Left photo: A wonderful mid-1990s photo of ACM award-winning keyboardist, John Hobbs, and Cliffie Stone taken during a recording session as John writes out an arrangement for one of Cliffie’s artists. Right photo: Cliffie (same recording session) with his two "recording studio geniuses" that he has known and worked with for many years in Southern California: recording engineer extraordinaire, Brian Friedman, and award-winning music director, arranger and keyboardist, John Hobbs. John and Brian are both veterans of thousands and thousands of hours in the recording studios of Hollywood and Nashville. (This photo and the “left photo” were taken in May mid-1990s during a recording session at Annette and Jerry Fuller’s “Footprint Sound Studios” in Studio City, CA.) Although Cliffie wore many musical hats, he was first and foremost a musician. He loved playing the bass and he studied it for years with noted German bassist, Arthur Pabst (who played 1st chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra). Cliffie treasured the soul-like bond that musicians wordlessly have with one another; and this is how he felt about John Hobbs who became part of his extended family. John was born in Long Beach, CA. He’s the oldest of six siblings and his first instrument was the trombone, which he stopped playing after he discovered and fell in love with the piano. Cliffie’s son, Curtis, met John at a gig somewhere and he and other musicians, such as Billy Joe Walker, Jr., were always over at Cliffie’s seven acre ranch rehearsing, jamming or simply hanging out with Curtis. Cliffie enjoyed having them around because they were not only a lot of fun, he also knew talent when he heard it. He used them on his recording session projects as well as his shows at the Palomino Club and other venues in Southern California. Eventually, Cliffie became the Academy of Country Music’s historian and he beamed with pride when John became the ACM’s musical director for their NBC/TV award shows (a total of ten years). Simply put, John is an extraordinary piano/keyboardist, musical director, producer and songwriter. Although John was firmly established as a top-tier musician in Los Angeles, his reputation spread and he commuted to Nashville for many years to play on various recording projects. When California-based songwriter/producer, Jerry Fuller discovered Collin Raye in Reno, NV, he and John co-produced Collin’s debut album, ‘All I Can Be,’ which had a #1 hit, ‘Love, Me.’ John realized that he’d like to live in Nashville someday because of its music-oriented environment, which gave him a sense of community. He finally relocated there in 1994. John has been Vince Gill’s piano/keyboardist and bandleader since 2000. He also produced several of Vince’s albums and has co-written songs with him. The awards that John has received includes: a Grammy award; and the Academy of Country Music’s ‘Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year’ award (which he has won eleven times). On March 10, 2012, John was honored as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s quarterly ‘Nashville Cats Series,’ which pays tribute to musicians who have played an integral role in the history of country music. The interview that the CMHF series host, Bill Lloyd, did with John was simply wonderful. John talks unscripted about his life and career; and he has such a natural knack of telling anecdotes and stories which are funny as well as interesting. If Cliffie had been alive, I know he would have flown to Nashville to be part of John’s support system in the audience. Each year, the Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame entity announces their newest Hall of Fame members; and they have a ‘Medallion Induction Ceremony’ at their CMA Hall of Fame Museum. John is the Musical Director (and keyboardist) of the “Medallion Band” (aka ‘Medallion All-Stars’) which backs up the artists who will be performing that evening to honor its newest inductees. This all-star band also includes: Eddie Bayers (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Steve Gibson (electric guitar), Biff Watson (acoustic guitar), Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Paul Franklin (pedal steel player), Larry Paxton (tuba), and Dawn Sears/Jeff White (background vocals). John also plays in another group called ‘The Players,” which was formed in 2002 by drummer, Eddie Bayers; other first-call session musicians include: Brent Mason (guitarist), Michael Rhodes (bass) and Paul Franklin (pedal steel player). They released a DVD, ‘Live in Nashville,’ which featured their unique talents as well as performances with guest stars that include Vince Gill, Peter Frampton and Travis Tritt. Another band that John plays with is the ‘Notorious Cherry Bombs,’ whose roots go back to 1974, when Emmylou Harris’ label suggested that she put together a ‘Hot Band’ to back her up on tour dates. The initial session musicians included: Rodney Crowell (guitar), James Burton (guitar), Hank DeVito (steel guitar), Glen Hardin (piano), Emory Gordy, Jr. (bass), and John Ware (drums). Eventually, the Hot Band dissolved. In 1980, Rodney Crowell decided to put together a group of first-rate session players who were reminiscent of the ‘Hot Band,’ which he named the ‘Cherry Bombs.’ He not only used them on his new album, “But What Will the Neighbors Think,” they were his touring band as well. These members included: Rodney Crowell (vocals/guitar), Hank DeVito (steel guitar), Emory Gordy, Jr. (bass), Vince Gill (guitar), Richard Bennet (guitar), Tony Brown (keyboards) and Larrie London (drums). When Rodney’s album didn’t sell, they eventually disbanded and pursued their own careers. (Both Emory Gordy, Jr. and Tony Brown went on to become premier Nashville producers.) At the 2003 ASCAP Awards banquet in Nashville, they reunited on stage, which gave them impetus to record again and they released an album in 2004. Currently, the ‘Notorious Cherry Bombs’ are led by Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill and their band members includes: John Hobbs (keyboards), Michael Rhodes (bass), and Eddie Bayers (drums). The pop and country artists that John has worked with reads like a Who’s Who: The massive list includes: The Beach Boys, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, Lionel Richie, Donny & Marie, Olivia Newton-John, Michael Bolton, Bob Seger, George Strait, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Reba McEntire, George Jones, Cliffie Stone, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Collin Raye, Alison Krauss and the list goes on. The albums that John has produced includes: Vince Gill, Amy Grant, LeAnn Rimes, Collin Raye and Melissa Manchester. John is a humble, down-to-earth and deeply sensitive man. As previously mentioned in this caption, musicians have a soul-like bond that they wordlessly have with one another and John truly values his ‘band of brothers.’ He co-wrote a song with Matraca Berg called “When They Lay Me Down” which discloses his attitude about life and how he wants to be remembered someday. He sang this song at the end of his March 10th CMHF interview, which shows the sensitivity of this extraordinary music man who continues to share his God-given talent with the world.