Humility and Reverence as Country Music Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was Announced
The CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame Kyle Young was there; Sarah Trahern, the CEO of the Country Music Association, was there; distinguished Country Music Hall of Fame members were there and media professionals and country music fans alike from all around the world held their breaths in excitement as the introductions and announcements began.
This year’s Hall of Fame Inductee ceremony took place as it should in the CMHoF’s Rotunda in Nashville with Thomas Hart Benton’s mural The Sources of Country Music as an appropriate background. We did not have to hold our breaths for long this year as the host Vince Gill began introducing the first inductee in the Veteran’s Era Artist category. In fact, the first sentences revealed who it was for many a fanatic country music supporter as Gill mentioned the key words “whit”, “fiery guitar playing” and “acting” and we understood that the honor was going to the incomparable Jerry Reed (if you by some strange overlook haven’t encountered the charismatic Reed’s creative work yet, CMNI recommends listening to Elvis Presley’s version of “Guitar Man”, a song that Jerry Reed wrote and plays guitar on, and watching the movie “Smokey and the Bandit”). At the ceremony, Reed’s daughters Seidina and Lottie spoke on their late dad’s behalf with Seidina saying “This is the most wonderful day” and “If dad was here, he would have been most humbled”. Lottie followed by giving us a small glimpse of their family life and a huge insight of who Reed was as a passionate musician by sharing how she remembers going to bed each night hearing her dad playing guitar and waking up the next morning with him doing the same. In his career, Reed received several accolades including two CMA Instrumentalist of the Year Awards and two Grammys for instrumental performances with Chet Atkins on “Sneakin’ Around” and “Me and Jerry” and one Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, for “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot”.
When Gill returned, the reverence was still felt as he started describing the career of the next honoree, briefly interrupting himself with humorous remarks about what he was reading and both declining and taking credit for well formulated wording. Gill ended his intro with the famous words of Kenny Rogers: “Don Schlitz doesn’t just write songs, he writes careers”. Don Schlitz is the Class of 2017’s Inductee in the Songwriter category and also a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee. He has won two Grammys, three CMA awards for Song of the Year, four ASCAP Song of the Year Awards, and twenty-four country hits reaching the number one spot. So, what would a mega-creative storyteller who has penned “The Gambler” do when coming to conducting a speech? No less than making it a story. Schlitz gave us a time travel from the day a month ago when CMA’s CEO called and asked him if he and his wife had anything scheduled on April 5th - immediately stirring up wishes to share the news with everyone who played a part in his writing career and by mentioning them also giving them credit, wanting to scream “Look what we’ve done!” – to this day when he thanked his parents saying “Look what you’ve done!”. The speech was a masterful and humble performance by a master writer.
Each of the upcoming Hall of Fame members was greeted by a standing ovation when making their entrance and the living legend who was selected in the Modern Era Artist category received the same, but speaking of humble: as Alan Jackson had made himself comfortable in front of the assembled, he cut the ovation short by commanding “That’s enough”, and the audience complied. Jackson spoke about how important his dad was in the choice of profession by telling a story of how after watching Buck Owens on Hee Haw, his dad said to him: “You ought to do that.” And he sure did. He is to country music what Beatles is to pop and one of the most awarded artists in his genre. His first four albums sold more than twenty million albums over the course of five years and need we say more than “Here In the Real World”, “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” and “Chattahoochee”? ASCAP gave him their very first Heritage Award in 2014 as they recognized him as the most played songwriter artist over the last one hundred years and nine of his albums have reached multiplatinum status.
As he concluded with mentioning the importance of a water ski and a pair of jeans with holes in them (they were in his video for “Chattahoochee”), Jackson started getting touched by being part of the historic event in the Hall of Fame’s Rotunda and cut his speech a bit short too, again showing honest humility.
The country music family circle and this world would not have been the same without this year’s inductees and their contributions to the music that so undauntedly depicts feelings of everyday people like you and me, or as fellow inducted Gill concluded: “It takes a village to accomplish something like this”.
For Country Music News International Magazine