The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is a one-of-a-kind place that honors not the celebrities and stars of music, but the innovators and talented creators who “make” the music.
The Nashville, Tennessee museum features displays that showcase rare instruments, equipment, and memorabilia that help tell the stories of the people who crafted the sounds and styles in all genres of popular music, throughout America’s history.
Those innovators include musicians, producers, engineers, many of whose names are not recognized by the general public, although sometimes the innovators are the artists themselves.
Having so many familiar names as part of this year’s Hall of Fame class, says a lot about the special group of inductees.
The driving force for Vince Gill, Billy Gibbons, Marty Stuart, Ray Stevens, and Don McLean, has never been about seeking fame and fortune, it’s been about the love of playing music.
That’s true, too, for George Massenburg, an engineer who worked on more than 400 records with artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Linda Ronstadt, Lyle Lovett, and others, and James William Guercio, a producer and musician who worked with Chicago, the Beach Boys, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and more.
All make up the Class of 2022.
The 2022 inductees were presented their medallions in a private ceremony early in the afternoon of November 22nd6, then had a more public induction during a Hall of Fame show and concert later that evening. The concert featured numerous performances, many with the artists themselves, touching in a small way on each of the inductees’ contributions to music.
Vince Gill commented on how special it was to be part of this specific specific Hall of Fame class.
“Marty and I have been friends since we were 15 years old (in the bluegrass world),” Gill said. “And I toured with Billy Gibbons and ZZ Top in 1980 when I was with Pure Prairie League. We opened for them. So, there’s a lot of neat history in who’s part of this night. I get to share it with a lot of old friends.”
One of his friends, singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell, was the one who inducted Gill into the Hall of Fame, and even performed one of Gill’s songs in his honor.
Gill has played in a number of different bands throughout his career, most recently with the Eagles. He’s well-known for going out of his way to help and encourage other artists. In fact, he’s played, sang harmony, and often done both on more than 1000 records for other artists.
He says his love for what he does has never been about being front and center on the stage, it’s always been about the music.
“As a kid, I didn’t stand in front of the mirror with a hairbrush thinking I was going to be Elvis. I had my head down, I wanted to be like Scotty Moore, his guitar player. Then it was Buck Owens’ guitar player, then I wanted to be a harmony singer. I was never that interested in being up front. So, getting this induction tonight feels like maybe a fairer and more honest representation of who I’ve always seen myself as.”
Marty Stuart left Mississippi at the age of 12 to joined Lester Flatt’s band as a mandolin and guitar player, then later played with Johnny Cash, before becoming a solo artist. Stuart was inducted along with his band, The Fabulous Superlatives, and says for him, like Gill, the goal has always been just getting the opportunity to play great music.
“It’s a strange feeling because I just get up and go to work every day and that’s the truth,” Stuart said. “And then, there are these mountaintops along the way. I heard somebody say one time that everybody likes to get a gold star in Sunday school and that’s a good way to put it. It’s wonderful to be recognized and I’m really, really happy to share it with the Superlatives, that’s the beauty of this one.”
Stuart and his group, who were inducted by good friend and fellow musician Steve Miller, performed with Miller (he played harmonica), but also did a song called “Heaven” in memory of Musicians Hall of Fame founder, Joe Chambers. Chambers passed away in September and was much-loved and highly regarded for his many contributions on behalf of musicians. Chambers’ name was warmly mentioned many times throughout the night, as Chambers wife, Linda, stepped in to her new role as CEO, to continue her husband’s work.
Ray Stevens was another member of class of 2022 who moved to Nashville simply to “play” music. He became a prolific songwriter, producer, and arranger, and eventually a star himself. In presenting Stevens with his medallion, the Hall of Fame’s Jay McDowell smiled, noting it’s hard to believe Stevens was the same person who wrote the emotional “Everything is Beautiful,” and then, “The Streak.” The multi-talented 83-year-old Stevens performed both songs flawlessly that night.
Stevens said he was proud to be inducted.
“I came here to be a musician, not to be a star,” he said. “Along the way I wrote and recorded some hits, so it kind of took me away from the studio scene. But I spent a lot of time in the studios as a musician, arranger, and producer, so this is quite meaningful to me.”
Don Mclean was honored for etching his name in history with his classic song “American Pie,” as well as his musicianship on songs like “Vincent” and others. McLean performed both songs at the evening concert.
It’s been a busy year for McLean who was featured in a documentary that told the story behind “American Pie,” and featured him doing something fans had waited 50 years to hear, giving his explanation of the lyrics.
Billy Gibbons was credited with creating so many iconic riffs as lead guitarist for ZZ Top over the past five decades, it was hard to choose one riff to single out. He was inducted in the Iconic Riff category.
“I’m so honored to join this gang of deserving individuals that have put their best foot forward offering what that creative spark has allowed them to do,” Gibbons said. “And accepting this honor gives us a reason to do more.”
Gibbons, who had a friendship with another great guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, recently got to play one of Hendrix’s guitars on Jimmy Kimmel, after the discovery of an old Jimi Hendrix recording.
“They recently discovered a live recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience from 1969, recorded at the Forum in Los Angeles,” Gibbons explained. “I happened to be there the night of that show. Jimi called me up in Detroit and said, ‘Hey man, come on over. We’re playing in Los Angeles for a couple of days.”
Gibbons shared a photo of himself at 17, alongside Hendrix. It was a little before he started growing his famous beard.
“Yeah,” he said, laughing. “We were just starting.”
Gibbons said it was “a wild night” in LA back in 1969 and he was excited to play some Hendrix songs on one of Hendrix’s guitars in his old friend’s honor, on the Jimmy Kimmel show.
“It turned out to be a splendid affair. It was quite something.”
On stage at the Musicians Hall of Fame Induction and Concert, Gibbons helped share a little bit about what the night was all about – the celebration of musicianship.
Joined by singer/musician and friend Steve Wariner, who inducted Gibbons, Gibbons kicked off a dynamic jam session with the Hall of Fame’s house band. It had everybody moving – fast.
As he played ZZ Top songs, “Tush” and “LaGrange,” the legendary guitarist began signaling different musicians, to play a solo – on the spot. When he finished with one, he’d whip around and cue another. Gibbons went round and round, back to each musician than once, cuing them with little or no notice. They all rose to the occasion and clearly, loved it. Everybody got a chance to shine.
Earlier, Gibbons noted that every inductee in the Class of 2022 has been making music for decades, with no indication of stopping anytime soon. He wraps up ZZ Top’s 2022 tour. then will finish out the year with a residency in Las Vegas.
Vince Gill just finished a new not-yet-released album with steel guitar great, Paul Franklin, showcasing the music of Ray Price. Gill has also been writing songs for his own new record in 2023 and will do his annual Christmas shows at the Ryman Auditorium with wife, Amy Grant, in December.
Marty Stuart has a new song out called “Country Star,’ with a new album to follow in March of 2023. He’s building the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi with Phase 1 of that, the Ellis Theater, set to open in December.
“Me, Connie (Smith), the Superlatives, and blues guitarist, Jontavious Willis will perform December 8th,” Stuart said. “The 9th is Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill is the 10th, and the 11th is a Gospel singing day. The theater is already booked through May.”
Ray Stevens continues writing songs and performing at his Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom in Nashville. He’s doing Christmas shows two nights a week.
And Don McLean takes his 50th Anniversary tour of “American Pie” to Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
“It’s fun to see that the creative spirit is an energy that just doesn’t go away,” Gibbons said.
Congratulations to all of this year’s inductees.