Country Music’s Biggest Names Induct Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Whitley & Joe Galante Into The Hall Of Fame – Forbes

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams Jr. accept Country … [+] Music Hall of Fame and Museum induction on behalf of Jerry Lee Lewis presented by CEO of the CMHOF, Kyle Young (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
The attendance list read like a Who’s Who of country music with Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams Jr, Ricky Skaggs, Bill Anderson, Ray Stevens, Marty Stuart, and Wynonna Judd among those seated in the section for current Country Music Hall of Fame members.
Current members of the Country Music Hall of Fame arriving to the Class of 2022 Medallion Ceremony
Throughout the evening there were recaps and stories looking back at the careers of the inductees, along with with a stream of surprising performances honoring their work and contributions. Those who took the stage included Alabama, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Chris Isaak, and many others.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry of Alabama perform in honor of Joe … [+] Galante who signed their group in 1980. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Kenny Chesney sings “Good Stuff” in honor of Joe Galante. (Photo … [+] by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
As Garth Brooks said at one point, “In case this is your first time to be here, welcome to the greatest night for country music!”
Brooks, who had long lobbied for Keith Whitley to become a Hall of Fame member, performed one of Whitley’s biggest hits “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” and presented Whitley’s Hall of Fame medallion to Lorrie Morgan. Morgan was married to Whitley at the time of his death in 1989.
Garth Brooks performing “Don’t Close Your Eyes” at the Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony … [+] for KeithWhitley
Whitley had one of the most emotive voices in country music history. He influenced, and continues to influence, so many country singers today.
Born in Eastern, Kentucky, Whitley was drawn to country music early, soon developing an interest in bluegrass. As a teenager, he met and became good friends with Ricky Skaggs. The two soon starting playing together with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Whitley would later play with J.D Crowe and the New South, learning to blend bluegrass with traditional country.
Skaggs performed “Tennessee Blues” in Whitley’s honor.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Justin Moses, Ricky Skaggs and Molly Tuttle perform for the class … [+] of 2022 Medallion Ceremony
Whitley headed to Nashville in 1982 and began as a demo singer, but within two years had a six-track EP. It gained little attention, but his debut album that followed garnered three Top Ten singles, including the song “Miami, My Amy.”
It was his next album that saw Whitley coming into his own with three No. 1 hits with “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “When You Say Nothing At All,” and “I’m No Stranger To the Rain.”
Country singer and songwriter Keith Whitley poses for and RCA Records publicity still in 1984. … [+] (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
But, on May 9th, 1989, Whitley lost a longtime battle with alcohol.
“He left us all wondering what else he might have done,” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, told the crowd. “Alcohol caught up with Keith and he left behind his son, Jesse Keith, his wife Lorrie Morgan, and his daughter Morgan.
Singer Mickey Guyton was one of the performers honoring Whitley at the induction ceremony. She sang his hit song “When You Say Nothing At All.”
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Mickey Guyton sings “When You Say Nothing At All” in honor of … [+] Keith Whitley.
In paying tribute to Whitley, Brooks said his induction into the Hall of Fame was long overdue.
“You pick five names of why the Hall of Fame is the place the rest of us want to get into, one of those five names for will be Keith Whitley. One of the greatest voices to ever grace country music.”
He also noted that Randy Travis, another great voice, came along at about that same time and ‘showed us all what country music was about.”
With Travis in attendance, the crowd erupted in applause.
Continuing on regarding Whitley, Brooks said, “Honestly, the guy could out-sing 99 percent of us. If you ever hear “I Never Go Around Mirrors”… Now, I’m in love with my wife and my wife has me convinced that she loves me. But when Keith Whitley does that ‘cause,’ when he drops a whole octave, that woman cannot remember my name.”
Again, more applause.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Lorrie Morgan accepts Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum … [+] induction on behalf of Keith Whitley presented by Garth Brooks (L) and CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Kyle Young (R) (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
When Lorrie Morgan got up to speak, she told of how she first discovered Keith Whitley.
“I was on my way to the Saturday night Opry and I heard this song come on the radio and I heard this voice sing “Miami, My Amy.”
She was so struck by his voice, she stopped the car. Then, she heard the announcer say it was Keith Whitley and he, too, was performing on the Opry that night. Morgan says she floored her car. ,
“I said I’m going to meet this man tonight and I did. He asked me out and, of course, the rest is history.
Through tears, she thanked everyone for remembering and loving him, as well as his music.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Shannon Collins, Morgan Whitley, Lorrie Morgan, Kristen … [+] Whitley, Randy White and Jesse Keith Whitley attend the class of 2022 Medallion Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 16, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
Legendary singer and performer, Jerry Lee Lewis, was another of the night’s Hall of Fame inductees. The artist known as “the Killer” grew up playing the piano at his family’s church, The First Assembly of God in Ferriday, Louisiana. But his musical influences were wide-ranging and included listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, and sneaking out with his cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart, to listen to rhythm and blues at Haynie’s Big House.
