NASHVILLE — Etched in the stone exterior of the Country Music Hall of Fame is a quote from Dolly Parton: “Country music is music with a lot of class. It's just ordinary stories told by ordinary people in an extraordinary way.”
Sunday night, it was Parton who inducted Reba McEntire — born in McAlester raised in Chockie and a graduate of Kiowa High School — into that Hall of Fame's “Modern Era Artist category.”
The first time McEntire met Parton was historic as well. That was September 1977, and it was McEntire's first performance on the “Grand Ole Opry.”
Sunday night, the singer and actress known around the world as “Dolly” placed the Hall of Fame Medallion around the neck of the singer and actress also internationally-known by her first name, “Reba.”
Parton's appearance was a surprise to McEntire.
“Reba and I kind of feel like sisters,” Parton said of their friendship and then added humor. “Through the years we've both had enough hair to stuff a mattress.
“This is a special honor. She's had some of the greatest records I've ever heard.”
McEntire's voice tightened when she said the date of that first Opry appearance, “September 17, 1977.” That day was an anniversary.
“That was 30 years to the day that daddy won the All-Around at the Pendleton Round-Up,'” she said. Her father Clark McEntire, a three-time world champion steer roper, has been battling health issues this year, including strokes and was unable to attend.
Also inducted Sunday night into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville were Jean Shepard and Bobby Braddock.
At the invitation of the Country Music Association, the private Medallion Ceremony became the official rite of induction for new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame a few years back.
The ceremony Sunday provided ongoing reminders of Oklahoma's tremendous influence on country music. It began with Vince Gill, born in Norman and raised in Oklahoma City, joining the McCrary Sisters to sing the traditional opening hymn, performing “Down by the Riverside.”
McEntire's numerous awards include 15 American Music Awards, several Country Music Association Awards and two Grammys.
On Sunday night, she sat in the Ford Theater listening to the songs that made her a household name.
Perhaps the most special of those was a duet as her sister Susie McEntire-Eaton and Trisha Yearwood, who lives in Owasso, sang “How Blue.”
In another duet, friends Martina McBride and Kelly Clarkson performed the hit McEntire had with Linda Davis on guest vocals, “Does He Love You.”
Gill delivered “Somebody Should Leave.” But that wasn't all for the Oklahomans as Garth Brooks, born in Tulsa, raised in Yukon and living in Owasso, sang “Whoever's In New England.”
Reba thanked her friends and family members for being there. She said they had always been there for her and added “don't quit me now.”
After the ceremony, she said her father would have loved to have been in the audience. Then she shared a story.
“It was really cute, one time daddy was in the car with us and I'd won entertainer of the year and female vocalist and we were all in the limo,” she said. “Daddy said, 'Sure is good to be riding home with the winner.'”
Also from southern Oklahoma, is Shepard, who was inducted Sunday night by George Jones.
Shepard was born in Pauls Valley. The family moved to Hugo when Jean Shepard was 3 years and then headed west in about 1945 to live in California.
Shepard, who was inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category, has recorded more than 25 albums and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since the mid-1950s.
Shepard told those in attendance, “I love my music, I love what I do and I do what I love.”
Braddock, who has delivered hits in five different decades, was inducted in the new “Songwriter” category.
“I'm a low profile, under the radar guy,” Braddock said. “This is like getting to go to your own funeral without having to die.”
Braddock, who was inducted by Bill Anderson, was also the producer for albums by Ada native Blake Shelton.
Recently married, Shelton and Miranda Lambert, who live in Tishomingo, performed the George Jones and Tammy Wynette hit Braddock wrote with Rafe Van Hoy, “Golden Ring.”