NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Country music legend Willie Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Wednesday night during the 27th Annual Country Music Association Awards ceremony.
Nelson, 60, is the 54th member inducted into the Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1961.
Johnny Cash, a member of the hall, praised Nelson as 'a talented, unusual outstanding American original.'
'If he never wrote a lyric, he still deserves to be recognized for his extraordinary concern and caring for his fellow human beings,' Cash said, referring to Nelson's Farm Aid concerts that raised millions of dollars for farmers across America.
'Old Will here has composed melodies, and written lyrics, that put him in the forefront of American songwriters,' said Rip Torn, who also introduced Nelson.
'For over four decades he's lifted our spirits and inspired us with his vision; a rare, wonderful artist whose appeal crosses social, racial and political boundaries,' said Kris Kristofferson.
'I really thought you had to die to get here, so I went ahead and dressed up just in case,' Nelson said, dressed in a black tuxedo, his long brown hair flowing over his shoulders.
He paid tribute to fellow performers and then said, laughing: 'If you think I'm going to come in here and accept this award when all these guys are just as deserving as I am -- you're damn right I am.'
He led the audience in singing 'Happy Birthday' to Hall of Fame member Gene Autry, who celebrated his 86th birthday Wednesday.
'I think next year we've got to induct five or 10 folks and catch up, 'cause we're getting behind,' Nelson said.