Three join Country Music HOF

May 17, 2009 6:53:39 PM PDT
Roy Clark, Barbara Mandrell and Charlie McCoy were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday in a ceremony that saluted them for their music as well as their contributions to bringing the genre to a mass audience through television. "All three of tonight's inductees looked at the way country music was presented on television and said: 'We can make this even better. We can present country music to a mainstream audience with respect, love and humor," said Tammy Genovese, the Country Music Association's chief executive officer.

Clark co-hosted the TV show "Hee Haw" with Buck Owens for more than two decades. Mandrell joined sisters Louise and Irlene to host "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters" on NBC in 1980.

McCoy, an ace session musician, served as musical director of "Hee Haw" for 18 years.

The three were honored in a tribute that included performances by Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Josh Turner, Michael McDonald, Rodney Crowell and others.

Crowell led a harmonica-heavy rendition of Roy Orbison's "Candy Man" for McCoy, 68, a multi-instrumentalist best known for his harmonica work.

McCoy's first session was "Candy Man" in 1961. Since then, he's recorded with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Tanya Tucker and many more.

"Well, I never really cared for harmonica or harmonica players until I heard Charlie McCoy," said Harold Bradley, a veteran session guitarist who formally inducted McCoy. "Charlie has taken harmonica playing to a whole different level. It's not just his great technique, it's his interpretation of many musical styles, from bluegrass, country and rock 'n' roll to a Hugo Montenegro album with strings and French horns."

McCoy, who continues to record and perform, said when he first arrived in town he wanted to be a singer and didn't know what a "session" was. But he learned fast watching a teenage Brenda Lee record "Sweet Nothin's" with Nashville's top studio musicians, known as the "A Team."

"When I watched those Nashville A Team musicians work I said 'To heck with singing, I want to do this,"' McCoy recalled.

The 60-year-old Mandrell began her professional career in California when she was 11. She made her national TV debut on ABC with Red Foley's "Five Star Jubilee." Her first concert tour was with Johnny and June Carter Cash, Patsy Cline and George Jones.

She charted her first single in 1969, a remake of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," and went on to have a long run of country hits including "Midnight Oil," "Married But Not to Each Other," "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" and "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool."

At the height of her career, she acted in TV shows like the "The Rockford Files" and in 1980 joined her sisters to host their show that drew 40 million viewers a week and broadened her exposure beyond country music.

Clark, 76, got his start on Jimmy Dean's TV show "Town and Country Time" and took over the show when Dean left. He moved to Las Vegas in 1960 and became a regular at the Golden Nugget. Later, he toured and recorded with Wanda Jackson and was a regular at the Frontier Hotel in Vegas.

In the '60s he had top 10 hits with "Tips of My Fingers" and "Yesterday When I Was Young." He also broke into TV, appearing on "The Tonight Show" and "The Jackie Gleason Show" and playing recurring characters on the "Beverly Hillbillies."

But Clark's biggest break came when CBS developed a country version of the comedy series "Laugh-In" and picked him and Owens to co-host.