NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare and the late "Cowboy" Jack Clement - three men whose influence still ripples across the surface of modern music - are now members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The three were saluted by stars Garth Brooks, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Barry Gibb, John Prine and others during a ceremony today at the newly expanded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Rogers helped push country music farther into pop music territory than it had ever been. He could go deep country with songs like "The Gambler," ''Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" and "Lucille," but he also had crossover pop hits like "Islands in the Stream" and "Lady," foreshadowing today's more pop-friendly country sounds.
Bare scored dozens of hits like "Dee-troit City" and "How I Got to Memphis," mining the work of left-of-center Nashville songwriters like Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein. Though he was never really part of the so-called outlaw movement in country music, he was close friends with many artists who were and his insistence on controlling his own musical choices was an inspiration for others like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Clement's resume as producer, songwriter, performer, inspiration, raconteur and bon vivant is too lengthy to list, but he veered all across popular music over the last half century. He was Sam Phillips' first producer-engineer at Sun Records in Memphis. He wrote some of Johnny Cash's early hits, putting those unforgettable mariachi horns on "Ring of Fire," and was a repeated touchstone for The Man in Black.
Clement found out in February that he would be inducted into the hall of fame, about five months before he passed away in August from liver cancer at 82.