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"I was even over at the other Hall of Fame building, before they built this one, and I got my star in the Walkway of Stars there," Reba recalled. "That was a huge, huge thing for me at the time. But to have that bronze plaque up on the wall with all my heroes who I've learned and studied and admired all these years, that's a dream come true."
Reba, Grand Ole Opry member Jean Shepard and songwriter Bobby Braddock were officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday night at the Medallion Ceremony, held in the Ford Theatre of the Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Between the three new members, a who's who list of country musicians graced the stage to honor them. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert performed Braddock's song 'Golden Ring,' while Billy Currington and Tracy Lawrence performed thier Braddock-penned hits, 'People Are Crazy' and 'Time Marches On,' respectively. After Bill Anderson inducted Braddock, George Jones joined the songwriter for a rendition of his hit 'He Stopped Loving Her Today,' with Bobby at the piano.
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Jean quipped "I'm glad you showed up" to George, who officially welcomed her to the Hall of Fame. Prior to her taking the stage, Bill Anderson and Elizabeth Cook performed her hit, 'A Dear John Letter,' Vince sang 'I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me,' and Ranger Doug of Riders in the Sky yodeled for her on 'Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar.'
George remembered meeting Jean for the first time when he opened for her in a honky tonk where he got to play her guitar. "Man I thought that was the biggest thing I'd ever done, playing there for all those 30 people," he quipped, adding "Jean was the first person to take me on tour."
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Hall of Famer Brenda Lee couldn't agree more. "When I heard she was going to be inducted I had only three words: why so long?" the petite blonde said prior to the ceremony. "She's one of those artists who has always been true to her music, and never prostituted herself to anyone or anything. She's a great singer and entertainer, and she belongs in this Hall."
Jean, who was one of the first women to tour as a solo act in country music, also said she hoped that others of her era, including Jimmy C. Newman, The Browns and Mac Wiseman, be honored with incluson into the Hall of Fame in recogntion of their "tremendous contribution to country music." Jean has made her own contributions, including breaking the stereotype for women in country music today. She has been an Opry member for 50 years, and recorded what is beleived to be the first country concept album by a female, 'Songs of a Love Affair.' Other hits from the songstress include 'Slipping Away' and 'A Satisfied Mind," the latter of which she performed to the delight of the crowd.
Jean said she received nearly 30 bouquets of flowers from friends that day, with one of the sweet ones coming from fellow Opry members, the Grand Ladies of Country Music, Jan Howard, Helen Cornelius and Jeannie Seely.
Reba said she liked surprises, and she had several throughout the evening. Red Steagall, who heard her sing 'The Star Spangled Banner' during a rodeo in Oklahoma, and paid for her to come to Nashville and record several songs to pitch to labels, was attending his first Medallion Ceremony. His generosity and belief in the red head from Oklahoma helped land her that first recording contract with Mercury Records.
"There were times when we thought she'd never get here, and there were other times when we thought what the hell are they waiting on?" the Texas singer/songwriter admitted. He added proudly, "Reba has had an unbelievable journey and has made deep tracks along the way."
Trisha Yearwood was the first person to take to the stage for Reba, performing 'How Blue.' She stopped the band, who went right into the song as she walked to the mic, saying, "I have a story!" Trisha recalled that she and her sister Beth sang 'How Blue' together all the time. "We even recorded it over in that little studio Barbara Mandrell had in her gift shop, there near the old Hall of Fame," Trisha said. "Tonight I decided I needed to borrow a sister to sing it with me ... Susie McEntire, could you come and help me?"
Vince sang Reba's hit 'Somebody Should Leave,' saying, "It is an honor to be here tonight. Reba, we've been through an awful lot together over the years, and there has been no better friend."
Garth Brooks performed 'Whoever's in New England,' and Martina McBride and Kelly Clarkson did a great rendition of Reba and Linda Davis' hit, 'Does He Love You,' receiving a standing ovation for their performance.
The final surprise of the evening for Reba was having Dolly Parton induct her into the Hall of Fame. "People ask me who my friends are in the business, and I have to say Reba," Dolly told the audience. "I feel like we are sisters, we have so much in common. Both of us have had enough hair to stuff a mattress! Both of us were on Broadway. Both of us had a TV show ... yours was a hit, mine was not."
On a more serious note, Dolly added, "I've never heard anyone put more feeling into a song."
Reba thanked everyone for her honor, adding, "Narvel (Blackstock, her husband) was really good at keeping secrets from me! This has been wonderful." Then turning to Jean and Bobby, she told her fellow inductees, "It is an honor to be inducted in the same class as you. Jean, thank you for coming before me and paving the way."
In acknowledging all the people who helped her throughout her career, which has spanned recording, television, Brodaway, a successful management company and a clothing line, Reba said, "I couldn't have done it without you ... and by God, I wouldn't have wanted to."
The inductions ended with the time-honored tradition of all the Hall of Famers present gathering onstage to sing 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken.'