In 1975, Emmylou Harris got a phone call from her then-manager Ed Tickner, who announced that her major label debut album, “Pieces of the Sky,” had entered the country music charts at No. 107. On Tuesday night, 43 years after that phone call, Harris was the guest of honor at a Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum reception celebrating the opening of new exhibit “Emmylou Harris: Songbird’s Flight.”
“She stands as the very embodiment of everything we at this museum hold dear,” museum CEO Kyle Young said. “She has breathed new life into the music of her predecessors like the Louvin Brothers, Ralph Stanley and Kitty Wells, and she’s extended the vision of her mentor, Gram Parsons, whose Cosmic American music swirled country, blues, rock and R&B into a visceral and emotional blend. … This is the story of a musician who has changed Nashville, country music and so many people in this room for the better.”
Young also praised Harris as a bandleader (she’s led three of country music’s finest groups: the Hot Band, the Nash Ramblers and Spyboy), a selfless collaborator and remarkable writer with a keen eye for identifying top-notch songs, songwriters and players.
In a gracious speech, Harris thanked everyone from her older brother, whose room she used to sneak into to play her Bob Dylan and Joan Baez records, to Mary Martin, who signed her to Warner Bros. in 1974. (Harris has remained with the label, in one division or another, for the entirety of her career, “just like Chipper Jones for the Atlanta Braves,” she said.)
Artifacts on display in “Songbird’s Flight” include Harris’ first guitar, the owner’s manual to the 1970 Ford Pinto she drove when she met Gram Parsons, and the military medals earned by her father, Marine Corps pilot Walter “Bucky” Harris, for his service during World War II and the Korean War. The exhibit opens to the public on Friday and is scheduled to run through Aug. 4. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit countrymusichalloffame.org.