Vince Gill, Mel Tillis, Ralph Emery chosen for Country Music Hall of Fame

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Country star Vince Gill, singer and humorist Mel Tillis and radio/TV personality Ralph Emery will become the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Country Music Association's selections were announced Tuesday by Hall of Fame director Kyle Young and singers Barbara Mandrell and Brenda Lee.

Gill said in an emotional speech that he was overwhelmed by the honor and feels blessed to be able to create and perform music for a living.

"It's been an amazing journey since I learned to play 'Wildwood Flower' on guitar," said Gill, who was accompanied by his wife, pop and Christian singer Amy Grant, whom he thanked for being a "beautiful friend."

Gill, 50, has had a versatile career. He played bluegrass with Ricky Skaggs, country rock with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and pop with the Pure Prairie League before becoming a country star in the early '90s with hits like "When I Call Your Name" and "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away." Later, he recorded with artists as diverse as Barbra Streisand, Mark Knopfler, Diana Krall and Gladys Knight.

Tillis said he was working in his garden when CMA chief operating officer Tammy Genovese called him with the news.

"I dropped my eggplant," he cracked.

Tillis, who turns 75 today, began his career as a songwriter, penning classics such as Bobby Bare's "Detroit City." As a recording artist, Tillis hit his stride in the 1970s. He's had about 40 entries in the Top 10, including "Good Woman Blues," "Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rain."

Emery, 74, selected in the nonperformer category, was a disc jockey on WSM, which broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry. He also hosted TV programs including "Pop! Goes the Country" and "Nashville Now." His current show, "Ralph Emery Live," is on the cable network RFD-TV.

This year, the three newest members of the Hall of Fame will be formally inducted at a Medallion Ceremony in October, rather than during the nationally televised Country Music Association Awards Show.

Inductees are chosen by the CMA's Hall of Fame Panel of Electors, a group of more than 300 anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors.

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