A galaxy of country stars were present on Sunday (16) for the induction of the three newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Record executive Joe Galante, rock’n’roll pioneer and country star Jerry Lee Lewis, and late Nashville hero Keith Whitley became the Hall’s 147th, 148th, and 149th inductees in a glittering Medallion Ceremony.
The event featured performances by existing Hall of Fame members Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen of Alabama, Bill Anderson, Garth Brooks, and Ricky Skaggs, as well as Kenny Chesney, Mickey Guyton, Chris Isaak, Miranda Lambert, the McCrary Sisters, Justin Moses, Molly Tuttle, and Lee Ann Womack.
All of them were backed by the Medallion All-Star Band, who accompanied Anderson on the ceremony’s traditional finale, a collective rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Other notables in attendance and/or performing included Kris Kristofferson, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Randy Travis, Molly Tuttle, Ray Stevens, the McCrary Sisters, and Jeannie Seely.
Also observing tradition, each new member chose a fellow member to induct them, with Galante’s entry endorsed by Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, Whitley’s by Garth Brooks, and Lewis (prevented from attending by illness) by Hank Williams Jr.
Among performance highlights, Alabama’s “My Home’s In Alabama” befitted Galante’s induction as it was central to his signing of the group to RCA in 1980. Brooks revived Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” to stirring effect and Womack was the perfect interpreter of Lewis’ last major country hit on Mercury, 1977’s “Middle Age Crazy,” written by Sonny Throckmorton.
“The Killer”’s indelible “Great Balls of Fire” was revived by Chris Isaak. As Billboard Country Update reports, Hank Williams Jr. said that Lewis “doesn’t ask for your attention. He demands it. He doesn’t take the stage. He commands it. Jerry Lee doesn’t play songs. He owns songs.”
Mickey Guyton sang perhaps Whitley’s best-known song, “When You Say Nothing At All.” Lorrie Morgan, Whitley’s wife when he died in 1989, reminded the audience that he was three weeks away from becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry at the time of his passing.
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