Add another: Country Music Hall of Fame member.
Songwriter Bobby Braddock and another pioneering female singer, Jean Shepard, join McEntire as the hall’s newest members. The 2011 inductees were introduced Tuesday morning at a news conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
McEntire is an enduring icon who is more popular than ever after three dozen years in the business. The 55-year-old was declared country music’s top female hitmaker long ago and remains a dynamo, selling more than 55 million albums and recently scoring her 35th No. 1 hit.
The fiery redhead has carved out an enviable and unique career that goes far beyond music. She’s had her own television show. She stormed Broadway in “Annie Get Your Gun.” And she is a role model as both an artist and a businesswoman for a wave of young female stars who are following the example she set in a career defined by hard work and an independent streak.
Shepard, known as “The Grand Lady of The Grand Ole Opry” as she enters her 56th year on the show, helped clear the way for McEntire and country music’s other top female stars with a pioneering career that stretches back to the 1940s. She paired with fellow Hall of Fame member Ferlin Husky in 1953 on “A Dear John Letter,” her first No. 1 country hit. The song went to No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart and made her the first million-selling female artist in the post-World War II era.
The 77-year-old was an early archetype for women in country music, choosing to tour as a solo act rather than as part of a group and presenting a strong female point of view on songs like “Twice the Lovin’ in Half the Time” and “The Root of All Evil (Is a Man)” that influenced such key figures in country music as Loretta Lynn. She also is credited with releasing country music’s first concept album, “Songs From a Love Affair.” Her debut record’s 12 songs all deal with an affair that tears apart a marriage.
Braddock is the first inductee in the new songwriter category. He’s written or co-written hits for George Jones, Tammy Wynette, The Oak Ridge Boys and Toby Keith among many others in a career of 50-plus years. Nine of his songs have been played more than 1 million times on the radio and two – Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me” and Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On” – have been played more than 3 million times.
He penned the iconic songs “He Stopped Loving Her Today” for Jones and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” for Wynette and helped launch the career of current Country Music Association male vocalist of the year Blake Shelton.
McEntire, Shepard and Braddock will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony later this year.