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Terri Clark gave a few speeches during the 2018 CCMA Awards weekend, as it was also her big Hall of Fame induction weekend. But none of them brought a room to tears the way her speech at the Saturday night gala did.
The singer talked about her late mom's influence, and how much the honour of Hall of Fame induction meant to her — while still being in the middle of her career.
Read the full speech below, and head to CBCMusic.ca/ccmas for full coverage of the awards weekend.
"In 1986, I was a finalist in a national talent search sponsored by the CCMA and Budweiser where the first-place prize was a Canadian recording contract. I competed locally and provincially and made it to nationals. At the local level I often stood in alleys behind the bars that hosted the event because I was too young to be inside. My mom, Linda, and I drove from Medicine Hat to Calgary for me to compete nationally with about 15 other contestants. I was the youngest one there. After my performance that night, we anxiously waited in the wings for the judge’s results. I was being told by everyone — from event coordinators, venue staff, and other contestants — that I had it in the bag and we should go have a celebration dinner afterwards. One by one, they announced 4th place, 3rd place, and on down to first place. We stood there and listened, but my name was never called. Heartbroken, my mom and I cried all the way back to Medicine Hat, thinking 'How am I going to make it in Nashville?'
"After having some time to digest what had happened, it only fuelled my fire that much more. Upon graduating high school in 1986, I took the gamble and moved to Nashville. I was offered a job playing for tips at Tootsies on lower Broadway. Some of the 'regulars' told mom that I would wind up dead in the dumpster in the alley if I went there after dark — but I played there anyway (only in daylight hours). I didn’t have a green card to get a job, so I really had no other choice.
"Fast forward to 1995, and after many years of being told 'no,' finally Mercury Records said 'yes.' In 1996, after my first big year as a nominee and award winner, I ran into Tom Tompkins at the CCMA Gala. He reminded me that he was one of the judges back in 1986 and after 10 years of thinking I had lost that contest because I wasn’t good enough, he told me that I had actually won. I had been disqualified because the judges discovered in the 11th hour that I was underage in a Budweiser-sponsored event. I bring this up now because this really isn’t just about me. It’s about the human spirit, the dream, perseverance and using those road blocks as building blocks. It’s about singing into your curling iron in front of the mirror, learning your first three chords on the guitar, watching your heroes on TV and visualizing yourself there.
"We, as artists, are truly given the gift of bringing people together — bringing smiles and peace in difficult times. We have a moment in time to connect and make a difference with someone that can change their trajectory and leave them with something everlasting. We are truly the lucky ones.
"I lost my rock when my mom Linda passed away in 2010. Thoughts of how could I go on without her and continue down the road that we had started out on together so long ago, certainly crossed my mind; I kept going anyway. I feel like my life and career have been one perspective check after another. It has become less and less about being a 'star' and evolved into inspiring and encouraging others, including myself, to persevere, to keep believing in themselves. What started off as burning passion and love for country music has evolved into a whole lot of gratitude, humility and wonder. There are a lot of talented, hardworking people in this world, and how I was chosen to be someone who has been blessed with this type of longevity, and the opportunities that have come my way — including the honour bestowed upon me tonight by my peers, family and country music community — is nothing short of humbling, and a little surreal.
"I remember inducting Ronnie Prophet into the Hall of Fame in 1999 and my mom leaning over and whispering, 'Terri, you’re going to be in the Hall of Fame someday.' I said, 'Maybe so, mom, but that’s for old people so it will be a while.' I’m actually waiting to be disqualified for being too young for this, too!
"Seriously though, I feel an artist is only as good as the team they surround themselves with and I have had a lot of help along the way. Clarence Spalding, Marne McLyman, and everyone at Maverick. Mary Ann McCready and my team at Flood Bumstead McCready & McCarthy. Nick Meinema at United Talent Agency. The labels, producers, songwriters and musicians who have helped me create my music. To my road band and crew for being my family away from home. To CMT, country radio and an incredibly loyal fanbase from around the globe. It’s crucial to foster and maintain relationships with those who share your vision, possess integrity and wisdom, and will always tell you the truth — as hard as that is to hear at times.
"Before I go I need to thank my friends and family for being here. I am truly blown away and so grateful for, and to, all of you for being here to share in this career milestone. Thank you all for this honour — I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings, because it feels like it’s only just begun."