Why Toby Keith Was Almost Ineligible for the Country Music Hall of Fame

Three country music legends will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Today (March 18) the Country Music Association announced the honorees for the Country Music Hall of Fame Class of 2024. Each year, the Hall of Fame selects artists in three categories: Modern Era, Veterans Era, and a rotating category which, this year, is Recording and/or Touring Musician.

John Anderson was announced as the 2024 Veterans Inductee. Anderson charted more than 40 singles on the Billboard charts over the course of his four-decade-long career. Later this year will be the 10th anniversary of his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

James Burton was honored as the 2024 Recording and/or Touring Musician. Burton’s signature “Chicken Pickin’” guitar-playing style caught the attention of industry professionals and earned him the opportunity to work with the likes of Elvis Presley and John Denver. He was previously inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Musicians Hall of Fame.

Toby Keith is honored as the 2024 Modern Era Hall of Fame Inductee

The Hall of Fame announcement ceremony turned bittersweet when Toby Keith was announced as this year’s Modern Era Inductee. His legendary career was cut short when he passed away last month after losing his battle with stomach cancer. The country community is still reeling from the loss.

Toby’s son, Stelen Covel, was present to accept the honor on his late father’s behalf. His words were few but meaningful:

“On behalf of my whole family, we want to thank the Hall of Fame. It’s an honor to stand here and represent my father. He’s an amazing man, husband, father, and artist. I just want to thank everybody for being here.”

Toby Keith was almost not eligible to be a 2024 Inductee into the Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame has standards in place to protect the integrity of the institution. One of these rules is that a candidate is not eligible for induction in the year after their death, to avoid sympathy voting.

In Toby Keith’s case, it was just a matter of days that kept him within the eligibility window.

Sarah Trahern, the CEO of the Country Music Association, confirmed that voting for the Class of 2024 began at the end of last year and that the last ballot closed on Friday, February 2nd – three days before Toby Keith died. Because Toby was technically selected while he was still alive, his eligibility remained intact.

Additionally, the official results were released on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 6th, just a few hours after Toby Keith’s family shared the heartbreaking news of his passing.

Listen to Sarah Trahern further explain the selection and eligibility details in the clip below. 

Trahern recalled:

“My heart sank that afternoon knowing that we had missed the opportunity to inform Toby while he was still with us, but I have no doubt that he is smiling down on us knowing that he will alway be ‘as good as he once was.’”

Congratulations to Toby Keith, John Anderson, and James Burton for their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame!