Every year around this time, rumors and wishes start flying through the country music industry. Who will be the current year’s inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame? Each year, one artist from the modern era, one veteran artist, and one non-performer, songwriter, or musician are selected for election into the prestigious group. While the majority of Hall of Fame members made their mark specifically in the country music genre, several inductees have been known for their contributions to bluegrass music, including Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and Mac Wiseman. However, many bluegrass fans have noticed a glaring oversight in recent years. Despite their legitimate status as founding fathers of bluegrass, the Stanley Brothers have never been added to the Hall.
Our own David Morris wrote an impressive piece last year calling for the Stanleys’ nomination, pointing out the brothers’ numerous musical contributions. Ralph’s unique banjo playing, Carter’s many classic songs, and the excellent vocal style that lives on today in so many traditional bands are but a few pieces of evidence to support their inclusion in the Hall. That’s not to mention Ralph’s role as a bandleader for close to five decades after Carter’s death – both his strong work throughout the 1970s and his more recent O Brother renaissance. In fact, several of the names that are frequently tossed around for induction under the “Modern Era” category – such as Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley – got their start with the Clinch Mountain Boys.
So will this be the Stanleys’ year? You would think that, in addition to the online petitions and Facebook groups calling for their election, Ralph’s recent passing might help spur on a nomination. However, that very fact eliminates him from becoming part of the Class of 2017. According to the Country Music Association’s official election procedure, “deceased persons must have been dead one year prior to nomination.” Sadly, since Ralph passed in June 2016, that means that the Stanleys will have to wait until at least next year for the opportunity to be added to the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, the electors will then choose to recognize their merit.
In the meantime, perhaps Skaggs, Whitley, or another bluegrass-friendly personality (Larry Cordle’s name has been tossed around for the songwriter category) will get their moment in the spotlight.
Look for an official announcement from the Country Music Association sometime in March.