“All I wanted to do since I was 5 years old was be on the radio,” Buzz Jackson told attendees at Wednesday’s Country Radio Hall of Fame dinner at Nashville’s Westin Hotel. For Jackson and seven other inductees, Wednesday’s event represented the culmination of such dreams — the highest honor country radio bestows on its own.
Jackson joined Angie Ward, Bill Hagy, RJ Curtis, Bob Call, Bob Pickett, Heather Froglear and the late Norm Schrutt as 2021 inductees. Beverlee Brannigan received the President’s Award, and Keith Urban was recognized for Artist Career Achievement.
“Beverly Brannigan, over 42 years of excellence and achievement, isn't really receiving this award, so much as she spent that time making it inevitable,” said Townsquare Media’s Kurt Johnson.
Johnson and Garth Brooks introduced Urban. Brooks, his voice scratchy from a cold he picked up during his recent Dive Bar concert in Oklahoma, sang Urban’s “You’ll Think of Me.” Then both singers covered “Fishin’ in the Dark,” with Trisha Yearwood a surprise walk-on at the chorus.
Call suffered a non-life-threatening medical situation this week and was unable to attend. His induction will be formally recognized during the 2022 ceremony next June, though attendees still saw the introduction video from United Stations’ Rick Jackson, a former KYGO morning host.
Schrutt’s daughter Susan Goldberg and his longtime companion, Tamara Fuchs, accepted the honor on behalf of the radio executive and longtime agent, who died last year at age 87. “I only wish Norm were here to accept this himself,” Fuch said. “He would be over the moon with this.”
Jackson reflected on his childhood in New York and a career that has taken him from Florida to Tucson, AZ. “It's been the honor of a lifetime to be part of your life soundtrack,” he said. “In the words of William Shatner, who today became the oldest person to go into space, 'I hope I never recover from this.’”
As part of her speech, Ward addressed the career challenges associated with being a woman in radio. “I just have to take this opportunity to be completely honest that there have been a lot of challenges,” she said. I wish that it were as easy as we make it look on social media.
“I've had people tell me that middays aren't as important; that women can't host a show by themselves; that women just aren't as good at doing endorsements as men. … I hope that as Heather and I go into the Hall of Fame, we can help the next generation.”
The evening was full of stories, as well, like when Hagy recalled a 1990 visit from then-head of Arista Nashville Tim DuBois. DuBois was trying to convince the programmer to add Alan Jackson’s “Here in the Real World,” telling Hagy the label’s new signing would be the new face of 90s country. “He was right,” Hagy said. “And we did play it — as an oldie.”
RJ Curtis, like every other inductee, made a point of acknowledging the men and women who served as inspirations, mentors and career builders. “Radio is the house that built me,” Curtis said. “Everything I need to know, I learned working in a radio station with radio professionals.” He added that their collective faith reminded him of a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.”
Pickett brought one such person with him: Johnny Moore, the man who hired Pickett for his first radio job at KXOX Sweetwater, TX, attended as Pickett’s guest, and Pickett invited Moore to the stage to help unveil his plaque.
Froglear talked about the enormous power and responsibility of radio, noting that her listeners had raised more than $7 million for Loma Linda Children’s Research Hospital over the years and had also supported her through difficult times in her life.
“It’s so much more than music, than my endless babbling on,” she said. “Radio is communication. It's being authentic. It's being real. It's sharing the good, the bad, the ugly.”
Froglear also directly addressed a niece in attendance who is five years into her radio career, giving her the following advice: “Be good to others. Smile every time you open the mic. Feel the music. Even if it makes you cry, cry. Go above and beyond. Not because you have to, but because you freaking love radio. Most importantly, have fun.”
This story first appeared in Inside Radio sister publication Country Insider.