NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Superstar Reba McEntire, who hails from Chockie, “the Grand Lady of the Grand Ole Opry” Jean Shepard, who was born in Pauls Valley, and songwriting great Bobby Braddock, who has written songs for Oklahomans like Blake Shelton and Toby Keith, will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame today.
Induction ceremonies for Braddock, Reba, and Shepard will take place this evening at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Since 2007, the Museum’s Medallion Ceremony, an annual reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, has served as the official rite of induction for new members.
Reba, who is known worldwide by her first name, will be inducted in the “Modern Era Artist” category, while Shepard will be inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category. Braddock is the first inductee in the new “Songwriter” category. Braddock, Reba, and Shepard will increase membership in the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame from 112 to 115 inductees.
“This is a huge honor for me and something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl,” said Reba in a news release. “When I was a young girl, we would take vacations to Nashville and tour the Country Music Hall of Fame. And now, for me to be inducted, is a dream come true.”"I have spent nearly 60 years doing something that I love, singing and promoting Country Music, and it’s wonderful to see that my efforts haven’t been in vain,” said Shepard. “I am so grateful to CMA, the Country Music fans, and those that voted for me. I am honored and privileged to be in the company of the legendary members who came before me. I wish to thank the Hall of Fame, all of my fans, and Country Music for allowing me and my family to enjoy this most cherished tribute to my musical career.”
“When I think of my heroes who are in the Country Music Hall of Fame, I am truly humbled to know that I am being inducted,” said Braddock in the release. “I want to express my gratitude to the voters who feel that I am worthy of this great honor.”
The Country Music Association created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize noteworthy individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format with country music’s highest honor.
Read extensive biographies this year’s inductees after the break. To read my column about the Oklahoma girl power represented in this year’s inductee class, click here. To read The Oklahoman columnist Bryan Painter’s column about Reba’s early career, click here.
Veterans Era Artist
Jean Shepard – “The Grand Lady of the Grand Ole Opry” was born Ollie Imogene (“Jean”) Shepard on Nov. 21, 1933 in Paul’s Valley, Okla. The family, which included 10 children, later moved to Visalia, Calif., near Bakersfield, after World War II. As a young girl, Shepard listened to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio every week and saved her pennies to buy a Jimmie Rodgers record every year.
Shepard sang lead vocals and played bass guitar in the Melody Ranch Girls, an all-female band that she helped create as a teenager in 1948. Fortune smiled, and the group performed one night at the same venue as country music singer Hank Thompson. Impressed with Shepard and her talent, Thompson helped her get a record deal at Capitol Records in 1952 and connected her with his producer, Ken Nelson. The timing was perfect. That same year, Decca Records had achieved huge success with Kitty Wells and her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” (which sold more than 800,000 copies in its initial release), and Capitol wanted to introduce a new female country singer of their own.
Shepard’s first single, “Crying Steel Guitar Waltz,” did not chart, but Capitol Records believed in her talent and remained supportive. In 1953, the label teamed her with another young and rising talent, Ferlin Husky, for “A Dear John Letter,” a half-spoken/half-sung duet about a soldier in the Korean War. The song was a huge hit, topping the Country charts, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles charts, and becoming the first post-World War II single by a female Country artist to sell more than one million copies. Shepard and Husky quickly followed up with “Forgive Me John,” which became a Top 10 Country and Top 25 pop hit. Because Jean was under 21 and still considered a minor, her parents had to sign her rights to Husky so that she could tour. She would go on to have hits with songs such as “Twice the Lovin’ in Half t he Time,” “Don’t Fall in Love With a Married Man,” “The Root of All Evil (Is a Man),” and “The Other Woman,” all songs that presented a strong and, rare for that era, empowered female point of view, which later influenced artists including Loretta Lynn and Jeannie C. Riley.
In 1955, Shepard reached No. 4 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart with “A Satisfied Mind.” That same year she also had hits with “Take Possession” (No. 13), “Beautiful Lies” (No. 4), and “I Thought of You” (No. 10). Her success earned her an invitation to join the cast of ABC Television’s “Ozark Jubilee.” She stayed with the show, which filmed in Springfield, Mo., until 1958 and worked alongside a cast of talented artists which included fellow Oklahoma native Wanda Jackson, The Browns, Brenda Lee, and Porter Wagoner, among others. After leaving “Ozark Jubilee,” she moved to Nashville to be closer to the Grand Ole Opry, which she had also joined in 1955.
