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Brooks and Dunn, Ray Stevens inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame

Ray Stevens, from left, Jerry Bradley, Ronnie Dunn, and Kix Brooks pose at a press conference announcing that they will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Monday, March 18, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
Ray Stevens, from left, Jerry Bradley, Ronnie Dunn, and Kix Brooks pose at a press conference announcing that they will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Monday, March 18, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The best-selling country duo of all time, Brooks & Dunn, joined the Country Music Hall of Fame alongside comedian and singer Ray Stevens and record executive Jerry Bradley on Sunday evening, in a star-filled ceremony full of tributes to their lasting legacies.

Reba McEntire, Luke Bryan, Trisha Yearwood, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt were among the guest performers during the medallion ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Each inductee received a medallion and a plaque that will be placed inside the Hall of Fame rotunda.

(L-R) Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and Reba McEntire onstage at the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum on Oct. 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.
(L-R) Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and Reba McEntire onstage at the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum on Oct. 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. CP Images Archive

Brooks & Dunn were an unlikely pairing of two artists who both started out solo.

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Neither Kix Brooks nor Ronnie Dunn thought the partnership would last, but decades later they are the most awarded and bestselling country duo of all time, with 19 CMA Awards, two Grammys, 25 Academy of Country Music Awards and 20 No. 1 hits.

Brooks’ flamboyant nature and guitar playing served as the perfect counterpoint to Dunn’s stellar singing and more understated personality.

With hits such as Brand New Man, Boot Scootin’ Boogie, My Maria and Neon Moon, the pair filled arenas and sold more than 28 million albums in the U.S. alone.

(L-R) Janine Dunn, Ronnie Dunn, Kix Brooks and Barbara Brooks at the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum on Oct. 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.
(L-R) Janine Dunn, Ronnie Dunn, Kix Brooks and Barbara Brooks at the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum on Oct. 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. CP Images Archive

They took a break in 2010, but reunited in the studio nearly a decade later to release new duet versions of their hits with today’s country stars in an album called Reboot.

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Brooks has often said he never understood why they made such a good pair, but it happened immediately.

“Putting the two of us together on a Tuesday, and us writing our first two No. 1 records on a Thursday and Friday is just weird,” Brooks said.

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Dunn acknowledged that he was often over-analytical of himself and noted that even his therapist was in attendance that night. But he said that he tried hard to keep himself from getting too emotional.

“I have never been so proud and humble,” he said.

The Reboot album and the induction has put them back in the spotlight again and they are nominated for both duo of the year and musical event at the CMA Awards in November.

Kix Brooks, left, and Ronnie Dunn, right, speak after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at 2019 Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.
Kix Brooks, left, and Ronnie Dunn, right, speak after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at 2019 Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. Sanford Myers/Invision/AP

“We had every intention of quitting, and we did for a few minutes,” Brooks said, “But I think we realize now how lucky we are.”

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Reba McEntire, who has played alongside Brooks & Dunn since the ’90s and has a longstanding Las Vegas residency with the duo, came to put the medallions over their heads and joked that she considered them her “big brothers.”

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Comedian and country singer Ray Stevens, who learned to play piano as a child in Clarkdale, Georgia, is known for his novelty songs like The Streak and Ahab the Arab, but also the earnest and Grammy-winning Everything is Beautiful.

He is an all-around entertainer who has worked as a TV personality, producer, session musician and songwriter. He currently still performs at his own dinner theater in Nashville, CabaRay.

Ricky Skaggs performed the jazz standard Misty, which Stevens rearranged into a country bluegrass version that became his biggest country hit in 1975 and earned him a Grammy for arrangement.

Ray Stevens speaks during the annual announcement of inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame Monday, March 18, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Stevens will be inducted along with the duo Brooks & Dunn and Jerry Bradley.
Ray Stevens speaks during the annual announcement of inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame Monday, March 18, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Stevens will be inducted along with the duo Brooks & Dunn and Jerry Bradley. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The McCrary Sisters performed a gospel version of Everything is Beautiful, which brought tears to Stevens, who was seated in the front row.

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Stevens, 80, said that since his induction was announced earlier this year, people had been saying it was about time he was honoured.

“Anytime is a good time to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” he said. But he joked that if the induction had come sooner, he “could have upped his booking fees.”

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Jerry Bradley came from a legacy of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, including his father, the producer Owen Bradley who was the architect of the Nashville Sound, and uncle Harold Bradley, a famed guitarist.

Jerry Bradley became head of RCA Nashville in 1973, succeeding Chet Akins and bringing in new artists like Alabama and Ronnie Milsap.

He helped market the outlaws of country music in a platinum-selling album called Wanted: The Outlaws. Under his leadership, the careers of Dolly Parton and Charley Pride flourished.

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Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt performed Good Hearted Woman, a song made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Americana star Yola gave an electrifying performance of Jolene and Old Crow Medicine Show made Alabama’s Dixieland Delight into a frantic bluegrass breakdown with Molly Tuttle.

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“This business has given me a wonderful life,” Bradley said. “I am grateful for the people I’ve met, the songs I’ve heard and the part I’ve played.”