Christie Goodwin, Redferns
"I'm a huge fan of every artist," the Gospel Music Association's reigning Artist of the Year Jason Crabb told The Boot. Jason, who hosted the event with Jaci Velasquez, was part of a special tribute to Ricky, performing "Somebody's Praying for Me." "Ricky is amazing. I love him with all my heart. He's a great man. If I was sitting in the audience, I'd be blown away, but I'm very thankful GMA has allowed me to be a part of this night. I'm ecstatic. I'm almost at a loss for words and that's unusual for me."
Though Ricky has won numerous accolades -- including 14 Grammys, eight CMA Awards, eight ACM Awards and eleven IBMA Awards -- news of his induction took him by surprise. "I was so shocked. I was so surprised," he told The Boot. "I thought, 'How do they figure this?' I know I'm a Christian and I've been singing about the Lord all my life, but the places I play, the church don't go. Even though I've recorded [gospel albums] Mosaic, Soldier of the Cross, and Salt of the Earth with the Whites, I've never really been considered a Christian artist ... I was humbled. There's a lot of people that deserve this a heck of a lot more than me that are out there doing it all the time."
Though known primarily for his country and bluegrass hits, Ricky has long been a devoted Christian and says being recognized for his work in the gospel field is particularly meaningful to him. "It's really special. The Grammys and all those things I've won are very nice," he says, "but to be awarded and to have something like this because of my faith, it's more special than any award I've won."
James Sulcer, The Judy Nelon Group
The Isaacs also performed in tribute to Ricky during the event and bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent welcomed Ricky to the stage to receive his medallion. Another highlight of the evening came when the Hoppers joined the Talleys on stage for a rousing performance of "Jerusalem."
"What a humbling experience," Kim Hopper told The Boot of the family's induction. "The group has been in existence for 55 years, obviously not Dean and I, but his parents. I've been on the road since I was five and he's been on the road since he was seven. We've been laughing and saying if we'd had a real job we could have retired by now as long as we've been doing this."
Kim and her husband Dean Hopper travel with his brother, Michael, and parents Claude and Connie. The group's new album, Count Me In, releases in October. "We work about 200 days a year and we love what we do. We feel it's really important that we speak to families to love each other and be good to each other cause you never know what tomorrow holds," says Kim.
"If she can travel 200 days with her mother-in-law then anybody can get along," Dean interrupts with a mischievous laugh.
"They have been wonderful. We have a wonderful relationship," Kim smiles.
During the evening, family and friends took the stage to honor the inductees. Michael W. Smith spoke of how buying a Love Song album as a teenager in West Virginia changed his life. The late Rex Humbard's family took the stage to celebrate the legacy of their father, and Dallas Holm's grown children, Jeffrey and Jennifer, spoke lovingly of their father's impact on them as well as the millions he touched through his music. Nathan and Suzanne Young, the group Kairos and the legendary Dottie Peoples performed a tribute to Aretha Franklin.
Though unable to attend the event, Aretha accepted her honor on video saying, "It means an awful lot to me. Of course this is where I come from, my roots and my background are in gospel. My dad, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, pastored the New Bethel Baptist Church for 38 years. [That] is where I came from out of the junior choir so to receive this beautiful award means an awful lot to me. I will put it in a very, very special place. Thank you so much."