In 1956, she released her first album, Songs of a Love Affair. Several music historians refer to this as the first concept album in Country Music history, because all 12 songs on the album, which Shepard had a hand in writing, told the story of a marriage ripped apart by an affair. Continuing to follow her own path, she was the rare female country artist that toured on her own instead of being either part of a couple or the “girl singer” in a band, breaking down doors for hundreds of female country artists who would follow. She continued to record, and was named the Top Female Singer of 1959 by Cashbox. But as a hardcore honky-tonk singer who now found herself in an age when smooth Country pop was in vogue, Shepard had entered a nine-year period where her songs were not as successful as they once were. In fact, she achieved only two Top 40 hits during this time: “I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me” (No. 18 in 1958) and “Have Heart, Will Love” (No. 30 in 1959).
Shepard married fellow Opry member Hawkshaw Hawkins (Harold Franklin Hawkins) in 1960, and juggled her career with being a housewife and mother to their first son, Don. Tragically, Hawkins was killed in 1963 along with Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas in a plane crash. His widow was pregnant with their second son, Harold Franklin II, at the time.
In 1964, Shepard returned to the Top 10 with her hit “Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar).” Between 1965 and 1970, she had a string of hit songs, including 15 that reached the Top 40. Among her hits were songs such as “Someone’s Gotta Cry,” “A Tear Dropped By,” “I’ll Take the Dog” (a 1966 duet with Ray Pillow), “Many Happy Hangovers to You” (1966), “If Teardrops Were Silver” (1966), “Heart We Did All We Could” (1967), “Your Forevers Don’t Last Very Long” (1967), “A Real Good Woman” (1968), “Seven Lonely Days” (1969), “Then He Touched Me” (1970), and “Another Lonely Night” (1970).
Her last hit for Capitol Records was “With His Hand in Mine” in 1971, and she soon signed with United Artists Records. This turned out to be a good move, as her first single, “Slippin’ Away,” hit No. 4 on the Country charts in 1973 and became her biggest solo hit since the 1950s. She continued to have success with songs including “Poor Sweet Baby,” “At the Time,” “I’ll Do Anything It Takes (To Stay with You),” “Tips of My Fingers,” and more, while also steadily touring. She also served for a term in the mid-’70s as the president of the Association of Country Entertainers, an organization dedicated to supporting classic country music in its purest form. In the late 1970s, she recorded for GRT Records, before moving to Laserlight Records in the early 1980s.
Shepard lives in Nashville with her husband Benny Birchfield, whom she married in 1968. She is a pillar of the Grand Ole Opry, and was honored in 2005 for her 50th anniversary with the legendary show. The talented singer continues to tour and enjoys the opportunity to perform for her fans.
Modern Era Artist
Reba McEntire – On March 28, 1955, Reba Nell McEntire was born in McAlester, Okla., to Clark Vincent and Jacqueline Smith McEntire. The third of four children, she was raised on her family’s 8,000-acre family ranch in Chockie, Okla., and travelled frequently to watch her father compete at rodeos. Her father was the World Champion Steer Roper in 1957, 1958, and 1961, an honor her grandfather John McEntire also won in 1934. She would later follow in the family tradition by participating in barrel racing competitions from the time she was 11-years old until she was 21. Her mother, a former schoolteacher and secretary to the superintendent of Kiowa High School, had once harbored dreams of being a Country Music singer. Instead, she had four children a nd taught them how to sing and harmonize on the long car trips.
While in high school, Reba joined her older brother Pake (who later had his own country music career) and younger sister Susie (who would grow up to become a gospel singer) as members of the Kiowa High School Cowboy Band, and recorded a single, “The Ballad of John McEntire,” for Boss Records in 1971. Her older sister Alice, runner up to the IFR Barrel Racing Championship that same year, never sought a musical career, but was always a strong supporter of her family. Soon after, the three musical siblings formed their own group, The Singing McEntires, and performed frequently at rodeos, clubs, and dance halls. After high school ended, Reba went to college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, later graduating in 1976 with a major in elementary education and a minor in music.
Reba sang the National Anthem at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City on Dec. 10, 1974. Her performance so impressed Red Steagall, who was also performing at the event, that he invited her to Nashville to record demos for his music publishing company. After recording Reba during her spring break in March 1975, Steagall shopped her tapes around Nashville and secured her deal with Polygram Mercury Records in November.
