Hall of Famers Strait, Bradley and James receive musical salute

By JOHN GEROME Associated Press Writer
© 2007 The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Contemporary superstar George Strait, session guitarist Harold Bradley and ’60s and ’70s hit maker Sonny James — all three recent inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame — were saluted by their peers Sunday during the hall’s annual Medallion Ceremony.

Strait, 54, has been a radio and concert favorite since breaking onto the charts in 1981. Drawing from the western swing and honky-tonk of his native Texas, Strait has consistently found success as a traditionalist even when the industry leaned heavily toward pop.

One of Strait’s musical heroes, George Jones, presented him a medallion, and several others including Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack performed his music.

“When I was a young man, George was a big part of the reason I came to Nashville,” Jackson said. “He’s a class act. I respected his music a lot. But I also respected the way he comes across.”

Strait had to pause a couple times to compose himself during his speech. He thanked his family and the people he’s worked with, crediting them for much of his success.

“From the time I first started singing country music, I dreamed of someday getting into the Hall of Fame,” said Strait, who performed one of his early hits, “Amarillo By Morning.” “It’s the ultimate achievement in this business, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted it all.”

Bradley, 81, has been called the most recorded guitarist in history, playing on records by Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and many others. He and his brother, the late producer Owen Bradley, helped create the famed Nashville sound.

Brenda Lee gave Bradley his medal, and Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire saluted him in music.

“I don’t scare easy, but I never been so terrified in my life as I am right now,” Adkins cracked before performing Conway Twitty’s 1970 hit “Hello Darlin’,” one of the many classics that feature Bradley on guitar.

Bradley became emotional as he spoke of joining his brother in the Hall of Fame.

“My plan was to be the greatest guitar player in the world. But God’s plan for me was to be the most recorded guitar player,” Bradley said, adding, “It really was a better plan.”

James, 78, was known as the Southern Gentleman for his congenial personality and gracious manner. He had his greatest success singing romantic ballads, and between 1960 and 1979 he spent 57 weeks at the top of the charts — more than any other country artist of the era.

Porter Wagoner presented James with his medal, and Gill, Randy Owen, Connie Smith, the Southern Gentlemen and Ray Stevens performed his hits.

“He always did a fantastic show for his fans. That’s why people loved him all over the country,” Wagoner said.

James recalled how he began learning music as a little boy by playing a guitar made from the bottom of a molasses bucket.

“Little did I know that I’d be in the Hall of Fame when I started on an instrument like that,” he said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

All three honorees were inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Country Music Association’s awards show in November.

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