Toby Keith, John Anderson and James Burton are the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Anderson joins the Hall in the Veteran Era Artist category, while Keith is being inducted via the Modern Era Artist category. James Burton is an inductee in the Recording and/or Touring Musician Category.

The induction news came on Monday (March 18) via a press conference hosted by Hall of Fame duo Brooks & Dunn. The announcement was available to watch live on the CMA's YouTube channel.

Ronnie Dunn introduced Burton, a guitar player known as the "Telecaster Master" who played in Elvis Presley's band as well as for stars like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Brooks & Dunn themselves. As they introduced Burton to the assembly of in-person and livestream attendees, the country duo's Kix Brooks shared some personal insight about growing up in the same hometown as Burton.

"Being from Shreveport, this guy was a big hometown hero. All of us wanted to learn how to play guitars and be just as cool as he was," Brooks explained from the podium. "That was cool, but I gotta tell ya ... he dedicated so much of his life to making sure young people had music and musical instruments in their hands in our hometown and around the country."

Burton then took the stage, offering some brief reflections on the "amazing" honor of joining the Hall. "I just wanna thank all you guys for your love and support. What can I say? It's truly an honor," Burton mused during his brief time onstage.

Next up, the trio announced Anderson's name, detailing that he joins the Hall in the Veteran Era Artist category — a group that represents artists who came to national prominence before 1979.

Anderson helped build the framework of modern country music, literally: When he moved from his home state of Florida to Nashville in 1972, he got a job as a construction worker, and worked on the build for the then-new Grand Ole Opry House. Anderson began to see success as a singer-songwriter in the late-1970s, ... "Wild and Blue" was his first No. 1 hit with "Swinging" following not far behind. A string of successful hits followed, and Brooks & Dunn also detailed Anderson's storied career as a singer-songwriter and at a long list of different record labels over the course of the next decades.

"He obviously had a hard time holding a job but he was killing us with great singing all the way through it. I added that, sorry." Kix Brooks joked.

"Truly living out his songs, he has lived the country lifestyle for more than 40 years. When not on the road, he spends time with his family hunting, fishing and gardening," Brooks went on to say, before bringing Anderson up to the stage.

"I wanna say this is probably the greatest honor I could ever receive standing on this stage today. [I'm] still trying to get a grasp on the reality of this happening for me," Anderson admitted. "So, so very proud and so honored."

He also emphasized his reverence for the Hall of Fame and the friends and heroes that he already counts among its members, such as Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, George Jones, Merle Haggard and more. "Music has been my whole life, or a lot of what keeps me driven, since I was just a child, and I have so much to be thankful for," Anderson said.

He expressed his gratitude for his wife and daughters, saying that family is what made it "so special" to come home from the road at the end of every tour. "I can't say enough about the home life that I've had, and I know a lot of my friends weren't so fortunate to have it. It's meant an awful lot to me through the years," he said as he concluded his time onstage.

Before announcing Keith's name as the third and final 2024 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, CMA CEO Sarah Trahern took the stage to explain that the voting results for this year's Hall of Fame class came in on the morning of Feb. 6 — just hours after Keith died on Feb. 5.

With emotion in her voice, she explained that Keith never got the chance to learn he'd been voted into the Hall of Fame.

When they returned to the stage, Brooks & Dunn paid tribute to Keith's long and impactful country career with heart and humor.

"Few artists have had bigger careers than Toby Keith. Outspoken and self-confident. Sure was," Ronnie Dunn said with a laugh, going off-script briefly and turning to his duo partner.

"'Should've Been a Cowboy' gave Keith a No. 1 out of the gate," Dunn continued, remembering the country legend's very first hit single. "Among country acts, only Merle Haggard and Alan Jackson have written more of their own hits, and if Toby were here, he'd tell you that."

Of course, Keith was well-known for his fiery political and patriotic material, including "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (the Angry American)," a song he wrote to galvanize U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan after the tragedies of September 11.

"Many people tried to portray him as one dimensional, and he wasn't. We know, we've been on the road with him," Dunn continued. "Keith didn't write about politics so much as he wrote about communities."

"Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2021 and died a few weeks ago at the age of 1962," the band mates said as they wrapped up their speech. "The man who once dreamed about living in your radio now has a permanent home in the country music hall of fame."

Keith's son, Stelen Keith Covel, was on hand to speak on his late father's behalf, and he offered a short speech.

"On behalf of my whole family, we wanna thank the Hall of Fame," Stelen said during his time at the podium. "It's an honor to stand here and represent my father. He's an amazing man, husband, father and artist and I just wanna thank everybody for being here. Thank you."

"He loved you Stelen. When I asked him how he was doing, that's all he wanted to talk about," Kix Brooks added as the young man left the stage.

The 2024 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees will be formally enshrined in a Medallion Ceremony in October.

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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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