Although her first recordings were not that successful, Reba worked steadily to build her career. The first single, “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand,” peaked at No. 88 in 1976, followed in 1977 by “(There’s Nothing Like the Love) Between a Man and a Woman” at No. 86, and “Glad I Waited Just For You,” at No. 88, and her self-titled debut album, which did not chart at all. Despite the lack of initial chart success, she was invited to debut on the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 17, 1977, which happened to be 30 years to the day when her father won the All Around at the Pendleton, Org. rodeo. Although her next two albums still would not chart, Reba began building momentum when she cracked the Top 20 with songs such as “Three Sheets in the Wind” (with Jacky Ward) and her cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams.” She achieved her first Top 10 hit when “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven ” reached No. 8 in 1980, and she followed it with the Top 5 “Today All Over Again.” Showing career growth, her fourth album, Heart to Heart, became her first charting album, peaking at No. 42 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. Her fifth album, Unlimited, eventually rose to No. 22 on the charts and featured her No. 3 hit “I’m Not That Lonely Yet,” as well as her first two No. 1 hits: “Can’t Even Get the Blues” and “You’re The First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving.”
Reba moved to MCA Records in 1983, and released the album Just A Little Love one year later, featuring the Top Five title cut. She wanted more control over her song selection and album production, and was thrilled when label president Jimmy Bowen allowed her to make the album she wanted to make (she and Bowen would later co-produce several successful albums together). She released My Kind of Country in 1984 and hit No. 1 with its first single, “How Blue.” The album, which featured both new material and covers of songs originally recorded by Ray Price, Carl Smith, Connie Smith, and Faron Young, helped propel Reba to the forefront of the “New Traditionalists” alongside artists such as Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, and Randy Travis. The album also featured her No. 1 hit “Somebody Shou ld Leave.” Her success was rewarded in 1984, when she won the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Award for the first time. She would go on to win this Award for four consecutive years (1984-1987), and currently is tied with Martina McBride for the most wins in this category. The year 1986 brought further honors, as she joined the Grand Ole Opry in January, and was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in October, an Award that recognized her remarkable showmanship in concert.
By this time, Reba was a bonafide country music superstar. Her 1986 album Whoever’s in New England was her first to be certified Gold by the RIAA, and both the title cut and “Little Rock” became No. 1 hits. One year later, her Greatest Hits album became her first Platinum-certified album (continuing to sell more than four million copies through the years). She continued to rule the charts with hit songs including “The Last One to Know” and “Love Will Find Its Way to You.” But her album Reba, which contained the hits “Sunday Kind of Love,” “I Know How He Feels,” and “New Fool at an Old Game,” signaled a change towards a more pop-oriented style. Reba continued in this direction, scoring hits with songs such as “Cathy’s Clown” and “Walk On.”
Proving her business acumen, Reba and her manager Narvel Blackstock created Starstruck Entertainment in 1988 to handle her management, booking, publicity, publishing, and more. The company went on to work with other artists as well, including Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton. One year later, she married Blackstock, who had been part of her organization since 1980 when he joined as the steel player for her band. In 1990, she gave birth to their son Shelby Steven McEntire Blackstock. She would later share stories from her life and marriage in her 1994 autobiography Reba: My Story and her 1999 book Comfort from a Country Quilt. Years later, the couple would expand her brand and oversee the creation and development of successful clothing, footwear, luggage, and home collection lines t hat are sold nationwide in Dillard’s.
After getting a taste of acting from her music videos, Reba began exploring her options in Hollywood. She first appeared alongside Kevin Bacon and Michael Gross in the comic, horror film “Tremors,” in 1990. Over the years, she would continue with roles in movies such as “North” (1994), “The Little Rascals” (1994), and “One Night at McCool’s” (2001). She also appeared in a string of television movies, including: “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw” with Kenny Rogers in 1991; “The Man From Left Field” with Burt Reynolds in 1993; “Is There Life Out There?” in 1994 (based on her hit song and music video); “Buffalo Girls” in 1995 (where she first played Annie Oakley); “Forever Love” in 1998 (also based on her hit song); and “Secret of Giving” in 1999. Her distinctive voice was heard as the goddess Artemis in the animated television series “Hercules” (1998); Betsy the Cow in the movie “Charlotte’s Web” (2006); and Dixie the dog in animated movie “The Fox and the Hound 2″ (2006).