In 1955 he traveled to Nashville for a record deal but was told he should go home and learn to play guitar. The next year after hearing about Sam Phillips of Sun Records making Elvis a star, Lewis traveled to Memphis where he famously stated he could “play piano like Chet Atkins.”
(Original Caption) 8/1957: Portrait of rock-and-roll recording artist Jerry Lee Lewis. He is shown … [+] seated at the piano, singing.
Sam Phillips liked his sound and brought Lewis in to record. His first cover of “Crazy Arms” got some traction, but it was his second Sun Records “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” that took off. That song did what a lot of his music would do, and make its way up the pop charts, the country charts, and the R&B charts.
Lewis would go on to make his mark with “Great Balls of Fire,” and his cover of Hank Williams “You Win Again,” with more hits to follow. In 1963 his first country album featured “Chantilly Lace.”
Despite his success, Lewis had numerous challenges with drugs, alcohol, personal tragedy, and scandal, such as his marriage to an under-age cousin.
But he persevered and remains one of the greatest showmen to ever grace the stage.
“An unquestioned pillar of both country music and rock and roll,” Young said. “There’s no entertainer like him.”
To celebrate his music, Leann Womack performed “Middle-Aged Crazy,” the McCrary Sisters nearly brought the house down with “My God Is Real” as a nod to Lewis’ gospel roots. Then, Chris Isaak sang “Great Balls of Fire” accompanied by Jen Gunderman on piano.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Lee Ann Womack performs for the 2022 Medallion Ceremony at … [+] Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 16, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Ann McCrary, Regina McCrary and Alfreda McCrary of The … [+] McCrary Sisters. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Chris Isaak performs onstage for the class of 2022 Medallion … [+] Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
Hank Williams Jr says as a child, Lewis would perform in his living room, calling Hank Sr one of his heroes and saying if he couldn’t meet his hero, he’d teach his son how to ‘boogie.’
“It was in those moments,” Williams said with a laugh, “I realized I was born to boogie.”
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Hank Williams Jr. accepts Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum … [+] induction on behalf of Jerry Lee Lewis. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
Williams went on to add, “He also taught me that entertaining takes more than skill. Jerry doesn’t walk on stage and politely thank an audience for being there. Jerry doesn’t ask for your attend, he demands it. He doesn’t take a stage, he commands it. Sound familiar?”
Here, everyone laughed.
Now 87, Lewis was unable to attend his induction ceremony. Lewis, who suffered a stroke four years was told by his doctor that it would be best for him not to travel from his home in Memphis.
So, Williams read from a note Lewis sent where he apologized for not being able to make it, then said:
“To be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the highest honor in country music. Through over 60 years singing music professionally, country has always been the genre where I felt most at home between my fellow artists, radio, and the industry players. I’m honored to be going into that Hall of Fame rotunda with some of my heroes, Hank Williams Sr, Jimmy Rogers, and the like.”
The note went on to say he’d asked his good friend Kris Kristofferson to accept the honor on his behalf.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams Jr. accept Country … [+] Music Hall of Fame and Museum induction on behalf of Jerry Lee Lewis. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
The third newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame is music executive Joe Galante who grew up in New York and worked for RCA there but was sent to Nashville in the early 70s to work as a financial analyst. He was a 1960s rock fan at the time, but became a country convert after listening to artists like Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, and Ronnie Milsap.
As he moved up the ranks at the label, Galante developed a knack for promotion and soon turned RCA Nashville into a money-making operation.
Joe Galante,Chairman RCA Record Group, Martina McBride, Butch Waugh, Executive VP RCA Record Group. … [+] (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)
He was successful in helping country artists crossover onto other charts. At 32, he became the youngest person to head the Nashville division of a major record label.
Throughout his lengthy career, Galante helped shape the careers of a long lists of artists such as Alabama, Dolly Parton, Clint Black, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, the Judds, Keith Whitley, and so many more. Alabama, Lambert, and Chesney all showed up to perform in his honor.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 16: Miranda Lambert performs “White Liar” to honor Joe Galante at … [+] Country Music Hall of Fame. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
As Lambert took the stage to play “White Liar,” she said, “This is my first first No. 1 with us as a team,” referring to Galante. Then laughing, she noted, “And it’s three chords and I know all of those chords, so I’m going to play it myself.”
And she did.
With so many artists grateful to Galante for his influence on their careers, Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, inducted Galante into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Honoree Joe Galante, center, is presented his plaque as Kix Brooks of country duo Brooks and Dunn, … [+] left, looks on during the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
The night wrapped up with Bill Anderson leading the crowd in country music’s signature song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
Bill Anderson wraps up the Country Music Hall of Fame 2022 Medallion Ceremony as he leads the crowd … [+] in singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”
These latest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame all have their own stories, their own backgrounds, and their own path to Nashville. And all have incredible legacies that will continue to shape country music for years to come.
Class of 2022 – Country Music Hall of Fame Members

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