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Ricky Skaggs, Dottie West and Johnny Gimble headed to Country Music Hall of Fame

Ricky Skaggs, Dottie West and Johnny Gimble achieved country music's greatest honor on Tuesday morning when they were announced as this year's inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The emotional event, hosted by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, was held in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's rotunda, where plaques commemorating the Hall's 133 previous inductees adorn the walls.

The Class of 2018, which was selected by an anonymous panel of industry leaders assembled by the CMA, will officially be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a medallion ceremony in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's CMA Theater later this year. Johnny Gimble, a consummate Western Swing fiddler who played with artists including Bob Wills, Willie Nelson and George Strait, is this year’s Recording and/or Touring Musician inductee.John Paul Gimble was born May 30, 1926 near Tyler, Texas. He learned to play the fiddle and mandolin as a boy and drew inspiration from many influences, including jazz violinist Stuff Smith and Western Swing fiddler Cliff Bruner. By the age of 12, he was playing at dances and on radio stations with his brothers in a band that would eventually be named the Rose City Swingsters. In 1949, he began playing with the king of Western Swing, Bob Wills, as part of his Texas Playboys band; three years later, Gimble fiddled on Marty Robbins' debut single, "I'll Go on Alone," which topped the country charts.He moved to Nashville in the late 1960s.

In Music City, he was an in-demand session player. He appeared on now-classic recordings like Connie Smith's "If It Ain't Love," Merle Haggard's "If We Make It Through December,” Chet Atkins' 1974 album "Superpickers" and George Strait's version of "Right or Wrong." Over his 60-plus years in music, Gimble won two Grammys for his work with Western Swing outfit Asleep at the Wheel, five Instrumentalist of the Year Awards from the Country Music Association and Fiddler of the Year Awards from the Academy of Country Music. In 1994, he was awarded a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.He appeared multiple times on "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Austin City Limits. In 2010, released his final album "Celebrating with Friends," a collection of collaborations with artists like Nelson, Haggard, Ray Benson, Dale Watson, Vince Gill and others. Gimble died May 9, 2015 at the age of 88. His son, Dick, and granddaughter Emily performed Gimble's jaunty "Under the 'X' in Texas" in his memory during the induction announcement. Daughter Cyndy paraphrased her father: "The money, the awards, that stuff's nice. But the magic, that’s what keeps you playing. That’s what never wears off.” For years, Dottie West’s name has been invoked in discussions about surprising Hall of Fame omissions. Those discussions ended Tuesday morning.

West, known for hits like “Country Sunshine” and “A Lesson in Leavin’” is this year’s Veterans Era inductee. "One of first things I thought of when I found out (about West's forthcoming induction) three weeks ago was this day and the thousands of fans cheering and rejoicing this moment," said granddaughter Tess Frizzell. Dorothy Marie Marsh was born outside McMinnville, Tenn. on Oct. 11, 1932. As a young woman she sang and played guitar, and was offered a scholarship to attend Tennessee Technological University, where she studied music. In the early 1960s, she and then-husband Bill West moved to Nashville so that Dottie could pursue her country music career. Her home became a hub for songwriters like Roger Miller, and West began writing her own songs. One of her compositions, “Is This Me,” became a hit for Jim Reeves in 1963, and West was signed to RCA. Her first solo Top 10 single, “Here Comes My Baby,” was released in 1964; the song’s success earned her a spot on the Grand Ole Opry as well as the first Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy Award. “Dottie knocked down doors for all these women (in country music) today,” country artist Steve Wariner, who played in West’s band when he was just a teenager, told The Tennessean in 2016. “She had her own publishing company: First Generation Music. When I came to town, you never heard of anything like that. I remember her saying, ‘If a man can do it, I know damn well that I can do it.’ She was fearless in that way.”

In the early 1970s, West’s cheerful Coca-Cola jingle, “Country Sunshine,” became one of her biggest hits and eventually her signature song. Later that decade, she and Kenny Rogers, with whom she’d record hits like “Every Time Two Fools Collide,” took home Vocal Duo of the Year honors at two consecutive CMA Awards.West released her final studio album, “Just Dottie,” in 1984. She died Sept. 4, 1991, several days after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident on her way to the Opry. This fall, she will be the first female artist posthumously inducted into the Hall since Tammy Wynette in 1998. Ricky Skaggs, the Hall’s Modern Era inductee, has been making music for more than 50 years. He was born in Cordell, KY. on July 18, 1954 and by the age of five, was playing the mandolin. At six years old, he shared the stage with the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe; at seven, he appeared on Flatt and Scruggs’ television show. As teenagers, Skaggs and his friend Keith Whitley joined Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys; the lineup that included Whitley and Skaggs is regarded by many bluegrass fans as Stanley's best. The teens played countless concerts with the bluegrass great and appeared on his “Cry From the Cross” record. After few years of Stanley’s grueling schedule, Skaggs left the Clinch Mountain Boys. During the ‘70s, Skaggs was a member of some of the finest bands in country and bluegrass history: the Country Gentlemen, JD Crowe and the New South and Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. Now, he fronts his own top-notch group, Kentucky Thunder.

When Skaggs began pursuing a solo career in the late 1970s and early 1980s, country-pop crossover acts like Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers were topping the charts. Skaggs, with his high lonesome tenor and dazzling mandolin picking, was an unlikely star in the making. He notched his first No. 1 country hit, “Crying My Heart Out Over You (a song originally recorded by Flatt and Scruggs) in 1981. A slew of chart-toppers followed, including “I Don’t Care,” “Honey (Open That Door),” “Uncle Pen” and “Country Boy.” He became a Grand Ole Opry member in 1982, and in 1985, he won the Country Music Association’s top award: Entertainer of the Year. He’s got 15 Grammys to his name, and is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Musicians Hall of FameA stellar multi-instrumentalist, Skaggs has collaborated with a wide variety of artists over the years, including Bruce Hornsby, Ry Cooder, Tony Rice and Jack White’s band The Raconteurs.

In 2014, Skaggs and his wife, Sharon White, released the country duets album “Hearts Like Ours” on Skaggs Family Records. "It's an absolute honor to be inducted," said Skaggs, who ended his emotional speech with a joke: "To all my fans out there that thought I was already a member of the Hall of Fame, today makes it official."

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