But she was never far away from the music, continuing to chart huge hits with “You Lie,” “Rumor Has It,” “Fancy,” “Is There Life Out There,” “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia,” “Take It Back,” “The Heart Won’t Lie” (a duet with Vince Gill), “Does He Love You” (a duet with Linda Davis, which won the 1994 CMA Vocal Event of the Year Award as well a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals), “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “She Thinks His Name Was John,” “On My Own” (with Davis, Martina McBride, and Trisha Yearwood), “The Fear of Being Alone,” “I’d Rather Ride Around With You,” “How Was I to Know,” “Forever Love,” “If You See Him/If You See Her” (with Brooks and Dunn), and more. She also reached No. 2 on the Billboard Dance Singles chart with her remake of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”
In 2001, Reba triumphed when she took over the role of Annie Oakley in the Broadway play “Annie Get Your Gun,” previously played in this revival by Bernadette Peters, Susan Lucci, and Cheryl Ladd. Reba brought new life to the production, and with it came rave reviews, sold out performances, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award.
After performing on Broadway from February through June, Reba moved to Los Angeles to begin her successful television sitcom “Reba” for the WB Network (later renamed the CW Network). The show debuted in October and remained in production for six seasons, signing off in February 2007. The series grew even stronger and gained a larger audience through syndication re-runs on the Lifetime Network, and will continue to play for a second round of syndication on ABC Family and CMT through 2014.
While starring in and producing the television series, Reba continued to succeed in music with hit songs such as “I’m a Survivor” (the sitcom’s theme song), “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” “He Gets That From Me,” “My Sister,” and the No. 1 hit “Somebody.” In 2005, she participated in a special concert performance of “South Pacific” with Alec Baldwin and Brian Stokes Mitchell at Carnegie Hall that was filmed to air on “Great Performances” on PBS the following year.
In 2007, she released Reba Duets, an album that paired her with artists including Kenny Chesney (on “Every Other Weekend”), and Kelly Clarkson (on “Because of You”), as well as Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Don Henley, Carole King, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Justin Timberlake, and Trisha Yearwood. This became her first album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.
After releasing a three-disc 50 Greatest Hits album in 2008, Reba left her longtime home at MCA and moved to the Valory Music Label, reuniting her with label president Scott Borchetta. Her first album for her new label, Keep on Loving You, became her second album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart when it was released in 2009. The album’s first single “Strange” debuted at No. 39 on the Billboard Country Singles chart, the highest single chart debut and the fastest rising single of her career. In addition to the title cut, the album also featured “Consider Me Gone,” which topped the Billboard Country Singles chart for four consecutive weeks and became her longest-running No. 1 song ever. Her current album, All the Women I Am, hit stores in 2010, and features the hit singles “Turn on the Radio,” which became the first No. 1 hit from the new CD, and Reba’s remake of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” which she performed on “The 44th Annual CMA Awards” that year.
Reba has sold more than 55 million albums worldwide, and to date has achieved 35 No. 1 and 59 Top 10 singles. She has received 6 CMA Awards, 15 American Music Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, and 9 People’s Choice Awards. Reba is one of only four entertainers to be honored with the National Artistic Achievement Award by the U.S. Congress. She received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998, the same year she was inducted into the Oklahoma Cowboy Hall of Fame. She was honored as Billboard’s Woman of the Year in 2007, and in 2009, was officially recognized as the biggest female hit-maker in Country Music history by Billboard, Country Aircheck, and Mediabase. With 49 career nominations thus far, she is the most nominated female artist in CMA A wards history.
Bobby Braddock – Often referred to as one of the greatest songwriters in the history of Nashville’s music industry, Robert Valentine Braddock was born in Lakeland, Fla. on Aug. 5, 1940. A fifth-generation Floridian, he was the son of successful citrus grower Paul E. and Lavonia Valentine Braddock, and grew up in Auburndale, Fla. At age eight, he wrote his first song and performed it a piano recital. He later played saxophone in the Auburndale High School band.
Braddock performed piano in several rock-and-roll bands and toured Florida during the late 1950s and early 1960s, while also continuing to write songs. Auburndale-based record label D.J. Records gave him the opportunity to produce the first two recordings of his songs when Jody Anderson recorded “Walkin’ Papers” in 1961, and Billy Chambers recorded “That’s When I Stopped Living” in 1962.
