1961   Welcome To The Hall - The First Class of Inductees

Jimmy Rodgers, Hank Williams and songwriter Fred Rose became the first inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

With the country in the grip of the Depression, the practice of making field recordings was quickly fading, so in May 1933, Rodgers traveled to New York City for a group of sessions beginning May 17th. He started these sessions recording alone and completed four songs on the first day. When he returned to the studio after a day's rest, he had to record sitting down and soon retired to his hotel in hopes of regaining enough energy to finish the songs he had been rehearsing. The recording engineer hired two session musicians to help Rodgers when he came back to the studio a few days later. Together they recorded a few songs, including "Mississippi Delta Blues". For his last song of the session, however, Jimmie chose to perform alone, and as a matching bookend to his career, recorded "Years Ago" by himself.

During his last recording session in New York City on May 24, 1933, after years of fighting the tuberculosis, Rodgers was so weakened that he needed to rest on a cot between songs. Jimmie Rodgers died two days later on May 26, 1933 from a pulmonary hemorrhage while staying at the Taft Hotel; he was only 35 years old.

Jimmy Rodgers was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and, as an early influence, to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. "Blue Yodel No. 9" was selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Rodgers was ranked No. 33 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003.

Hank Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday December 31, 1952. Because of an ice storm in the Nashville area, Williams could not fly, so he hired a college student, Charles Carr, to drive him to the concerts. Carr called the Charleston auditorium from Knoxville to say that Williams would not arrive on time owing to the ice storm and was ordered to drive Williams to Canton, Ohio, for the New Year's Day concert there.

At around midnight on Thursday January 1, 1953, when they crossed the Tennessee state line and arrived in Bristol, Virginia, Carr stopped at a small all-night restaurant and asked Williams if he wanted to eat. Williams said he did not, and those are believed to be his last words. Carr later drove on until he stopped for fuel at a gas station in Oak Hill, West Virginia, where he realized that Williams was dead. The filling station's owner called the chief of the local police. In Williams' Cadillac the police found some empty beer cans and unfinished handwritten lyrics. Dr. Ivan Malinin performed the autopsy at the Tyree Funeral House and found hemorrhages in the heart and neck and pronounced the cause of death as "insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart".

Williams is also an inductee to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the blues hall of fame.

Songwriter Fred Rose began as a radio host in Nashville but moved to New York to try his hand at songwriting. It was there that he began writing songs with Ray Whitley, an RKO B-Western film star and this collaboration introduced Rose to the possibilities of country music. He lived for a time with Ray and Kay Whitley in an apartment in Hollywood, co-writing many tunes for Ray's movies.

In 1942 he returned to Nashville, teaming up with Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff to create the first Nashville-based music publishing company. Their Acuff-Rose Music was almost immediately successful, particularly with the enormous hits of client Hank Williams. Acuff-Rose Music remained a foundation of the country music business even after Fred's death; his son, Wesley Rose, took over the presidency and continued with Roy Acuff until 1985, when the company's catalog was sold to Gaylord Entertainment Company, parent company of the Grand Ole Opry.

While running the business, Fred Rose continued to write numerous country songs and eventually became one of the industry's most important personalities. He also wrote songs under the name Floyd Jenkins. Rose's catalog includes "Blue Eyes Cryin In The Rain," "I'll Never get Out of This World Alive," "Take These Chains From My Heart" and "Kaw-Liga."

Fred Rose died in Nashville in 1954 and was interred there in the Mount Olivet Cemetery.