It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors in Nashville – and even harder to believe that until now, two of the city’s most revered pickers weren't part of the club.
That overdue honor finally arrived Tuesday night, when Vince Gill and Marty Stuart (along with the rest of his band, The Fabulous Superlatives) were inducted into the Hall as part of its seventh class.
The two were in fine company. Their fellow inductees included ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons, “American Pie” songsmith Don McLean and comedic country great Ray Stevens, as well as producer Jim Guercio and recording engineer George Massenburg.
The museum – a treasure trove of artifacts and instruments that were played on rock, country and R&B classics – sits on the bottom level of Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The inductees first gathered at the museum for a private medallion ceremony with friends and family, then headed upstairs for an all-star concert in their honor.
This was the Hall’s first induction event in three years, and it also served as a tribute to its late founder and CEO, Joe Chambers, who died in September at age 68. His wife, Linda Chambers, is the organization’s newly appointed CEO, and said her husband “spent most of his time in the hospital planning this show.”
“He loved the players,” Guercio said. “He loved the engineers. He loved the producers. There wasn’t anybody in the process that he didn’t respect.”
Following a speech and musical tribute from Rodney Crowell, (he sang “Liza Jane,”) Vince Gill took the stage with an acoustic guitar.
“All these guys up here,” he said, gesturing to the house band stacked with local players, “and the friendships I’ve made out of this music has been unbelievable. I tried to think of a song that would encapsulate the meaning and the depth of this night. And I came up with this one, because it’s a true story. “
That was “This Old Guitar and Me,” a self-penned song about a lifetime spent with a 1942 Martin at your side.
Stuart and his bandmates were inducted by their friend and past tourmate Steve Miller, who called them “an inspiration to anyone who hears them play.”
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No matter when it happened, Stuart was destined for this club – not just as a master instrumentalist, but a listener with unmatched reverence for what inspired him.
He talked about a sound that “lit everything inside of me up” as a kid: Luther Perkins’ Fender Esquire guitar, as heard on Johnny Cash’s “At Folsom Prison.” That same guitar, he noted, was downstairs at the museum.
“I just wanted to be in a band that played our own songs, but we were also the correspondents, and reminders, for our heroes.”
The band’s performance included “Country Boy Rock and Roll,” “Streamline” (with Miller on harmonica) and the night’s musical standout, the accapella “Heaven,” in tribute to Chambers.
Introduced by another accapella group (and recent collaborators) Home Free, McLean was game to turn in his two biggest songs. There was “Vincent,” which echoed across the auditorium with serene pedal steel guitar, and the epic “American Pie,” with backing vocals from Home Free.
“I'm not folk, and I'm not rock, and I'm not country,” McLean said while recalling his long history with Nashville. “I'm just me.”
“It’s nice to find a home for what I do,” he later added.
“I’ll never live up to that,” Stevens joked after an extensive video package ran through his 60-plus year career. But he quickly proved himself wrong, showing the range of his hitmaking talent with a mini-set that began with the affirming ballad “Everything Is Beautiful” and ended with perhaps his signature novelty tune, “The Streak.”
On stage, he called the evening “almost perfect” – because Chambers wasn’t there.
Gibbons — who was presented with the “Iconic Riff Award” — was a late addition to the class, and laughed as he told the crowd that he was surprised to learn he was coming to Nashville to be inducted this week.
Clearly, the man doesn’t require much notice to set a stage ablaze, treating the house to ZZ Top’s “Tush,” and finally “La Grange” (armed with one of the most iconic riffs around).
“What an honor it is to be inducted with such a great bunch of deserving individuals,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Musicians Hall of Fame inducts Vince Gill, Billy Gibbons and more