Music

Toby Keith Died Right Before He Was to Learn of His Country Music Hall of Fame Induction

The late songwriter will join “Swingin'” singer John Anderson and guitarist James Burton in the class of 2024 inductees

Toby Keith is one of the 2024 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The songwriter died Feb. 5 after a long battle with stomach cancer — one day before the names of the final inductees were to be delivered to the Hall of Fame staff.

Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, announced Keith as one of this year’s inductees and walked through the nomination process during a press conference in the Hall of Fame’s Rotunda Monday morning. “My heart sank that Tuesday afternoon knowing that we had missed the chance to inform Toby while he was still with us, but I have no doubt that he is smiling down on us, knowing that he will always be ‘as good as he once was,’” she said, nodding to one of Keith’s many hit songs.

Keith, already a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, will be inducted in the Modern Era Artist category.

John Anderson, the “Swingin’” vocalist known for his distinct country voice, will be inducted in the Veteran Era Artist category, which recognizes an artist who rose to prominence before 1979. On hand to receive the news of his coming induction, Anderson reflected on joining many of his friends, from Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl to George Jones and Merle Haggard, who are already members of the Hall. “Just the fact that I get a chance to be among this type of greatness, words really can’t explain for me how important this is,” he said. “Music is what’s kept me driven since I was a child.”

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Finally, James Burton, the pioneering rock and country guitarist, will be inducted in the Recording and/or Touring Musician Category. Burton — No. 24 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 250 Greatest Guitarists of All Time — was a longtime member of Elvis Presley’s TCB Band. He also toured with John Denver and recorded with everyone from Gram Parsons to Johnny Cash. Burton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.

Keith, Anderson, and Burton will officially be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the Medallion Ceremony in October.

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