It was a night devoted mostly to musicianship in the form of Skaggs, who started his career as a child prodigy on mandolin, and Gimble, who played Western swing fiddle on numerous iconic country records. West was recognized as a trailblazing female singer who helped many others succeed in Nashville.
Fellow Hall of Famer Brenda Lee invited several women on stage to help induct West, including Trisha Yearwood and Emmylou Harris. "We've waited a long time for this to happen," Lee said. West was the first woman to receive a Grammy for best female country performance in 1965 for her song "Here Comes My Baby." The McMinnville, Tennessee-born singer was best known for hits like "Country Sunshine," which became a popular advertising jingle for Coca-Cola, and her duets with Kenny Rogers, including "Every Time Two Fools Collide."
West and Rogers won two CMA Awards for duo of the year in the 1970s. She was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was on her way to a performance there when she was injured in a car wreck in 1991. She later died of her injuries at the age of 58.
The Cordell, Kentucky-born Skaggs first played Bill Monroe's famed and priceless Gibson F-5 mandolin when Skaggs was just 6 years old. He wowed audiences as a child on a syndicated television show hosted by bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
Along with Keith Whitley, he learned under the tutelage of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. He became a country music star in the 1980s, with several No. 1 hits that mixed his bluegrass influences with Telecasters and steel guitars, including "Heartbroke" ''Highway 40 Blues" and "Country Boy."
He was named entertainer of the year at the CMA Awards in 1985. By the '90s he rededicated himself to bluegrass through his band, Kentucky Thunder, and has earned more than a dozen Grammy Awards. Skaggs said that he learned about bluegrass from the originators of the genre, artists like Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs and Stanley.
"I am thankful to be a carrier of that original seed," Skaggs said. In a rare moment, Skaggs was reunited with Monroe's mandolin, an instrument more than 90 years old that is normally kept under glass at the museum. Skaggs kissed the mandolin and played "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Gimble, of Tyler, Texas, was a celebrated sideman who played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in the 1950s before coming to Nashville to become an in-demand studio musician. He was a consider a superpicker by Chet Akins, played in Willie Nelson's touring band and played on records for George Strait, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and many more. He was named instrumentalist of the year five times at the CMA Awards and was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994. He died in 2015 at the age of 88.
His widow, Barbara Gimble, said it was "a shock and a surprise that they remembered Johnny." __ Online: http://countrymusichalloffame.org/