluegrass band to have a concert on a college campus, and the first bluegrass band to perform at the White House. It is only a matter of time before they are inducted.

    Jimmy Martin and The Stanley Brothers should be in as well, although timing will most likely play a role into their induction.

    As far as modern artists who will eventually be inducted, Ricky Skaggs is obvious. Alison Krauss is as well. Although not known for his bluegrass roots, Marty Stuart is a no-brainer. He began his professional career picking with Lester Flatt, and has maintained strong bluegrass ties throughout his career.

  25. Arlene
    April 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I know that age and health probably shouldn’t be a major factor in the timing of an honoree’s induction, and that different catagories for selection mean that any backlog won’t be cleared in anything approaching age order, but I so wish that bluegrass greats who ultimately are tapped for membership in the CMHOF live long enough to learn of and enjoy the honor. I’m a baseball fan and as much as I appreciated seeing Chicago Cub Ron Santo finally elected into the Baseball Hall this past year– he was first eligible in 1980– how sad was it that that the call came a year and a half after he had succumbed to diabetes, a condition which he had carefully concealed for 80% of his playing career, and which eventually necessitated the amputation of the lower half of both his legs?

    It could be said of artists in all facets of country or roots music, but the issue seems to be relevant to many of the bluegrass giants. Here’s hoping that Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman, and the Osborne Brothers are not only inducted, but are alive to actively participate in their medallion ceremonies.

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