Randy Travis sings during Country Music Hall of Fame induction

Randy Travis sang again on Sunday – just after Garth Brooks inducted him into The Country Music Hall of Fame.

Travis nearly died in 2013 when he suffered a life-threatening stoke as the result of a viral infection in his heart. Doctors had little hope for survival, but today, Travis is able to walk, and he’s working to improve his speech. He can’t yet speak sentences, but he can sing “Amazing Grace.” Travis’ wife Mary Davis-Travis asked the guests at the 2016 Medallion Ceremony to stand and sing with Travis. The emotional moment was the highlight of many standout moments from ceremony.

Travis and fellow North Carolina natives Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster were inducted into the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday evening in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater.

The Country Music Association created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to trumpet the genre’s most beloved members and preserve their legacy. Performers, including Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson, sang songs pivotal to the career of each inductee before the men were officially anointed as members.

Randy Travis: Modern Era Artist

Country Music Hall of Famer George Jones thought country music was dying.

Jones sang about it in his famous song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” said CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Kyle Young. It was 1985 and Jones didn’t know it, but Randy Travis was about to stand up and raise his hand.

“Randy Travis was the forefather that kind of laid it down,” Brooks said. “Tell me some other artist in some other genre ever in the history of mankind who has taken a format, turned it around back to where it was coming from and made it bigger than it was. It’s never happened, and it will never happen again.”

Travis’ distinctive baritone, paired with his North Carolina accent and Southern sensibilities, was the recipe that altered the direction of country music. Three decades after Travis’ major label debut album “Storms of Life,” he remains one of country music’s most beloved and respected artists.

“You opened the door to a lot of guys and girls who wanted to sing real country music,” Jackson told Travis from the stage. “He was like Elvis. When he sang, the women were screaming and fainting. And he was singing real country music. When I listen to country music today, I think it’s time for a new Randy Travis to come along.”

Travis was lauded by Jackson, who sang “On the Other Hand.” Paisley who performed “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

“You were a beacon of light on the radio when you first started, and you are still one of the greatest singers we’ve ever had,” Paisley told Travis.

Brooks sang “Three Wooden Crosses” before officially welcoming Travis as a member.

With help from Davis-Travis and Paisley, Travis climbed the stairs so Brooks could hang the medallion around his neck.

Since Travis still struggles to form words, Davis-Travis spoke on his behalf.

“Today is the greatest day of Randy’s celebrated music career,” she said. “Randy wants to thank you for listening and loving him. Randy stared death in the face, but death blinked. Today, God’s proof of a miracle stands before you.

“Tonight, I want to give back to the voice of Randy Travis. If you’ll stand …”

Charlie Daniels: Veterans Era Artist

Charlie Daniels was born Charles Edward Daniels on Oct. 28, 1936, in Wilmington, N.C. Growing up, he was musically inspired by church music, local bluegrass bands and Nashville’s radio stations that streamed country and R&B music.

Daniels stepped into the spotlight with his self-titled first album in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1974’s “Fire on the Mountain” that music fans started to take notice. The album included Daniels’ hits “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” and “Long Haired Country Boy.”

Yearwood and Jamey Johnson sang for Daniels, as did Trace Adkins who teamed with virtuoso violinist Andrea Zonn for a memorable version of Daniels’ signature hit “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Brenda Lee took the microphone to induct Daniels.

“The thing I love about Charlie Daniels is that he loves you back,” Lee said. “He loves the people that work with him, not for him. And most of all, Charlie, he loves America.”

Lee placed the medallion around Daniels’ neck.

“The grandiose words it would take to adequately describe the mountain of honor I’m feeling tonight don’t exist in my vocabulary,” Daniels said. “A plaque on these walls isn’t just another award …  it’s a page in an unending history book. It’s been a great ride gang. We’re still in the saddle, and it ain’t over by a longshot.  Long live country music.”

Fred Foster: Non-Performer

Music industry executive Fred Foster gave artists including Parton, Kristofferson and Willie Nelson their entry into country music.

“You really gave me a shot … and you were a gentleman when Porter Wagoner stole me away,” Parton told Foster before she performed her first hit “Dumb Blonde” in his honor. “You started my life with my first record.”

Foster started Monument Records and publishing company Combine Music in 1958. He also signed Roy Orbison, whose iconic songs including “Only the Lonely” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” inspired artists ranging from The Beatles to Bruce Springsteen.

In addition to Parton’s performance, Brandy Clark covered Orbison’s "Blue Bayou," while Kristofferson and harmonica master Charlie McCoy performed “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Vince Gill did the honor of officially inducting Foster into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“When we’re brave enough and have the courage to stand up in front of someone and do this, every one of us needs a champion,” Gill said. “And you look at a man like Fred Foster, and he’s been a champion (for singers and musicians) all these years.”

“This is one of the most unbelievable things that’s ever happened to me and ever will,” Foster said.

Foster thanked his children and said he hoped “they’re a little bit proud of old dad.”

Gill draped the medallion around Foster’s neck. An emotional Foster picked up the medal, turned it over in his hand and kissed it as he wiped tears from his eyes.

Reach Cindy Watts at 615-664-2227 or ciwatts@tennessean.com.

2016 class of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees:

 Randy Travis: Modern Era Artist

Charlie Daniels: Veterans Era Artist

Fred Foster: Non-Performer


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