To continue his musical ambitions, Braddock moved to Nashville in 1964 and soon became the piano player for Marty Robbins, while also becoming a session player around town. A year later, Robbins had a hit single with the Braddock-penned “While You’re Dancing.” Braddock also performed in several Country Music-themed movies, most notably “Music City U.S.A” (1966) along with Loretta Lynn, Webb Pierce, the Wilburn Brothers, and fellow inductee Jean Shepard, among others. That year he became a staff songwriter with Tree International (now Sony/ATV Music Publishing), and signed a recording contract with MGM Records, the first of five major labels he would record for during his career (the other four being Mercury, Columbia, Elektra, and RCA). He would later release three albums: Between the Lines (Elektra, 1979), Love Bomb (RCA, 1980), and Hardpore Cornography (RCA, 1983).
The Statler Brothers achieved two Top 10 hits with his songs “You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith Too” and “Ruthless” in 1967, which established him as an up-and-coming talent. His evolution into an in-demand songwriter followed a year later when Tammy Wynette hit No. 1 on the charts with “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” which Braddock wrote with Curly Putman. That song was also nominated for CMA Song of the Year in 1968. Wynette’s recording of “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” became a huge hit in the UK in 1975, which led Scottish comedian Billy Connelly to record a parody version that soon hit No. 1.
Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, Braddock wrote or co-wrote a string of hits for many of that era’s top artists. Among the best known are: “Golden Ring” and “(We’re Not) The Jet Set” (George Jones and Wynette); “I Believe the South is Gonna Rise Again” (Tanya Tucker); “Come On In” (Jerry Lee Lewis); “Womanhood” (Wynette); “Something to Brag About” (a duet for Jones and Wynette, and later Mary Kay Place with Willie Nelson); “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous” (a duet for Johnny Duncan and Janie Fricke), and “Did You Ever” (a duet on the country charts for Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery, that later became a hit in the UK for Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood).
It was a Braddock/Putman composition that helped re-establish George Jones as a dominant force at country radio in 1980. The song “He Stopped Loving Her Today” hit No. 1 on the charts, and accomplished the rare feat of winning the CMA Song of the Year Award for two consecutive years (1980 and 1981). It was voted “Country Song of the Century” in a poll by Radio & Records, and named “Best Country Song of All Time” in a poll conducted by the BBC and Country America.
The early 1980s continued to be a great era for Braddock. T. G. Sheppard went to No. 1 with the Braddock/Sonny Throckmorton song “I Feel Like Loving You Again” in 1980. That same year, Lacy J. Dalton scored a hit in with his song “Hard Times.” He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1981. Sheppard and Karen Brooks recorded their No. 1 hit duet “Faking Love” in 1982, which Braddock co-wrote with Matraca Berg. That same year, John Anderson had a hit with Braddock’s “Would You Catch a Falling Star.”
Braddock didn’t slow down during the next decade either. Mark Chesnutt had a Top Five hit in 1992 with “All My Old Flames Have New Names,” written by Braddock and Rafe Van Hoy. Tracy Lawrence also had success with Braddock compositions, taking “Texas Tornado” to No. 1 in 1994, and repeating with “Time Marches On” in 1996. The latter song was nominated for CMA Song of the Year in both 1996 and 1997.
Moving into the 21st century, Braddock became instrumental in the success of Blake Shelton, producing or co-producing the young singer’s first five albums on Warner Bros. Records. He also wrote “I Wanna Talk About Me,” which became a No. 1 hit in 2002 for Toby Keith. In 2007, Braddock released his autobiographical book Down On Orburndale: A Songwriter’s Youth in Old Florida, revealing stories of his childhood in a pre-Disney World-era Florida. He topped the charts again in 2009 when Billy Currington reached No. 1 with the Braddock/Troy Jones song, “People Are Crazy.” The song was nominated for CMA Song of the Year later that year, his sixth nomination in that category.
In 2010, BMI honored Braddock for his five decades of writing country hits. Nine of his songs have been played on the radio from one million to three million times each. To put that in perspective, one million plays equals approximately being played on the radio around the clock for six and a-half years. Braddock’s songs that hit the three million plays level are “I Wanna Talk About Me” and “Time Marches On.” Those that reached the two million plays level are “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Texas Tornado,” and “All My Old Flames Have New Names.” The songs that have one million are “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “People Are Crazy,” “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous,” and “Would You Catch a Falling Star.”
Braddock is currently working on a second memoir, Hollywood, Tennessee (A Life on Nashville’s Music Row). His daughter Lauren followed in his creative footsteps as a singer, songwriter, actress, and author. She and her husband, Nashville entertainment publicist Jim Havey, named their 6 -year-old son Braddock (Dock) James Havey in his honor.