April 21, 2008 - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steve Wariner, the late Hank Williams and "Ring Of Fire" songwriter Merle Kilgore were inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame yesterday in a ceremony that practically lobbed history from across the street.
The event took place at Hall of Fame Park, literally a stone's throw from the Country Music Hall of Fame, where Hank is enshrined in a rotunda that bears the inscription "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." Steve's mentor, Chet Atkins, is likewise a Hall of Famer and "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was the title of a series of Dirt Band albums in which the group recorded with such Hall of Famers as Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Maybelle Carter, Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and Merle Travis.
The connection between the Hall and the Walk of Fame was not lost on the honorees.
"It's full 'Circle,' pardon the pun," Dirt Band member Jeff Hanna winked prior to the event.
Garth Brooks was an unannounced participant, on hand to present the formal induction for Steve, who wrote and appeared on Garth's 1998 hit "Longneck Bottle." Garth alluded to Steve's first No. 1 single in the process, making a point of connecting the Indiana-bred guitarist to his heartland roots.
"I know exactly where I was when I heard 'All Roads Lead To You,'" Garth said. "I remember the truck I was in, and I was hearing the voice of a guy that was singin' for the workin' man."
Steve opened his acceptance speech by reading an e-mail he received from "Longneck Bottle" co-writer Rick Carnes after he was announced among the Walk of Fame entries: "Congratulations, Steve, on your induction. I think it's great that all the little people you walked on your way to the top will finally get a chance to return the favor."
The note was particularly humorous because Steve is recognized among the nicest people in Nashville's music business.
In addition to country figures, the event also featured the inductions of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and jazz musician Kirk Whalum.
Hosted by GAC's own Bill Cody, the Walk of Fame induction was sponsored by GAC and by Gibson Guitars.