Crystal Gayle – photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Today, the Academy of Country Music announced Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, and The Statler Brothers will be honored with the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award during the 10th Annual ACM Honors, an evening dedicated to recognizing the special honorees and off-camera category winners from the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards. The event will take place in the fall at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
Crystal Gayle traversed new territory as the first female country artist to achieve platinum album sales with her 1977 project We Must Believe in Magic, containing her crossover smash “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” The Kentucky native and younger sister of Loretta Lynn has been connecting with fans of country-pop for five decades, starting with the release of her debut single in 1970. Often working with hit-making producer Allen Reynolds, Gayle scored 20 No. 1 country hits during the 1970s and ‘80s, including “You Never Miss a Real Good Thing (Till He Says Goodbye),” “I’ll Get Over You,” and “Talking in Your Sleep.” She toured worldwide and starred in several prime-time television specials. In total, Gayle’s career yielded six Gold albums and four prestigious ACM Awards.
Since the release of her debut single, “Delta Dawn,” at age 13, Tanya Tucker has been influencing generations of female artists. The 1972 hit, under the guidance of legendary producer Billy Sherrill, was the first in Tucker’s string of 56 Top 40 singles, including 10 No. 1s. Boosting her success was her willingness to address difficult topics, such as adultery and revenge in the song “Blood Red and Goin’ Down.” During the ‘70s and ‘80s, Tucker scored with “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone),” “Texas (When I Die),” “Can I See You Tonight,” and “One Love at a Time.” The 1990s marked a professional high-point for Tucker, thanks to memorable songs “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” “Down to My Last Teardrop,” and “It’s a Little Too Late.” Tucker is the recipient of two ACM Awards. Today, more than fifty years since her first record deal, she is still actively touring and making music.
The Statler Brothers was a pioneering quartet comprised of Harold Reid, Don Reid, Phil Balsley, original member Lew DeWitt–and later member Jimmy Fortune. Fortune is the only remaining member who continues to tour, and he recently released his first solo album which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. The Virginia natives intertwined gospel-inspired harmonies with country songs, getting their professional break in 1964 as Johnny Cash’s backing vocalists and opening act. This launched a career that would yield numerous hits in the 1960s through 1980s, including “Flowers on the Wall,” “Bed of Rose’s,” “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine?,” “Elizabeth,” “My Only Love” and “Too Much on My Heart.” Many of their signature songs were helmed by producer Jerry Kennedy. The Statlers often used humor in their music and performances, leading to frequent appearances on Cash’s popular television show and their own successful program on The Nashville Network (TNN) in the early to mid-1990s. The Statlers garnered two ACM Awards and 2008 induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Past recipients of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award include Alabama, Bob Beckham, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, The Judds, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs, Mel Tillis, Randy Travis, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Keith Whitley, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Wills and Dwight Yoakam, among others.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.