Ronnie Milsap performs in November 2013
04/22/2014 at 02:30 PM EDT
The Songwriter. The Bluegrass Musician. The Piano Man. In the rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame, surrounded by 121 bronze plaques representing current members, Kix Brooks emceed a press conference announcing Hank Cochran, Mac Wiseman and Ronnie Milsap as the organization's 2014 inductees.
Singer Bobby Bare, inducted last year, paid tribute to his friend Cochran, who passed away in 2010, referring to him as The Legend, and noting to laughter that "he called himself a legend long before he was." Among Cochran's masterpieces are "I Fall to Pieces" (co-written with Harlan Howard), "The Chair," "Ocean Front Property" and "Make the World Go Away."
Wiseman – entering as a Veteran Era Artist – sang high harmonies for Flatt & Scruggs's Foggy Mountain Boys and Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys before striking out on his own. "I've been in the music business for 70 years," he told the crowd. "I hope I'm worthy of this honor."
Hunter Hayes jumped briefly off his I Am Not Invisible tour for the honor of introducing "an unbelievable hero of mine. The first time I saw him I couldn't believe that he really did sound just like his records! I am tearing up right now just talking about him, Ronnie Milsap."
Milsap – representing the Modern Era Artist – first made his mark as a piano player (responsible for keyboards on Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain") and was encouraged by Charley Pride to move to Nashville. He was signed to RCA Records in 1973 and had a string of country-pop hits that included "Pure Love," "What a Difference You've Made in My Life," "(There's) No Getting' Over Me," "Stranger in My House" and "I Wouldn't Have Missed It For the World." He was named CMA Male Vocalist of the Year three times and Entertainer of the Year in 1977.
"I've wanted to be in the Hall of Fame as long as I can remember," Milsap said. "I wouldn't have gotten here without my wife Joyce, who brought me to Nashville and who has played every role anyone could play in my career."
The induction ceremony will take place later this year in the Hall of Fame's CMA Theater, when plaques will be unveiled for these three newest members of the esteemed group.