NASHVILLE -- Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare and Jack Clement are the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The trio of trailblazing inductees attended a news conference April 10 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to announce the class of 2013.
Each had a significant impact on country music in his own way, helping spread the genre far beyond its traditional borders.
With songs like the omnipresent The Gambler, Lucille and the Lionel Richie-produced Lady, Rogers was both a pop music crossover and a pop culture sensation in the 1970s and '80s. He starred in TV movies in the role of The Gambler, helped country cross over into the pop world and with his trademark white hair and beard remains one of music's most recognizable figures. He was inducted in the modern era category.
"I tell you I came here one day with some friends of mine and walked around looking at these plaques," Rogers said, "and this is truly rarified air in here."
An artist and producer, "Cowboy" Jack Clement played a crucial role in the history of rock 'n' roll, working as a producer and engineer at Sun Records during an era when acts like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley changed the way we listen to music.
He produced Cash's iconic Ring of Fire, adding the mariachi horns that became the song's signature. He sent Jerry Lee Lewis away, his daughter said in an acceptance speech she read for her father, because he was singing the songs of others. He instructed the future rock 'n' roll legend to find his own sound before he came back.
Clement joined Cash and Presley in the hall of fame Wednesday, entering in the non-performer category.
And Bare, inducted in the veterans era, charted his own path after being signed by Chet Atkins. Once a roommate of Willie Nelson, he emulated the freethinking outlaw movement, though he never actually joined it, by inspiring his contemporaries to move freely from country to pop and rock, and back again.
"Did I do that?" Bare joked after hearing his biography read.
Rogers, Bare and Clement will be formally inducted in a ceremony later this year.
-- The Associated Press