A soul icon. A mother/daughter institution. A pair of revered musicians.

This year’s Country Music Hall of Fame shows the breadth and depth of the genre’s reach, with Ray Charles in the Veteran category and The Judds in the Modern Era category, while Recording/Touring Musician dual honorees Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake are the first drummer and steel guitarist to be inducted.

Blues and R&B certainly permeated both Charles’ 1962 landmark LP, Modern Sounds in Country & Western, his first #1 pop album, and The Judds’ folk-steeped take on country. Wynonna’s voice, deeply raw and bleeding emotion, tackled the small-town values that had been drowned by Urban Cowboy’s Lone Star disco inferno, her (single) mother Naomi providing Kentucky-steeped blood harmonies to reinforce the things they sang about.

The pedal steel of Pete Drake, a member of the storied Nashville A-Team of session players and Musicians Hall of Fame member, not only appeared on four of country music’s most definitive recordings—Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today”—it also provided defining licks for Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” An active session and road musician, he was generous with his time, talent and knowledge; founding five publishing companies, building studios and working 18-hour days.

Bayers, who’s one of DRUM!’s Top 10 Session Drummers of All Time, also straddles worlds. He started with The Edwin Hawkins Singers in college and absorbed the influence of Al Jackson Jr. and Clyde Stubblefield when he switched from piano to drums at the urging of archetypal Nashville session drummer Larrie Londin. Bayers’ soulful way of approaching the beat drew Jones, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Rosanne Cash, Steve Winwood, Kenny Chesney and Glen Campbell to him. Playing for almost two decades as a member of both the Grand Ole Opry’s house band and the Hall of Fame’s Medallion Band for their annual Hall induction, he’s as much the foundation of country as anyone—on top of the more than 300 multi-genre gold and platinum albums he’s played on.

At a time when country music is shifting, it’s worth noting that this year’s class is composed of traditionally leaning artists with a strong soul bent. As Rose Drake, Pete’s widow recalled, “We had songwriters who came to our office from all over the country, all over the world, from Japan, to get that sound. They’d come looking for Pete—and talk about his tone. He felt the music, that kind of haunting sound. I think you can feel his pain the songs. He always looked at the lyrics, and that was a big piece of it.”

That pain ran through Charles’ music as well. Having lost his sight to glaucoma, he attended the Georgia School for the Deaf & Blind before finding success on the soul charts. Modern Sounds was considered a massive risk in the early ’60s: a Black man singing Hank Williams? Who would buy it? His rhythm & blues audience? White country fans?

As Reba McEntire said in her introduction. “Willie Nelson said, ‘This inductee did more for country music in one album than anyone else did with many.’” As Martin Luther King and the civil-rights leaders were fighting the good fight, Charles put out an album of standards by future Country Music Hall of Fame inductees Hank Williams, Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, Cindy Walker and Harlan Howard. With this unprecedented LP, he crossed the line—and appealed to record buyers everywhere.

With an aggressive acoustic-guitar presence, The Judds dipped back into the music of Appalachia. Working with producer Brent Maher and co-producer/guitarist Don Potter, the duo forged a sound that was so immediate, they became a force when their presence-announcing #17 “Had a Dream (About You Baby)” yielded to the chart-topping “Mama, He’s Crazy.” Their next seven hits went #1, their albums went multi-platinum and they sold out hard-ticket arena tours. With a strong waft of Hazel Dickens/Hazel & Alice, Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt, their mother/daughter dynamic separated them up from fellow new traditionalists John Anderson, Strait, Reba and Ricky Skaggs.

“As a daughter, after 20 years, it’s about damn time,” Wynonna said, looking at her mother. “As an artist, it’s nice to be included. As a believer, I want to thank the Creator. And as an American, it’s just nice to show up and having something to celebrate.”

Naomi told normalizing stories about girl talk on Tammy Wynette’s bed, Johnny Cash saying, “Pass the mashed potatoes,” Dolly Parton asking her to be part of the Dollywood spring parade and delivering the tabloids to Loretta Lynn. After Wynonna teased her about name-dropping, Naomi explained, “I’d’ve never met these incredible women if it wasn’t for country music.”

“I didn’t have a clue,” Wynonna said later. “I just remember wanting so much in the studio making my Mom and Brent and Don feel good about what I did as a singer. We did a yearlong radio tour, just Mom and I and a regional rep—because radio was so much that Urban Cowboy stuff.

“Then I remember hearing our song coming out of the radio (for the first time) at the corner of Nolensville and Thompson Lane. It blew my mind, blew my circuits, and I knew my life would change.”

As Marty Stuart says about the rotunda covered with bronze plaques, “You’re in the deep end now.” For each of these stellar artists musicians, they’ve been there all along. Now, though, they have the official seal of the highest honor country artists can receive.