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James Burton, John Anderson and Toby Keith join the Country Music Hall of Fame

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — James Burton, John Anderson and Toby Keith on Monday became the newest members to join the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Country Music Association announced the 2024 inductees in Nashville, Tennessee, with Burton, a guitarist who was Elvis Presley’s band leader, entering in the recording/touring musician category. Meanwhile, Keith, who passed away just days after voting for inductees concluded, joins as the modern era artist. Anderson, a country star known for his distinctive voice and songwriting, joins as the veteran era artist.

The three will be formally inducted during a ceremony in the fall.

While the celebratory ceremony focused on all three of the artists' contributions to country music and their influence, the event took a somber tone to reflect the passing of Keith, who died from stomach cancer in February.

“My heart sank that Tuesday afternoon knowing that we missed the chance to inform Toby while he was still with us, but I have no doubt that he's smiling down on us, knowing that he'll always be ‘as good as he once was,’" said Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association.

Trahern added that Keith's posthumous induction did not violate the Hall's rules against inducting an artist in the year of their death because he was selected before he died.

Keith, a hit country crafter of pro-American anthems who both riled up critics and was loved by millions of fans, died Feb. 5. The induction vote was finalized Feb. 2.

The “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” singer-songwriter, broke out in the country boom years of the 1990s and later became known for his overt patriotism on post 9/11 songs like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” and boisterous barroom tunes like “I Love This Bar” and “Red Solo Cup.”

Burton said Monday that he initially thought he was being pranked when he got the call sharing the news that he was being inducted. He hung up the phone and quickly called back just to double check the call was real.

“So much of my career was spent playing for incredible country artists and to now be going up on that wall with all those innovators and industry greats is just incredible,” Burton said.

Along with leading Presley's “Taking Care of Business” band in Las Vegas, Burton also played in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band and later joined John Denver's band after Presley's death in 1977. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.

For Anderson, the country icon has enjoyed a sweeping discography spanning more than 40 years — with particular breakout fame in the 1970s and 1990s. This included the career-defining hit “Seminole Wind,” which touched on environmental themes by referencing the development of the Everglades and its diminishing size.

“Florida native John Anderson helped steer Country Music back to its traditions with his bold honky-tonk style," said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young in a statement.

“James Burton, who hails from Louisiana, blended Country and blues to create a fiery picking style that distinguished countless hits and has inspired guitarists the world over. Toby Keith from Oklahoma brought a sly swagger and a patriotic passion to songs that made him one of the best-selling Country artists of the past 30 years," Young said.